French Author Patrick Modiano Wins 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature

Posted on October 9, 2014

Patrick Modiano illustration

French author Patrick Modiano is the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. Modiano, who is 69, is the 11th Frenchman to win the prestigious prize. The shortlisted authors for the prize included Haruki Murakami, Svetlana Aleksijevitj and Ngugi Wa Thiong'o.

Modiano will pick up a a prize of $1.1 million which is given in honor of the winner's body of work.The Nobel Committee awarded the 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." Professor Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, made the announcement today.

Modiano is the author of 30 books, mostly novels. He has also written children's books and screenplays. Just after the announcement was made (which was a bit of a shock to many people who have never even heard of Modiano), Secretary Englund gave an interview explaining who Modiano is and what his books are like. Englund is a huge Modiano fan. Englund said that Modiano is very accessible to the reader. For one thing, his books are really short -- averaging 150 pages. When asked what book one should read to get started with his work, Englund recommends reading the detective novel Missing Person, which is about a detective who has lost his memory. His final case is to find out who he really is. Englund says it's a "fun book that plays with the genre, but also says something important about memory and time."

According to Englund, Modiano is obsessed with reaching back in time and examining memories, and uses original ways to do this. The author lives in Paris, where many of his novels are set. Paris is a big part of the setting of his books.

Englund says Modiano is relatively unknown outside of Sweden and France, where he is highly revered. Modiano uses simple language, says Englund, but the composition of the words is very elegant and refined. He says you can read one of his books in an afternoon, have dinner and easily read another one in the evening. We've never read any of Modiano's work, but based on Englund's description we will be doing so immediately. Hopefully, more of his work will be translated into English soon. Here is the interview:



Image: Niklas Elmehed