French novelist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008. Described as an ‘author of new departures, poetic adventure 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 Académie Française.
His debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt, was Le procès-verbal/The Interrogation (1963). He followed this with Le deluge/The Flood (1966), which takes as its focus the trouble and fear in major Western cities, and Terra Amata (1967), the impressions in minute detail of one man's ordinary life. Other works include the novel Onitsha (1991), a powerful attack on colonialism, and essays such as ‘Le rêve mexicain ou la pensée interrompue’/‘The Mexican Dream, or, The Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations’ (1965) and ‘L'Africain’/‘The African’ (2004).
Le Clézio was born 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 World War II. His first book 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'Études Littéraires in Nice in 1963 and a master's degree at the University of Aix-en-Provence followed in 1964.
In the early 1970s he lived in the jungles of Panama with a group of Embera Indians, the experience having a profound impact on his view of life and art. 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; and Boston, Massachusetts; Austin, Texas; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the USA.