Paris, Jan 19: Michel Tournier, a major French literary figure in the latter half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 91 in his home near Paris, his family and the local mayor said.
"He died at 7:00 pm (2330 IST)," surrounded by his loved ones, said his godson Laurent Feliculis yesterday, whom the author considered his adopted son.
Tournier's death was confirmed by the mayor of Choisel, a village of some 550 residents southwest of Paris where Tournier, a devout Catholic, had lived for the past 50 years. Tournier is considered one of France's most influential authors of the second half of the 20th century.
He won in 1970 the prestigious Prix Goncourt prize for "The Erl-King", a haunting novel about a man who recruits children into the Nazi regime. Decades later, along with Arthur Miller, Gunter Grass, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other major authors, Tournier contributed in 2004 to a collection of short stories named "Telling Tales" whose sales financed the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa. He also wrote children's books, and loved to talk about his books at schools.
French President Francois Hollande in a statement paid homage to Tournier, describing him as a "great writer" of "immense talent". Feliculis said his godfather's health had deteriorated badly in recent months. "In recent times, he just didn't want to fight any more, it was old age," he said.
Alain Seigneur, the mayor of Choisel, said the author wanted to be laid to rest in the village he had lived in since 1957. "He was a little in love with the village. He had chosen where he wanted his tomb to be, at the foot of a tree."