Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio has been announced as the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The 68-year-old becomes the first French author to win the award since Claude Simon in 1985.

A statement announcing Le Clezio's win said he was an "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization."

The prestigious honour from the Swedish Academy includes a cheque for ten million kronor (£816,886), a gold medal and an invitation to give a lecture at the academy's headquarters in Stockholm.

Born in Nice in 1940, Le Clezio found fame at 23 for his first novel Le Proces-Verbal (The Deposition), for which he was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1963, and has since published more than 30 books.

He is the 12th Frenchman to win the award, though Jean-Paul Sartre declined the prize in 1964, saying: "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form."

Last year's Nobel Prize for Literature was won by British author Doris Lessing.

She became the tenth Briton to win the award, joining Rudyard Kipling, John Galsworthy, TS Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Winston Churchill, Elias Canetti, William Golding, VS Naipaul and Harold Pinter, who won in 2005.

09/10/2008 12:17:07