The punters had it wrong. Although Haruki Murakami and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o were considered by bookmakers as joint favorites, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to French novelist Patrick Modiano. The author was recognized by the Swedish Academy “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." Speaking after the announcement, Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, noted that Modiano very often deals with the themes of memory, identity and time. "They are small books, about 130 or 150 pages, but they are always variations of the same theme: about memory, about loss, about identity, about seeking." When asked if he would recommend one of Modiano's novels to a reader unfamiliar with the author, Englund said to begin with Missing Person. "He's very fond of the detective genre, and he plays with it, and it's a story of a detective who's lost his memory, and his final case is finding out who he really is."
Modiano was contacted by his editor Antoine Gallimard with the news. Modiano said he was happy, but that it was "bizarre," the Agence France-Presse reported. “It is a profound surprise for us and a wonderful day,” Mr. Gallimard said. Parisian bookseller Anne Ghisoli is quoted in The New York Times, saying that the Prize will elevate Modiano's status outside France. “He has readers in France, and there is always interest in his books, which sell very well. But this prize will help raise the global profile of one of our consummate writers. He is a master of writing on memory and occupation, which haunt and inform his work. He is a chronicler of Paris, its streets, its past and its present.” Modiano was born in Paris in 1945. Although he is a prolific author, he keeps a low profile and generally avoids the media. In a 2012 interview with Le Figaro, Modiano said that in recent years it had become easier to talk about himself and his books. “At the beginning, I experienced writing as a sort of constraint,” he said. “Starting so young as a writer is pitiable, it's beyond your powers, you have to lay bare things that are very heavy, and you don’t have the means for that. When I recently looked at my early manuscripts, I was struck by the absence of space, of breathing room. It was my state of mind at the time – a sort of suffocation. Today, that tension is less present.”
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