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Le Clezio has been writing since age seven; his first work was a book about the sea. After majoring in French literature, he became well-known at age 23 with the publication of his first novel, Le Proces-Verbal (The Interrogation), which was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt and for which he was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1963.
Since then he has published about 30 books, including short stories, novels, essays, two translations on the subject of Native American mythology, countless prefaces and reviews as well as a few contributions to collective publications. In addition he is the author of several children's books.
From 1963 to 1975 Le Clezio explored themes like insanity, language, writing and devoted himself to formal experimentation in the wake of such contemporaries as Georges Perec or Michel Butor. Le Clezio's public image was that of an innovator and a rebel, drawing praise from Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.
In the late 1970s Le Clezio's style underwent a drastic change; he abandoned experimentation, and the mood of his novels became less tormented as he broached themes like childhood, adolescence, and traveling, which attracted a broader, more popular audience. In 1980 Le Clezio was the first winner of the newly created grand prix Paul Morand, awarded to Desert by the Academie francaise.
In 1994 a survey conducted by the French literary magazine Lire showed that 13% of the readers considered him to be the greatest living French language writer.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008. Other French citizens to receive the prize include Gao Xingjian in 2000; he is the first French-language writer to win since Claude Simon in 1985. The Swedish Academy, in announcing the award, called Le Clezio an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.
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