Patrick Modiano wins Nobel Prize for Literature

This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to Patrick Modiano. The 69 year old Frenchman was recognised ‘for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation’. Peter Englund, the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary, compared him to Proust.

Prolific in his native France, only some of Modiano’s body of work has been made available in English, with the most recent of his novels to be translated his 1997 work Dora Bruder, available under its original title and as The Search Warrant (that sound you can hear is hundreds of freelance translators rushing to to order the gaps in the bibliography). Other works available to Anglophones include Night Rounds (La ronde de nuit), Ring Roads (Les boulevards de ceinture), Villa Triste, Catherine Certitude, Missing Person (Rue des boutiques obscures) and Out of the Dark (Du plus loin de l’oubli).

Modiano has also written two screenplays: Louis Malle’s 1974 film Lacombe, Lucien, based on Malle’s own experiences as a teenager in occupied France during World War II, and Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s 2003 Bon Voyage, also set in wartime France, starring Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu. Two films have been adapted from his novels: Moshé Mizrahi’s Une jeunesse (1983) and Patrice Leconte’s Le parfum d’Yvonne (based on Villa triste, 1994).

The Nobel does not work from a shortlist, but Modiano had nevertheless been among the bookies’ favourites – albeit, at 10/1, he had been behind the likes of Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (7/2), the oft-mentioned in this context Haruki Murakami (9/2) and Svetlana Aleksijevitj (6/1). The 2% of Guardian readers who thought Modiano most deserving of the prize must be feeling pretty smug right now.

Though literary prizes don’t get much more prestigious than the Nobel, Modiano has an impressive collection of awards already, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature (2012) and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca lifetime achievement award from the Institut de France (2010).

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