Patrick Modiano, a French novelist whose works often explore the traumas of the Nazi occupation of France and hinge on the themes of memory, loss and the puzzle of identity, won the 2014 Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday.
In an announcement in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy cited Modiano's ability to evoke "the most ungraspable human destinies" in his work.
The Nobel, one of the most prestigious and financially generous awards in the world, comes with a $1.1 million prize. The literature prize is given out for a lifetime of writing rather than for a single work.
Modiano, who has published about 30 works, has written novels, children's books and screenplays. He first rose to prominence in 1968 with his novel La Place de l'toile.
Many of his fictional works are set in Paris during World War II, and some play with the detective genre. His works have been translated around the world, but he is not widely known outside France.
In a news conference after the announcement, Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, called Modiano, "a Marcel Proust of our time," noting that his works resonate with one another thematically and are "always variations of the same thing, about memory, about loss, about identity about seeking."
During a halting, nearly hour-long news conference at the headquarters of Gallimard, Modiano's publisher in Paris, Modiano said he learned he had won when his daughter called him and he was walking in the street.
"I was a bit surprised, so I continued walking," he said. "I wasn't expecting this at all."
He added, with his customary modesty, that he was curious about why the jury picked him, because it is hard for him as an author to judge his own work.
"I have always felt like I've been writing the same book for the past 45 years," he said.
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