An American Didn't Win the Nobel Prize? Big Surprise

by Staff

A week after Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary for the Swedish Academy and top jury member for the Nobel Prize, criticized American writers in an interview with the Associated Press (AP), the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was announced. Not surprisingly, it isn't an American. French novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio takes literature's highest honor this year for his "poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy," the prize committee said in a statement.

Le Clézio, who is sixty-eight years old, is the author of more than forty books, twelve of which have been translated into English. Among them are The Interrogation (1964) and Fever (1966), both translated by Daphne Woodward, and The Book of Flights: An Adventure Story (1972), War (1973), and The Giants (1975), translated by Simon Watson Taylor. All of these earlier books were published in the United States by Atheneum. More recently, the independent Curbstone Press published Wandering Star (2004), translated by C. Dickson.

The prize committee called Le Clézio an "author of new departures" and an "explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization." He will receive $1.43 million.

Engdahl started a heated literary debate last week when he told the AP that the United States is "too isolated, too insular" and that Americans "don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature. That ignorance is restraining."