By Karl Ritter and Malin Rising ,AP
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Patrick Modiano of France, who has made a lifelong study of the Nazi occupation and its effects on his country, won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday for what one academic called “crystal clear and resonant” prose.
Modiano, a 69-year-old resident of Paris, is an acclaimed writer in France but not well known in the English-speaking world. The Swedish Academy said it gave the 8-million-kronor (US$1.1 million) prize to him for evoking “the most ungraspable human destinies” and uncovering the world of life behind the Nazi occupation.
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.
His novel “Missing Person” won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1978 and he has published more than 40 works in French. Some have been translated into English, including “Ring of Roads: A Novel,” “Villa Triste,” “A Trace of Malice,” and “Honeymoon.”
Dervila Cooke of Dublin City University, author of a book about Modiano, said his works dealt with the traumas of France’s past but have a “darkly humorous touch.”
“His prose is crystal clear and resonant,” she said. “A common description of his work is of its ‘petite musique’ — it’s haunting little music.”
Modiano was born in a west Paris suburb in July 1945, two months after World War II ended in Europe, to a father with Jewish-Italian origins and a Belgian actress mother who met during the occupation of Paris.
He has also written children’s books and film scripts, including co-writing the 1974 movie “Lacombe, Lucien” with director Louis Malle and the 2003 movie “Bon Voyage” with director Jean-Paul Rappeneau.
He was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000 and won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 2012.
Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy said Modiano’s works often explore the themes of time, memory and identity.
“He is returning to the same topics again and again simply because these topics, you can’t exhaust them,” Englund told journalists in Stockholm. “You can’t give a definite answer to: Why did I turn into the person I am today? What happened to me? How will I break out of the weight of time? How can I reach back into past times?”
Englund, who wasn’t able to reach Modiano before the announcement, said the French writer also liked to play with the detective genre. In “Missing Person,” he wrote about a private detective launching his last investigation — finding out who he is because he has lost his memory.