J.M.G. Le Clézio: the role of a Nobel laureate in the crossover phenomenon
AbstractWith the extraordinary success of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, crossover fiction has often been seen first and foremost as a commercial phenomenon. However, it has long been a literary phenomenon that is only recently receiving the acknowledgment that it deserves from the literary establishment. Child-to-adult crossover books have now become contenders for prestigious mainstream literary awards. A few rare examples even pre-date the crossover craze issued in by Harry Potter. In 1995, Dianne Hofmeyr’s Boike, you better believe it was awarded the M-Net Book prize, the most important literary prize in South Africa, beating out J.M.G. Coetzee’s Master of Petersburg. Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer had also been nominated, but withdrew. In 2001, the final volume in Philip Pullman’s His dark materials became the first children’s book both to win the Whitbread book of the year award and to be longlisted for the Booker prize. The next year, the award was given to Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, the first Booker prize winner ever to have true crossover appeal. In 2008, the most prestigious literary prize of all, the Nobel prize for literature, was awarded to the French novelist JMG Le Clézio, a crossover author who has never distinguished between adult fiction and children’s fiction. This paper proposes to examine Le Clézio’s place within the crossover phenomenon and to show how his winning of the Nobel prize for literature marks a very significant milestone in crossover fiction’s path to literary respectability.
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