Her novels include her first, ‘Cleaned Out,’ a bracing account of her working-class background that includes an abortion performed when it was still illegal in France, and ‘A Simple Passion,’ a memoir about her affair with a married foreign diplomat.
Annie Ernaux, a French author whose profoundly personal works have highlighted situations from her own life, including a 1960s abortion and a passionate extramarital affair, was given the Nobel Prize in the literature on Thursday.
French Novelist Annie Ernaux Received The 2022 Nobel Prize In Literature!
Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Nobel Committee, announced the decision at a news conference in Stockholm, citing her “courage and clinical acuity in uncovering the roots, estrangements, and collective constraints of personal memory”
Malm expressed that the committee had been unable to reach Ernaux by telephone, but he “anticipated that she would soon become aware of the news.”
Ernaux, 82, is only the seventeenth woman to win the prize, which is widely regarded as the most prestigious honor in world literature, since its inception in 1901.
Ernaux’s works include her first, “Cleaned Out,” a stinging account of her working-class adolescence that includes an abortion performed when the technique was still illegal in France, and “A Simple Passion,” a French blockbuster about Ernaux’s affair with a married foreign diplomat.
Outside of France, she is likely best known for “The Years,” an unconventional autobiography that weaves together events from Ernaux’s life and French history spanning more than seven decades.
The 2019 shortlist for the Booker International Prize, a prestigious British award for fiction translated into English, included “The Years.”
In a review for The New York Times, Edmund White stated, “This is an autobiography unlike any you have ever read.”
Critics have always applauded her works. In 1998, Claire Messud said in the Times that Ernaux’s autobiographical novels violate “the standards of her genre — the yearning for melodramatic intimate revelation and the elegance of fictitious story-telling.” The volumes instead “provide a piercing honesty and disclose the flimsiness of many so-called memoirs.”
Ernaux attempted writing for the first time in college, but her book was rejected by publishers for being “too ambitious,” she told The New York Times in 2020. She did not resume writing until her thirties when she was a married mother of two and a French instructor.
She composed “Cleaned Out” in private. “My husband had made fun of me following the completion of my first novel,” Ernaux asserted. To spend time alone, I pretended to work on a Ph.D. dissertation.
After the publication of the book, her spouse responded negatively. If you’re capable of writing a book in secret, he replied, then you’re also capable of cheating on me. She soon began to write about her terrible marriage.
Later works described her mother’s Alzheimer’s sickness and Ernaux’s battle with cancer, in addition to joyful occasions, such as her affairs.
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Ernaux had been a frontrunner for the award for quite some time, however, prior to Thursday’s announcement, Salman Rushdie was expected to win. Rushdie, the Booker Prize-winning author of “Midnight’s Children,” was stabbed on a stage in western New York in August in a premeditated attack, according to prosecutors.
The Nobel Prize, which is awarded for a writer’s whole body of work, is considered the most prestigious award in world literature, with prior recipients including Toni Morrison, J.M. Coetzee, and even Bob Dylan. It includes a prize of 10 million Swedish kronor, or approximately $911,000.
The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize, has made efforts in recent years to increase the diversity of authors considered for the award, in response to criticism that, prior to today’s announcement, 95 of the previous 118 Nobel laureates were from Europe or North America, and only 16 were women.
The award for the previous year was awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah, a Tanzanian-born author whose works center on migrant stories. He was the first Black author to win the award since 1993 when Toni Morrison won, and the first African to win in more than a decade.
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