Patrick Modiano of France, whose work focuses on the Nazi occupation and its effect on his country, was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature today. The Swedish Academy gave the $1.1 million prize to Modiano "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation." Modiano, 69—whose novel, Missing Person, won the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1978—was born in a west Paris suburb two months after World War II ended in Europe in July 1945. His father was of Jewish-Italian origins and met his Belgian actress mother during the occupation of Paris—and his beginnings have strongly influenced his writing.
Jewishness, the Nazi occupation, and loss of identity are recurrent themes in his novels, which include 1968's La Place de l'Etoile—later hailed in Germany as a key post-Holocaust work. Modiano owes his first big break to a friend of his mother's, French writer Raymond Queneau, who first introduced him to the Gallimard publishing house when he was in his early 20s. Modiano, who lives in Paris, is known to shun the media and rarely grants interviews. In 2012, he won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. So far this week: medicine, physics, and chemistry. Up tomorrow: the Nobel Peace Prize. (Read why no one should win that one.) Economics brings up the rear on Monday.