Le Clézio's Nobel prize – so French culture isn't dead after all!

Le Clézio during a trip to Guadeloupe in October 2007. Posted on Flickr by "Le crédit voyage".

French writer Jean-Marie Le Clézio has just received the Nobel Prize for Literature. For blogger Guillaume Thouroude, the award is proof that despite "American sniggers", French culture is not dead after all.


"France has claimed a Nobel prize for literature almost every ten years for the past century"

Guillaume Thouroude wrote his thesis on travel writing for Queen's University in Belfast. He writes the blog La précarité du sage for French daily Le Monde.

Is it not beautiful? Not brilliant? After the American sniggers over the supposed death of French culture [Time Magazine's November 2007 cover read "The Death of French Culture"], one of our great writers has bagged a Nobel prize. (...)

Well, there's no need to be astonished, it has to be said. France has claimed a Nobel prize for literature almost every ten years for the past century. Such regularity could perhaps surprise those who see a decline (but not provide the answer to everything, as it's nothing outstanding...). Here's a small reminder, decade by decade:

The 1900s: 2 prizes.

1910s: 1

1920s: 2

1930s: 1

1940s: 1

1950s: 2

1960s: 2

1970s: None

1980s: 1

1990s: None

2000s: 2

There, that should teach us as much about humility as pride. Each decade sees a Frenchman crowned, however dead or alive French literature is thought to be. Looking at these figures, you don't get the impression that French literature was that powerful in the thirties or in such a bad state today.

You'd also think by looking at it that the seventies were void, and that was one of the Stockholm jury's most extraordinary failures; that they managed to overlook an entire band of postmodern writer-theorists - Barthes, Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida - whose writing qualities had nothing to envy those of purely literary writers, if that says anything.

So Le Clézio - why not? He has everything going for him: he's the perfect son-in-law, he still carries the aura of a child genius who conquered both experimental and classical writing, and he's one of the most studied French writers outside France. So the Nobel prize will make a lot of people happy, and frankly, what's the problem with that?"


French Culture is more literature and far from dead...

At the final outpost of Western Culture, where the sun sets on our dreams and vision, I believe it is safe to say French Culture is not dead nor does it depend on Nobel Prizes for literature, etc. While it is important for France to have an author studied and recognized, the contributions of France to Western Culture transcend any particular set period for literature. The Nation I live in owes, firmly, its very existence to France. Not a popular opinion among the media and political elites, but I think Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Compt de Vergennes, Beaumarchais, Louis XVI, Marquis de Lafayette, and a host of other true leaders of our shared history (for better or worse) would gladly correct them. In fact, I think they may have turned in their graves at "Freedom Fries." The blood of our peoples stain the soil of both lands as we've joined in battle as enemies in the French American War, as allies in the American Revolution, and again in two world wars. America's thanks to the French has been one defiant policy move after another, but while the elitists in our government perpetuate this idiocy, there are plenty of American Citizens proud of France and what it has done for us. Alas, the French contribution to American and Western Culture in general is fixed, true, lasting, and owed to everything including French painting, architecture, poetry, song, literature, philosophy, humor, spirit and the list could go on. Sorry to be so long winded but the "American Sniggering" line really got me fumed. I honor and respect the nation of France because I know what it has done for me, Nobel Prize or not.

Jeremy, San Diego, California

La Saison de Pluies, a translation

I've translated one of my favorite Le Clezio shorts: La saison de pluies.
It is available for anyone who may want a copy.