French novelist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008. Described as an ‘author of new departures, poetic adventures and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization’ by the Nobel committee, Le Clézio's early works from the 1960s and 1970s set him apart as ‘ecologically engaged’, and his definitive novel Désert/Desert (1980) won him a prize from the Academie Francaise.
From 1967 to 1970 he lived in the jungles of Panama with a tribe of Embera Indians, subsequently producing ‘The Mexican Dream, Or, the Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations’ (1993).
Le Clézio was born on 13 April 1940 in Nice, France, and at the age of eight moved with his family to Nigeria, where his father had been stationed as a physician during the World War II. His first novel Un long voyage/A Long Journey was written on that journey. He also wrote a second novel at that time and included a list of ‘forthcoming books’.
The family returned to Nice in 1950 where he completed his secondary education before studying English at Bristol University, UK, in 1958–59 (he had been brought up bilingual in English and French although French is where he feels at home). He finished his undergraduate degree at the Institut d'Attitudes Litteraire in Nice in 1963. A masters degree at the University of Aix-en-Provence, France, followed in 1964 and he wrote a doctoral thesis on Mexico's early history at the University of Perpignan, France, in 1983. He has taught at universities in Bangkok, Thailand; Mexico City, Mexico; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Austin, Texas, USA; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.