Retired chemist Yves Chauvin expressed "embarrassment, not joy" and fretted that his quiet life may be over after he won the 2005 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday.
Reporters swarmed to his home in the western city of Tours and President Jacques Chirac's office said he was preparing a congratulatory note for Chauvin after he and two Americans won the prize.
"It is a reaction of embarrassment but not of joy," Chauvin told a small group of reporters who almost had to force their way into his plush apartment. "I had a quiet life, now I see that that is no longer the case."
"Stockholm called me an hour ago. I was told 'Good luck with the press' and I am starting to see what they meant. My telephone has not stopped ringing. Journalists are massing before my home," he added.
The 74-year-old noted that the research for which he was awarded was done "35 years ago and so I have had time to digest it." He praised fellow winners Robert H. Grubbs and Richard R. Schrock.
When reporters first buzzed on the building's intercom up to his flat, Chauvin said he did not want any visitors. He finally relented but then ushered the reporters out after a few minutes.
"It took 30 years of laboratory work to show that what I found was interesting. Today I live alone and my first thoughts go to my wife who passed away barely a year ago," the AP quoted Chauvin as saying.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had had a few fights and used strong language because of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014