Who the Hell Is Patrick Modiano?

At first glance Patrick Modiano seems to be one of those writers whose entire readership is the Swedish Academy. But British gamblers had heard enough about him to place him tied for fourth on the Ladbrokes list, well behind Haruki Murakami and Ngugi Wa Thiong'o. Guardian readers had given him a 2% chance of winning.  

Here’s what I’ve learned about him so far:

Raymond Queneau and André Malraux got into a heated argument during Modiano’s wedding. 

Queneau was Modiano’s math teacher.

Modiano has written more than 20 novels, but he admits he’s “always writing the same book.”

Ted Goia read Missing Persons all the way to the end. But this guy gave up 40 pages from the end. 

Question: Should the Nobel Prize for Literature serve to guide us to scarcely known but worthy authors, to help guide us through the thicket of contemporary literature, or should it affirm prestige and recognition on writers we’re already reading, like Philip Roth or Murakami?

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Another way of asking the question above: What role does the Swedish Academy have in preserving literary culture?

He's six foot six inches tall. (Factoid here–I had the title first!)

He once learned to imitate the handwriting of Paul Valéry and Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Modiano doesn’t like to give interviews. He’s something of a recluse. He’s never been a prominent figure on the French literary scene, even though, in his youth, he had the hair for it.

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Given Modiano’s shyness, one wonders how he'll adjust to the fame associated with being a Nobel Prize laureate. Jean-Paul Sartre, a much more garrulous figure, turned down the Nobel Prize because he didn’t want to become an institution

So far he seems pretty pleased about winning.  But note that his first interview was with the Nobel staff, so he's already part of the institution.

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Oh, and his books are pretty good.

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