J. M. G. Le Clézio

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J. M. G. Le Clézio
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio-press conference Dec 06th, 2008-2.jpg
Born Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
(1940-04-13) 13 April 1940 (age 82)
Nice, France
Occupation Writer
Nationality French
Ethnicity Breton/French
Citizenship French and Mauritian
Period 1963–present
Genre Novel, short story, essay, translation
Subject Exile, migration, childhood, ecology
Notable works Le Procès-Verbal, Désert
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (French: [ʒɑ̃ maʁi ɡystav lə klezjo]; born 13 April 1940), usually identified as J. M. G. Le Clézio, is a French-Mauritian writer and professor. The author of over forty works, he was awarded the 1963 Prix Renaudot for his novel Le Procès-Verbal, as well as the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature for his life's work, as an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization".[1]


Le Clézio's mother was born in the French Riviera city of Nice, his father on the island of Mauritius (which was a British possession, but his father was ethnically Breton). Both his father's and his mother's ancestors were originally from Morbihan on the south coast of Brittany.[2] His paternal ancestor François Alexis Le Clézio fled France in 1798 and settled with his wife and daughter on Mauritius, which was then a French colony but would soon pass into British hands. The colonists were allowed to maintain their customs and use of the French language. Le Clézio has never lived in Mauritius for more than a few months at a time, but he has stated that he regards himself both as a Frenchman and a Mauritian.[3][4] He has dual French and Mauritian citizenship (Mauritius gained independence in 1968) and calls Mauritius his "little fatherland".[5][6]

Le Clézio was born in Nice, his mother's native city, during World War II when his father was serving in the British Army in Nigeria.[7] He was raised in Roquebillière, a small village near Nice until 1948 when he, his mother, and his brother boarded a ship to join his father in Nigeria. His 1991 novel Onitsha is partly autobiographical. In a 2004 essay, he reminisced about his childhood in Nigeria and his relationship with his parents.

After studying at the University of Bristol in England from 1958 to 1959,[8] he finished his undergraduate degree at Nice's Institut d'études littéraires.[9] In 1964 Le Clézio earned a master's degree from the University of Provence with a thesis on Henri Michaux.[10]

After several years spent in London and Bristol, he moved to the United States to work as a teacher. During 1967 he served in the French military in Thailand, but was quickly expelled from the country for protesting against child prostitution and sent to Mexico to finish his military service. From 1970 to 1974, he lived with the Embera-Wounaan tribe in Panama. He has been married since 1975 to Jémia, who is Moroccan, and has three daughters (one by his first marriage). Since the 1990s they have divided their residence between Albuquerque, Mauritius, and Nice.[11]

In 1983 he wrote a doctoral thesis on colonial Mexican history for the University of Perpignan, on the conquest of the Purépecha people who inhabit the present day state of Michoacán. It was serialized in a French magazine and published in Spanish translation in 1985.[12]

He has taught at a number of universities around the world. A frequent visitor to South Korea, he taught French language and literature at Ewha Womans University in Seoul during the 2007 academic year.[13][14]

Literary career

Le Clézio began writing at the age of seven; his first work was a book about the sea. He achieved very early success at age 23 when his first novel Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation) earned him the Prix Renaudot and was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt.[6] Since then he has published more than thirty-six books, including short stories, novels, essays, two translations on the subject of Native American mythology, and several children's books.

From 1963 to 1975, Le Clézio explored themes such as insanity, language, nature and writing. He devoted himself to formal experimentation in the wake of such contemporaries as Georges Perec or Michel Butor. His persona was that of an innovator and a rebel, for which he was praised by Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.

During the late 1970s, Le Clézio's style changed drastically; he abandoned experimentation, and the mood of his novels became less tormented as he used themes like childhood, adolescence, and traveling, which attracted a broader, more popular audience. In 1980, Le Clézio was the first winner of the newly created Grand Prix Paul Morand, awarded by the Académie Française, for his novel, Désert.[15] In 1994, a survey conducted by the French literary magazine Lire showed that 13 percent of the readers considered him to be the greatest living French language writer.[16]

Nobel Prize

Horace Engdahl announces Le Clézio winning the Nobel Prize for Literature on 9 October 2008

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2008 went to Le Clézio for works characterized by the Swedish Academy as being "poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy" and for being focused on the environment, especially the desert.[1] The Swedish Academy, in announcing the award, called Le Clézio an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.".[17] Le Clézio used his Nobel prize acceptance lecture to attack the subject of information poverty.[18] The title of his lecture was Dans la forêt des paradoxes ("In the forest of paradoxes"), a title he attributed to Stig Dagerman.[19]

Gao Xingjian, a Chinese émigré, was the previous French citizen to receive the prize (for 2000); Le Clézio was the first French-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature since Claude Simon for 1985, and the fourteenth since Sully Prudhomme, laureate of the first prize of 1901.


He is a staunch defender of Mama Rosa, director of a Mexican shelter raided by the police in July 2014 when children were found eating rotten food and kept against the will of their parents. He wrote an article in Le Monde arguing that she is close to sanctity.[20]




Short stories

Travel diaries

Collections translated by the author into French

Books for children

Books written by other authors with preface written by Le Clézio

Awards and honours


Year Prize Work
1963 prix Théophraste-Renaudot Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation)
1972 prix littéraire Valery-Larbaud For his complete works[21]
1980 grand prix de littérature Paul-Morand,
awarded by the Académie française
1997 Jean Giono Prize[22] Poisson d'or
1998 prix Prince-de-Monaco For his complete works and upon publication of Poisson d'or[23]
2008 Stig Dagermanpriset[24][25] for his complete works and upon publication of Swedish translation of a travelogue Raga. Approche du continent invisible[26]
2008 Nobel Prize in Literature



  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2008". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 9 October 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Tahourdin, Adrian (21 April 2006). "A Frenchman and a geographer". 5th paragraph. London: review is taken from the TLS. Retrieved 9 December 2008. "Le Clézio's family were originally from Morbihan on the west coast of Brittany. At the time of the Revolution, one of his ancestors, who had refused to enlist in the Revolutionary Army because they had insisted he cut his long hair, fled France with the intention of reaching India, but disembarked on Mauritius, and stayed there<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Internet might have stopped Hitler". comcast.net. 7 December 2008. Archived from the original on 9 December 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2008. Though he was born in France, Le Clézio's father is British and he holds dual nationality with Mauritius, where his family has roots Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "A Frenchman and a geographer". Adrian Tahourdin. London: The Times Literary Supplement. 21 April 2006. Retrieved 11 December 2008. "Le Clezio regards himself as Franco-Mauritian<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Angelique Chrisafis (10 October 2008). "Nobel award restores French literary pride". London: The Guardian. He has joint Mauritian citizenship and calls the island his "little fatherland<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bremner, Charles (9 October 2008). "Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio wins the 2008 Nobel Literature Prize". London: Times Online. Retrieved 9 October 2008. Le Clézio, who was born in Nice and has lived in England, New Mexico and South Korea, said that he was touched by the honour. He mentioned his British father, a surgeon, and his childhood in Mauritius and Nigeria. "I was born of a mix, like many people currently in Europe," he said.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. della Fazia Amoia, Alba; Alba Amoia; Bettina Liebowitz (2009). Multicultural Writers Since 1945. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 313–318. ISBN 978-0-313-30688-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio wins Nobel Prize". University of Bristol. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. MBA-unice.edu
  10. Marshall, Bill; Cristina Johnston. France and the Americas. ABC-CLIO, 2005. ISBN 1-85109-411-3. p.697
  11. Pollard, Niklas; Estelle Shirbon (9 October 2008). "Nomadic writer wins Nobel prize". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 9 October 2008. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Le Clézio, La Conquista divina de Michoacán. Fondo de Cultura Económica
  13. Lee Esther (2 January 2008). "Acclaimed French author praises Korean literature". JoongAng Daily.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Yonhap News (9 October 2008). 한국과 각별한 인연 가진 르클레지오 (in Korean). Dong-a Ilbo.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Tahourdin, Adrian (21 April 2006). "A Frenchman and a geographer". 5th paragraph. London: review is taken from the TLS. Retrieved 9 December 2008. "Le Clezio received the Academie Francaise's Grand Prix Paul Morand in 1980 for Desert, a novel that revealed a move towards a more expansive and lyrical style. The book has a dual narrative. The first, dated 1909–10, chronicles the tragic fate of a Tuareg clan fleeing across Morocco from their French and Spanish colonial oppressors ("les chrétiens")".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Maurice : Source d'Inspiration pour le Prix Nobel de Littérature, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (Lire, "Le Clézio N° 1" , 1994, 22s. )". Portail Ocean Indie (in French). modéré par CEDREFI. 14 October 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2008. Prix du plus grand écrivain francophone du magazine LireCS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Thompson, Bob (9 October 2008). "France's Le Clézio Wins Nobel Literature Prize". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 October 2008. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Lea, Richard (8 December 2008). "Le Clézio uses Nobel lecture to attack information poverty". London: guardian.co.uk home. Retrieved 14 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. The Nobel Foundation 2008 (7 December 2008). "The Nobel Foundation 2008". Nobel Lecture. The Nobel Foundation 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. JMG Le Clézio (24 July 2014). "Foyer de l'horreur au Mexique : plaidoyer pour " Mama Rosa " par JMG Le Clézio". Le Monde.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Prix Valery Larbaud". Prix littéraires. 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2009. Pour l'ensemble de son oeuvre<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Prix Jean Giono" (in French). Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent. 2009. Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>"Grand Prix Jean Giono". Prix littéraires. 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. pour l'ensemble de son œuvre, à l'occasion de la sortie de Poisson d'or 2008
  24. "Ljusgestalt i ondskans tid". SvD (in Swedish). 24 October 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2012.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Fransman får Stig Dagermanpriset". gd.se (in Swedish). 4 June 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2012.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Ritournelle de la faim – Jean-Marie-Gustave Le Clézio". Ses Prix et Récompenses (in French). ciao.fr. 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2009. pour l'ensemble de son œuvre, à l'occasion de la sortie suédoise de Raga. Approche du continent invisibleCS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Décret du 31 décembre 2008 portant promotion et nomination". JORF. 2009 (1): 15. 1 January 2009. PREX0828237D. Retrieved 5 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Simone Veil, Zidane et Lagardère décorés". C.M. (lefigaro.fr) avec AFP (in French). lefigaro.fr. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2009. Le Clézio est pour sa part élevé au grade d'officierCS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "Ordre national du Mérite Décret du 14 novembre 1996 portant promotion et". JORF. 1996 (266): 16667. 15 November 1996. PREX9612403D. Retrieved 5 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

Critical works
  • Jennifer R. Waelti-Walters, J.M.G. Le Clézio, Boston, Twayne, " Twayne's World Authors Series " 426, 1977.
  • Jennifer R. Waelti-Walters, Icare ou l'évasion impossible, éditions Naaman, Sherbrooke, Canada, 1981.
  • Bruno Thibault, Sophie Jollin-Bertocchi, J.M.G. Le Clézio: Intertextualité et interculturalité, Nantes, Editions du Temps, 2004.
  • Bruno Thibault, Bénédicte Mauguière, J.M.G. Le Clézio, la francophonie et la question coloniale, Nouvelles Etudes Francophones, numéro 20, 2005.
  • Keith Moser, "Privileged moments" in the novels and short stories of J.M.G. Le Clézio, Edwin Mellen Press, 2008.
  • Bruno Thibault, Claude Cavallero (eds), Contes, nouvelles & Romances, Les Cahiers Le Clézio, vol. 2, Paris, 2009.
  • Bruno Thibault, J.M.G. Le Clézio et la métaphore exotique, Amsterdam/New York, Rodopi, 2009.
  • Isabelle Roussel-Gillet, J.M.G. Le Clézio, écrivain de l'incertitude, Ellipses, 2011.
  • Bruno Thibault, Isabelle Roussel-Gillet (eds), Migrations et métissages, Les Cahiers Le Clézio, vol. 3–4, 2011.
  • Keith Moser, JMG Le Clézio, A Concerned Citizen of the Global Village, Lexington Books, 2012.
  • Bruno Thibault, Keith Moser, J.M.G. Le Clézio dans la forêt des paradoxes, Paris, Editions de l'Harmattan, 2012.

External links