Patrick Modiano received the 8 million kronor ($1.1 million) prize “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.
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Judaism, 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 twenties.
He has published more than 40 works in French, some of which have been translated into English, including "Ring of Roads: A Novel," ''Villa Triste," ''A Trace of Malice," and "Honeymoon."
He has also written children's books and film scripts and made the 1974 feature movie "Lacombe, Lucien" with director Louis Malle. He was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000.
Peter Englund, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy said time, memory and identity are recurring themes in Modiano's works.
"His books speak to each other; they are echoes of each other," Englund told Swedish broadcaster SVT. "That makes his work in a way unique. You could say that he is sort of a Marcel Proust of our time."
Modiano, who lives in Paris, rarely accords interviews. In 2012, he won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.
Last year's prize went to Canadian writer Alice Munro for her mastery of the short story.
This year's Nobel Prize announcements started Monday with a U.S.-British scientist splitting the medicine prize with a Norwegian husband-and-wife team for brain research that could pave the way for a better understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's.
Two Japanese researchers and a Japanese-born American won the physics prize for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, a breakthrough that spurred the development of LED as a new light source.
The chemistry prize on Wednesday went to two Americans and a German researcher who found new ways to give microscopes sharper vision, letting scientists peer into living cells with unprecedented detail to seek the roots of disease.
The announcements continue Friday with the Nobel Peace Prize and the economics award on Monday.
As always, the awards will be presented on 10 December, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.