Relatively unknown outside of France and a media recluse, Modiano's works have centred on memory, oblivion, identity and guilt. He has written novels, children's books and film scripts.
               
"You could say he's a Marcel Proust of our time," Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, told reporters.
               
The academy said the award of 8 million Swedish crowns ($1.1 million) was "for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation".
               
His first novel 'La Place de l'Etoile', published in 1968, remains probably his best known book and touched on many themes that he would return to throughout his career, including the fate of the Jews under the Nazis.
               
Little of his writing is available in English but his roughly 40 works include "A Trace of Malice", "Missing Person," and "Honeymoon". His latest work is the novel "Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier".
               
Modiano, reacting to the award, said he felt like he had been writing versions of the same book for many years.
               
"What I am keen to see are the reasons why they chose me ... One can never really be one's own reader," he told a news conference in Paris. "Even more so because I have the impression of writing the same book for 45 years."
               
The writer said he would dedicate the prize to his Swedish grandson.
               
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said: "He is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of recent years, of the early 21st century. This is well-deserved for a writer who is moreover discreet, as is much of his excellent work."
               
Modiano, 69, was born in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt in July 1945, several months after the official end of the Nazi occupation in late 1944.
               
His father was Jewish and his mother Flemish and non-Jewish. They met during the Occupation and that mixed heritage combined with moral questions about France's relations with Nazi forces have played an important role in his novels.
               
Literature was the fourth of this year's Nobel Prizes. The prize is named after Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.

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