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French novelist wins Nobel prize in literature

Patrick Modiano, a French novelist whose works often explore the traumas of the Nazi occupation of France and hinge on the themes of memory, loss and the puzzle of identity, won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. In an announcement in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy cited Modiano’s ability to evoke “the most ungraspable human destinies” in his work.

The Nobel, one of the most prestigious and financially generous awards in the world, comes with a $1.1 million prize. The literature prize is given out for a lifetime of writing rather than for a single work.

Modiano, who has published about 30 works, has written novels, children’s books and screenplays, first rose to prominence in 1968 with his novel “La Place de l’Étoile.” Many of his fictional works are set in Paris during World War II, and some play with the detective genre. His works have been translated around the world, but he is not widely known outside France.

President François Hollande of France congratulated Modiano, saying in a statement that the prize recognizes “a considerable body of work which explores the subtleties of memory and the complexity of identity.” Hollande also said: “The Republic is proud of the recognition, through this Nobel Prize, of one of our greatest writers. Patrick Modiano is the 15th French person to receive this eminent distinction, confirming the great influence of our literature.”

Modiano said he learned he had won when his daughter called him and he was walking in the street. “I was a bit surprised, so I continued walking,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting this at all.” He added, with his customary modesty, that he was curious about why the jury picked him, because it is hard for him as an author to judge his own work. “I have always felt like I’ve been writing the same book for the past 45 years,” he said. He confirmed that he would travel to Sweden to accept the prize.

—Alexandra Alter and Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times

Jordan turning away Syrian refugees, aid agencies say

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan is refusing to let Syrian refugees cross the border, international refugee agencies said Wednesday, expressing fear that thousands have been left stranded with limited access to food and other supplies.

“We have not recorded any Syrian refugees crossing into Jordan in the past week,” said Andrew Harper, the top official with the U.N. refugee agency in Jordan.

The International Organization for Migration concurred, saying that no Syrians had been taken from the border area to refugee camps in Jordan since Oct. 2. However, the Jordanian government denied that the border had been closed to anyone other than those deemed a security risk.

“There is no change on our open-border policy,” said a government spokesman, Mohammad Momani. “Those who are injured, women and children continue to cross, but the numbers of those entering are subject to the security assessment in the field.”

Jordan is one of the Middle Eastern countries that have joined the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. Last month, it sent warplanes to strike the militants in Syria, prompting fears of terrorist reprisals. Analysts said the threat from the Islamic State, which is also called ISIS, and allied groups might have prompted stricter border controls.

“Tightening the border is a logical reaction from the government’s perspective,” said Manar Rachwani, a columnist and op-ed editor at Al Ghad, an independent daily newspaper.

More than 3 million Syrians, half of them children, have fled the country’s civil war to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. As of early October, 1.15 million Syrians had registered with the U.N. refugee agency in Lebanon, it said, and Turkey had absorbed 1.03 million as of late September.

—Rana F. Sweis, The New York Times