September 23, 2020

Nobel Prize in literature goes to French novelist


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Patrick ModianoBookends From Jamaica Observer

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Patrick Modiano of France, who has made a lifelong study of the Nazi occupation and its effect on his country, was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature last Thursday.

The Swedish Academy gave the 8 million kronor ($1.1 million) prize to Modiano “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”.

Modiano, 69, whose novel Missing Person won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1978 — was born in a west Paris suburb two months after World War II ended in Europe in July 1945. His father was of Jewish Italian origins and met his Belgian actress mother during the occupation of Paris.

Jewishness, the Nazi occupation and loss of identity are recurrent themes in his novels, which include 1968’s La Place de l’Etoile — later hailed in Germany as a key post-Holocaust work.

Modiano owes his first big break to a friend of his mother’s, French writer Raymond Queneau, who first introduced him to the Gallimard publishing house when he was in his early twenties.

He has published more than 40 works in French, some of which have been translated into English, including Ring of Roads: A Novel, Villa Triste, A Trace of Malice, and Honeymoon.

He has also written children’s books and film scripts and made the 1974 feature movie Lacombe, Lucien with director Louis Malle. He was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000.

Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy said time, memory and identity are recurring themes in Modiano’s works.

“His books speak to each other; they are echoes of each other,” Englund told Swedish broadcaster SVT. “That makes his work in a way unique. You could say that he is sort of a Marcel Proust of our time.”

Modiano, who lives in Paris, rarely accords interviews. In 2012, he won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

Last year’s prize went to Canadian writer Alice Munro for her mastery of the short story.

This year’s Nobel Prize announcements started last Monday with a US-British scientist splitting the medicine prize with a Norwegian husband-and-wife team for brain research that could pave the way for a better understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Two Japanese researchers and a Japanese-born American won the physics prize for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, a breakthrough that spurred the development of LED as a new light source.

The chemistry prize on Wednesday went to two Americans and a German researcher who found new ways to give microscopes sharper vision, letting scientists peer into living cells with unprecedented detail to seek the roots of disease.

The awards will be presented on December 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896.

IMAGE: Patrick Modiano

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Related story:

Man Booker Prize: Richard Flanagan wins for wartime love story

_78225487_richardflanaganchattoBy Tim Masters Arts and entertainment correspondent, BBC News

Australian author Richard Flanagan has won the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for his wartime novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

“It’s a remarkable love story as well as story about human suffering and comradeship,” said AC Grayling, chair of the judges.

Flanagan’s novel is set during the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War Two.

It was announced as the winner on Tuesday night at London’s Guildhall.

This was the first year that the Man Booker prize had been open to all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality. Some writers had expressed fears that the change in the rules could lead to dominance by US authors.

Flanagan, 53, was presented with his prize by The Duchess of Cornwall.

“In Australia the Man Booker is sometimes seen as something of a chicken raffle,” Flanagan said. “I just didn’t expect to end up the chicken.”

The author’s father, a Japanese prisoner of war who survived the Death Railway, died aged 98 the day the novel was finished.

Grayling said the judges reached a majority decision after some three hours of debate.

“The two great themes from the origin of literature are love and war: this is a magnificent novel of love and war. Written in prose of extraordinary elegance and force, it bridges East and West, past and present, with a story of guilt and heroism.”

The Narrow Road to the Deep North is Flanagan’s sixth novel. Born in Tasmania, he is the third Australian to win the Booker. Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark won in 1982 while Peter Carey won for Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and The True History of the Kelly Gang (2001).

It took Flanagan 12 years to get his novel right. “Other novels came and went as I continued to fail to write this one,” he wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “I wrote five different versions of this book in order to find the final novel.”

The story is set in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp and centres upon the experiences of surgeon Dorrigo Evans, who is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier.

Grayling said: “The best and worst of judging books is when you come across one that kicks you so hard in the stomach like this that you can’t pick up the next one in the pile for a couple of days. That’s what happened in the case of this book.”

Catherine Taylor, reviewing the book for The Telegraph, said: “Flanagan’s writing courses like a river, sometimes black with mud, sludge and corpses, sometimes bright with moonlight.”

Carl Wilkinson, in the Financial Times, called it “elegantly wrought, measured and without an ounce of melodrama”.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North had been the bookmakers’ second favourite after Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives Of Others, a sweeping account of life in 1960s Calcutta.

Also on the shortlist were authors Joshua Ferris, Karen Joy Fowler, Howard Jacobson and Ali Smith.

Jonathan Ruppin, web editor at Foyles, said that Flanagan’s novel had been his narrow favourite.

“It succeeds brilliantly in everything Flanagan is trying to do: his depiction of the Burma Railway is unstinting in its brutality, yet every death is a distinct tragedy, a life pointlessly ended.

“But its true genius is to portray the irreversible warping of the human spirit wrought by war. It’s one of the truly great winners of the prize, one that will be widely read not least because it’s impossible to lay aside completely and forget.”

The shortlist consisted of two American writers, three British and one Australian.

Grayling said: “There is a very powerful cohort of contemporary American writers, but neither the longlist nor the shortlist was overwhelmed by them.”

Last year, the Booker was won by New Zealand’s Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries. At 28, she was the youngest-ever winner.

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  1. Patrick Modiano’s writing is deceptively simple.

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