The OF Blog: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio wins Nobel Prize for Literature

OK, this was a bit surprising to me. Not that I would have been familiar with a great many of those who could have been chosen, but rather that I can't recall ever hearing of Le Clézio before now. While I would have preferred that Milan Kundera, Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, or Bob Dylan to get it, I am not going to bemoan the Nobel Prize committee's choice, at least not yet.

Instead, I am curious as to which works of his I ought to explore reading. Anyone familiar with Le Clézio's writings have a favorite to recommend to me?

9 comments:

Neth said...

Someone on NPR this morning suggested that people who want read his works for the first time should probably start with his first novel - The Interrogation. There is an English translation, though you may want to attempt the original French.

Larry said...

Je ne parle pas français! Or rather, not well enough for me to think about attempting a read without a parallel text. But if it's not available in English, I could try Spanish, I suppose.

S.M.D. said...

To be honest, I stopped paying attention to the Nobel Prize as a serious award years ago. The award hold little relevance whatsoever. You can tell because if you ask most anyone if they have ever heard of some of the people who have won the Nobel for literature (or perhaps for any prize) they'll just look stupidly, including myself. I don't know what they give the award for, but it's certainly not for influence or literary merit, because if that were so we'd see a lot more well known works (and I don't mean like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling) and works that are known to have some sort of lasting influence on the direction of literature. Most of the writers I've read who have won the Nobel have been obscure or mostly irrelevant.

But that's my take on things. I find the Pulitzer to be a much more interesting prize, although it has a tendency to lean towards obscurity as well.

Larry said...

I disagree in part, because I have read a large number of Nobel Prize-winning authors (35 out of 105 or so) and I just can't classify Camus, Hemingway, Bellow, Buck, Sinclair Lewis, Faulkner, García Márquez, Saramago, among many others as being "obscure" or "mostly irrelevant." While I may question why Milan Kundera, Cormac McCarthy, and a few others haven't won it (yet), I still am curious about the authors chosen.

As for the Pulitizers...well, they overturned their own decision in 1974 and didn't award one to Thomas Pynchon for his Gravity's Rainbow, so...

Anonymous said...

OK, this was a bit surprising to me.

That's because you're ins...oops :)
Today's (10 October) Complete Review has again a few interesting articles and links.
I don't think starting with his first novel is a good idea.
His first phase is very Nouveau Roman -later his style shifts fairly radically,and draws comparisons to Melville or Stevenson.

and I just can't classify Camus, Hemingway, Bellow, Buck, Sinclair Lewis, Faulkner, García Márquez, Saramago
The funny thing is that the Nobel firestorm has sparked a series of articles disparaging the previous winners,that only rarely however are in agreement over the names of the clunkers.
For example,I've read that Saramago and Gao Xinjiang are "obscure and unreadable",Camus and García Márquez "overhyped".
And the Kirsch article you mentioned ridiculed Buck, Sinclair Lewis and Faulkner as simple,"fit for high school" writers.

While I may question why Milan Kundera,
I enjoyed Kundera very much when I first read him,but I seem to have taken him down a peg or two over the years.
My favourite modern Czech author was Bohumil Hrabal-try to look out for Closely Watched Trains.

Not that I would have been familiar with a great many of those who could have been chosen
An author you may not know that I like very much,and should appeal to you given what I understand of your tastes from the Blog,is Harry Mulisch.
Try The Discovery of Heaven.
Ciao,
Marco

Larry said...

Marco,

I have read that Mulisch book, about 3 years ago, I think. While I appreciate what he accomplished there, the overall tone left me blah for a while. Irrational reaction to a story, I know, but it is amusing to realize that sometimes emotional biases do develop.

Will keep an eye out for both the latter-stage Le Clézio and for that Czech author you mentioned, although I'll likely have to get both in Spanish translation, as it seems there is very little available in English right now.

As for the backlash, well...diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, like the theme music for that 70s TV show went? :P

S.M.D. said...

Sorry for the late response to your response, Larry, but here goes:

I didn't mean to say that all Nobel winners have been irrelevant, though perhaps that's the way it came out. Sorry about that. I agree, folks like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Marquez have had great influence on literature (I can't say much about the other folks as I've never read them, unfortunately), but quite a few of the authors I have read who wone Nobels have felt to me like pointless selections. The Nobel is supposed to be THE award. The literature side of it is supposed to mark exellence in literature, and from my perspective, it should select authors and works that specifically have had significant influence on literature as a whole. Some of the folks who have won the Nobel that I have read have had little to no discernible influence. They were chosen for dealing with issues that, while certainly worth bringing up in literature and certainly influential in their country of origin, have little to offer literature as a whole. Hemingway obviously influenced literature with his writing style, Marquez influenced the magical realist movement to the point that it's almost like a catch phrase now (at least the way I see it), and I'm sure many of the authors you mentioned have had significant and lasting effects on literature.
The Nobel is also too tight-lipped for me. It clearly harnesses the snobbish mentality of the academia who despise uncommon literary forms (such as speculative fiction). Doris Lessing might have never won the Nobel if she had only written science fiction, and some people wanted to boot her off of the considerations list because of her foray into the specfic realm.

But, that's all from my head and I'm sure you have a different opinion on the matter.

Anonymous said...

le clezio deserved it french culturrev is strong

www.arelis.gr
it contains the forbidden in greece erotonomicon that socked the greek publishing houses with its sensuality and sexuality
and critisism to the american and european imperialism of the 20st and 21st century
and the poems new york olympia and exhibition of orthodromic retrospection

Anonymous said...

le clezio deserved it french culture is strong

www.arelis.gr
it contains the forbidden in greece erotonomicon that socked the greek publishing houses with its sensuality and sexuality
and critisism to the american and european imperialism of the 20st and 21st century
and the poems new york olympia and exhibition of orthodromic retrospection

 
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