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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Friday, October 10, 2008 12:22 pm
Le Clézio Wins the Nobel
Posted by: Keir Graff

The Swedish Academy’s announcement that Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature seemed such a foregone conclusion that one wonders why they bothered holding a press conference. I mean, wasn’t everybody expecting this?

I kid, people, I kid. Actually, a line in Sarah Lyall’s article for the New York Times (“French Writer Wins Nobel Prize“) seemed to hit the nail on the head:

Mr. Le Clézio is not well known in the United States, where few of his books are available in translation, but he is considered a major figure in European literature and has long been mentioned as a possible laureate.

But let’s hear it from the Horace’s mouth:

In a news conference in Stockholm after the announcement, Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize each year, described Mr. Le Clézio as a cosmopolitan author, “a traveler, a citizen of the world, a nomad.”  to include other civilizations, other modes of living than the Western, in his writing.”

“He is not a particularly French writer if you look at him from a strictly cultural point of view,” Mr. Engdahl said. “He has gone through many different phases of his development as a writer and has come to include other civilizations, other modes of living than the Western, in his writing.”

In an aside to an aide, heard only by the keenly attuned ears of your humble blogger, Engdahl added, “But not American–you can’t even consider America a civilization.”

(It figures that he doesn’t even want the French to get credit for Le Clézio.)

But there’s one American who has had her eye on this literary citizen of the world: Booklist‘s own Donna Seaman. Read her reviews of The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts (2003) and Wandering Star (2004). She writes:

Exquisitely attuned to nature’s quest for balance and humanity’s penchant for excess and paradox, Le Clezio writes with high compassion and deep wonder of the boundless strength of the spirit.

Sounds Nobel-worthy to me. Not bad, for an American!


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