(JTA) – The works of Patrick Modiano, the French author awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, deal frequently with the experience of Jews under the collaborationist Vichy Regime in World War II occupied France.
His works also deal with the ambiguous role played during the Holocaust by ordinary Frenchmen, including their role in deporting Jews to Nazi camps.
Modiano, whose father came from an Italian-Jewish family, was awarded the $1.1 million prize, the Nobel committee said, “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”
Born in a Paris suburb soon after the end of World War II, Modiano, 69, has written more than two dozen novels, as well as children’s books and screenplays, but relatively few have been translated into English. While famous in France, he is little known in the United States.
His first novel, “La Place de l’étoile,” was published in 1968 and was, in part, about a Jew who engaged in shady activities during the Nazi occupation.
He also co-authored the screenplay of Louis Malle’s acclaimed 1974 film “Lacombe, Lucien,” which focused on a young man who joins pro-Nazi French collaborators after being rejected by the anti-Nazi resistance, but then falls in love with a Jewish girl. “Dora Bruder,” published in 1997, traces the life of a girl deported and killed at Auschwitz.
“I have always felt like I’ve been writing the same book for the past 45 years,” he told a news conference after the award was announced on Wednesday.
On Friday, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai, 17, of Pakistan, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for calling for her right and that of other Arab girls to education, and to Indian children’s right activist Kailash Satyarthi won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Yousafzai becomes the youngest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize.
Israeli Nobel Peace Prize winner, former president Shimon Peres, congratulated Malala on her honor.
“The Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s decision to award Malala the prize is a worthy one,” Peres said. “She is a symbol to women and girls across the world and an example to all of us. Malala, you defeated those who tried to silence you and your victory is a victory for peace. We are all proud of you.”