French author Annie Ernaux, 82, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Announcing the laureate for 2022 on Thursday, Mats Malm, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Ernaux is awarded “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory”.
In her writing, Ernaux consistently and from different angles, examines a life marked by strong disparities regarding gender, language and class. Her path to authorship was long and arduous, the Academy said in a press release.
It was Annie Ernaux’s fourth book, La place (A Man’s Place), that delivered her literary breakthrough.
She has said that writing is a political act, ‘opening our eyes for social inequality”. And for this purpose she uses language as “a knife”, as she calls it, to tear apart the veils of imagination.
A masterpiece from her production is the clinically restrained narrative about a 23-year-old narrator’s illegal abortion, L’événement (Happening).
The power of social conventions over our lives plays an important role as portrayed in Les années (The Years). It is her most ambitious project, which won her a nomination for the International Booker Prize in 2019. The collective autobiography, written in 2008, covers the social and cultural history of France since her birth in 1940 to 2007.
Having published three autobiographical novels (Cleaned Out, What they say goes and The Frozen Woman), Ernaux turned away from fiction with the publication of A Man’s Place. Autosociobiographical texts, such as A Man’s Place, A Woman’s Story and Shame explore her own life and that of her parents, but also the social milieu in which those lives evolved.
Ernaux has also published diary extracts (‘I remain in Darkness’, Getting Lost) and ‘diaries of the outside’, where she describes her encounters with others in public spaces.
Ernaux’s books are followed by a faithful readership, and are reviewed in most local and national newspapers in France, as well as being the subject of many radio and television interviews and programmes, and a large and growing international academic literature.
Annie Ernaux manifestly believes in the liberating force of writing, said Anders Olsson, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, the Swedish Academy. “Her work is uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean. And when she with great courage and clinical acuity reveals the agony of the experience of class, describing shame, humiliation, jealousy or inability to see who you are, she has achieved something admirable and enduring,” Olsson added.
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