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Nobel Prize

jk/nf (dpa)
December 8, 2014

The academy chose Modiano "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." On Sunday, Modiano held his acceptance speech in Stockholm.

Patrick Modiano, making his acceptance speech in Stockholm for the 2014Nobel Prize for Literature
Image: Reuters/TT News Agency/A. Wiklund

On December 10, French author Patrick Modiano will receive this year's Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm. As is tradition, the acceptance speech was held three days in advance. On Sunday, the writer explained in the Swedish capital, what has driven him to write.

Paris as an intellectual center

Modiano, born in Boulogne-Billancourt in the vicinity of the French capital in 1945 from an Italian-Jewish father and a Belgian mother, recounted that he spent most of his childhood by himself, separated from his parents. He often stayed with friends in different places all over Paris. Not surprisingly therefore, the search for his origins, childhood and adolescence became the central theme of his novels later on in his life.

The mystery of childhood

As an adult, Modiano tried to explore the mysteries of childhood and adolescence: "But I have not managed to trace all those people, houses and places who played a role in my past," the Nobel laureate commented in Stockholm. "This drive to solve riddles and to clarify mysteries without any real chance of success is the source of my desire to write, as though the exploration of my imagination, and writing, could finally help me to link up all the loose ends."

Modiano’s stories describe a universe of haunted cities, absentee parents, criminality and lost youths. They are all located in Paris - with the shadow of the Second World War looming heavily in the background. The Nobel Academy described the novelist, whose work has often focused on the Nazi occupation of France, as "a Marcel Proust of our time."

Although a few of his novels have been translated into English, Modiano is not very well known outside his home country. This, naturally, is now likely to change.

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