Stockholm, Dec 09: French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, who has won the 2008 Nobel prize for literature, says the Mahabharata has been a sustaining factor in his life, especially as a storyteller.
"The great Indian epic Mahabharata has been a sustaining factor in my life - not so much philosophically but in seeking stories," Le Clezio told reporters in an interview here.
"I consider myself basically a story-teller, not a moulder of thought," said the writer who is here for the Nobel prize ceremony Wednesday.
Le Clezio`s links with India do not stop there.
Having grown up in Mauritius, Le Clézio spoke of "the inescapable contact with India and Indians".
"One cannot grow up in Mauritius and not imbibe Indian life. It is not just across the sea from you but, indeed, all around you: customs, culture, languages, politics. Many of my earliest, and continuing, friends have been Indians. They have lived for generations there but it is as if they had never left India."
In fact, a chief protagonist of one of Le Clezio`s major works, "The Treasure Seeker", is an Indian girl. "The Book of Flights" and "Desert" are some of his other works.
The Swedish Academy awarded the 2008 prize to Le Clezio, recognizing him as the "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization".
Asked if French writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre with whom Le Clezio has been favourably compared had been his role models, he said: "Yes and no."
"I have admired Sartre much but not been directly influenced by him....after all, I have accepted the Nobel Prize, haven`t I?" he said with a disarming twinkle in his eyes.
The great Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964 but disdainfully refused to accept it saying: "I do not wish to be hitherto known as that Sartre that received the Nobel Prize".