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JMG Le Clézio

jmg-le-clezio1Monsieur Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s writing career began at the age of seven during his first trip to Africa, Un très long voyage and Oradi Noir.  After teaching French in Bath, Monsieur Le Clézio won his first literary prize, Le Prix Renaudot, when he was 23 years for Le Procès Verbal – The Interrogation, an experimental “new novel” and completed his Masters in Nice with a thesis on “Solitude in Henri Michaux’s works”.

Following his extensive stay in Mexico from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s, he discovered the ancient Aztec texts of the Codex, the Torquemada of Bernard de Sahagun. Between 1970 and 1974 Monsieur Le Clézio lived with the Embera-Wounaan tribes of the Darièn forests of Panama for four years. His linguistic abilities enabled him to translate The Prophecies of Chilam Bilam. Upon his return to France, he devoted his research to the pre-Hispanic, Meso-American world and defended a history thesis at the University of Perpignan in 1976 on the Relation Michoàcan that was published in 1984.

In 1980, he was awarded the Paul Morand prize from L’Académie Française for his novel Desert. Since the 1980s, Monsieur Le Clézio has published 31 books that testify to the mysterious richness, fragility and strength of the human being and the distinctiveness of their histories, cultures and arts. In 2008, the Nobel Academy attributed the Nobel prize for literature to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio as an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”. (Monsieur Le Clézio’s Nobel Speech: “Dans la fôret des paradoxes”). As of this day, he is the author of fifty-one books.

Aside from being a highly respected and prolific author, Mr. Le Clézio taught at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where he served as a visiting Faculty of Modern and Classical Languages between 1977-78 and 1984-85. He also held the position of the PNM Endowed Chair at the University of New Mexico’s department of Foreign Languages and Literatures between 1992-1993. While spending time in Asia, Mr. Le Clézio has served as an Honorary Professor at the University Ehwa for women in Seoul, Korea since 2001.

In addition to his work with the Foundation for Interculturality and Peace, Mr. Le Clézio remains actively involved in the promotion of world art and culture. An example of his activism in the realm of the arts can be seen in his invitation to serve as the invited guest at the Louvre from November 2011 to January 2012 with one month of events in the domains of theater, music, conferences, world film projections and readings as well as an exhibit that he commissioned entitled Les Musées sont des Mondes – Museums are Worlds. Through his exhibit, Le Clézio sought to promote a dialogue across continents and cultures by eliminating hierarchies of cultures and their arts.  Finally, he and his wife Jémia live across cultures as they divide their time between Albuquerque, Brittany, Paris, Nice, Mauritius and Seoul.

Mr. Le Clézio speaks to the power of literature to transform mental images, the starting point from where people can envision humanity with a heightened sensitivity to the diversity of our world’s cultures:

  • “I believe strongly that literature is one of the ways to achieve interculturality. If we don’t achieve it through words and through the imagination, then it will never be possible. It has to exist first in books and in the imagination. The fact that all cultures have a right to express themselves and that there is no culture better than the other – they are not alike, but they have a right to the general concert of the human spirit. Literature is a way to achieve this. It’s a rare occasion of being able to hear the world voices”. Le Clézio, JMG. “The Habit of Voyaging: Interview with Adam Gopnik”. Pen America. No. 11.  New Yor: Pen America Center, 2009 72.

Many thanks to the Association of Le Clézio readers for their valuable information regarding Le Clézio’s biography.
Photo provided by Dr. Issa Asgarally.