Nobel lands French author in New Yorker

Nobel laureate Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, little known in the U.S. before winning the literature prize, will be featured for the first time in The New Yorker.

“We thought lots of people would be very interested to see what his work was like,” said New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman, whose translation of the short story “The Boy Who Had Never Seen the Sea” will appear on newsstands Monday.

Le Clezio, 68, was praised by the Swedish Academy for his “poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy” in such works as “Terra Amata,” “The Book of Flights” and “Desert.” He is ranked among the greatest living French writers, but even leading American critics – including Treisman and New Yorker editor David Remnick – had not read his work.

Before the award was announced, Academy Permanent Secretary Horace Engdahl said the U.S. was too insular and ignorant to challenge Europe as the center of the literary world.

Originally published in the 1978 collection “Mondo et Autre Histoires” (“Mondo and Other Stories”), “The Boy” tells of a boarding school student whose passion for the sea leads to his mysterious disappearance.

“We talked about the usual school things,” Le Clezio writes, “our math problems, our Latin translations, but always we were thinking of him, as if he really were a kind of Sinbad, still making his way around the world.”