STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The spread of information on the Internet has given the world a new tool to forestall conflicts, Nobel literature prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio said Sunday.
In his Nobel lecture to the Swedish Academy, the 68-year-old Frenchman said an earlier introduction of information technology could even have prevented World War II.
"Who knows, if the Internet had existed at the time, perhaps Hitler's criminal plot would not have succeeded — ridicule might have prevented it from ever seeing the light of day," he said.
Still, the globe-trotting writer noted that access to computers remains a luxury to many in the developing world and said eradicating hunger and illiteracy remain the "two great urgent tasks" of humankind.
"Literacy and the struggle against hunger are connected, closely interdependent," he said. "One cannot succeed without the other. Both of them require, indeed urge, us to act."
Le Clezio was praised by the Nobel jury at the Swedish Academy for his "poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy" in such works as "Terra Amata," "The Book of Flights" and "Desert."
Though he was born in France, Le Clezio's father is British and he holds dual nationality with Mauritius, where his family has roots. He spends much of his time in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Recalling his beginnings as a writer, Le Clezio said the books that had the greatest impact on him were anthologies of travelers tales, including those of Marco Polo.
"Those books gave me a taste for adventure, gave me a sense of the vastness of the real world, a means to explore it through instinct and the senses rather than through knowledge," he said in a speech delivered in French.
Le Clezio called on publishers to make books available to a broader public in developing countries and to publish more material in lesser-known languages.
"In Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico, or the South Sea Islands, books remain an inaccessible luxury," Le Clezio said.
He will receive the Nobel Prize in literature at a ceremony on Wednesday. The medicine, chemistry, physics and economics prizes are also handed out in Stockholm, while the Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo, Norway.
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