Annie Ernaux of France receives the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2022
Annie Ernaux won the 2022 Nobel Prize in literature. The 82-year-old writer blurs memoir and fiction.
The committee cited her “clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” in uncovering personal memory’s roots, estrangements, and collective restraints. The permanent secretary observed that Ernaux had not been contacted about the $900,000 prize.
1940s France Her 1974 autobiography Cleaned Out was about getting an abortion when it was illegal in France. She hid her book. In 2020, she told the New York Times that her husband laughed at her first draft. “I pretended to work on a Ph.D. thesis to have time alone.”
1990 saw the book’s English translation.
At the press conference, Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel committee for literature, was questioned if there was a political sentiment behind the award. Olsson refused, stating the committee concentrates on literature. So, “it’s very important for us also, that the laureate has universal consequence in her work. That it can reach everyone.”
Ernaux published The Years, which many critics called her defining masterpiece. The Years was published in 2008 and looked at her society. Ernaux eschewed using the pronoun “I” in favor of “we,” or “she.”
Azarin Sadegh compared reading The Years to rummaging through old family photos for the LA Review of Books.
“For the reader, the images of the past reveal themselves in broken shapes and forms with holes all over,” Sadegh writes. “You leaf through this pile of images and texts and feel immersed in the past. The years have come and gone, and most of the moments lived — captured only in photos and partially in memory— have vanished.”
2020 saw the translation of A Girl’s Story. It recalled her early teenage sexual encounters and shamed her before the sexual revolution.
Look at the Lights, My Love, another Erneaux book, is due in 2023. The book’s press release calls it a “meditation on the phenomenon of the big-box super store.” By Ernaux’s memories.