Nobel Prize for Literature 2022 awarded to the French writer Annie Ernaux

Online betting sites have announced it as a favorite a few days ago. They were right: on Thursday 6 October, Annie Ernaux was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2022. They thus crowned the career of the author of Years (Gallimard, 2008), born in 1940.

Annie Ernaux is the sixteenth French to receive, since 1901, the honor endowed with 8 million crowns (about 740,000 euros), eight years after Patrick Modiano, and the seventeenth woman – succeeds the Tanzanian novelist Abdelrazak Gurnah, who distinguished himself in 2021.

Write as a requirement “that he cannot be left alone”

What is thus celebrated worldwide is a work that practices autobiography (a term which it however rejects) only to tell a story, feelings, common emotions. An admirable work for its consistency, whose writing has always been conceived by its author as a requirement “Who cannot let it rest”concentrating sentence after sentence, book after book, on the attempt to elucidate reality, to access the understanding and expression of an otherwise inaccessible truth about existence.

Such is the fundamental power that Annie Ernaux attributes to this exercise, placed, according to the one who has always agreed to generously comment on her work during interviews, “between literature, sociology and history”.

The rejection of beauty

Of the Empty lockers (Gallimard, 1974) a memory of the girl (Gallimard, 2016), via The squareAnd The event (Gallimard, 1983 and 2000) or even Look at the lights, my love (Seuil, 2014), the writer, committed to the far left, has greatly contributed to the evolution of French literature, and beyond.

He worked to upset the literary order as he wanted to shake up the social order, writing about objects in the same way “Considered unworthy of literature”such as abortion, the RER, supermarkets and others, moreover detained “Noble” – time, memory, oblivion. Also rejecting an ornamental vision of the sentence, to prefer a form of order and dryness – a “flat writing” which testifies to his distrust of the beauty of language and the forms of domination they exercise and reproduce.

“I wouldn’t have made it here if …” Article reserved for our members Annie Ernaux: “I was only thinking of disobeying”

A class defector

Begun forty-eight years ago, Annie Ernaux’s work, strongly linked to her life, is firmly in step with the times. Researcher, essayist and critic Dominique Viart observes (in Annie Ernaux: time and memoryStock, 2014) that’s her “At the center of the concerns of the last decades. She is attentive both to the great social issues – class difference, socio-cultural distinction, women’s claims… – and to the categories that art or thought have recently brought to the fore – issues of memory and everyday life, inheritance and filiation. Deeply involved in the discussion of decisive literary phenomena such as the return of the subject and autofiction, she participates in the debates that literature has today with the human sciences ”.

The originally from Lillebonne (Seine-Maritime), grew up in her parents’ bar-grocery store in Yvetot, which allowed her to be crossed very early on. “From all kinds of conversations and languages”, become aware of the social hierarchies, even the most subtle, of the smallest forms of domination. Her adhesion, through her studies (which led her to become an associate professor of French) and her marriage, in a more bourgeois world, made her a “class defector”, and it is precisely in this abyss, this tension fueled by the sense of guilt, shame, regret, even tenderness, from which writing is born.

Read also (2019): Article reserved for our members Annie Ernaux, portrait of a social writer

“Gli anni”, his masterpiece

Annie Ernaux’s latest book was published in France this year: it is the Young man (Gallimardo). Widely read and admired in her country by critics and the public, the subject of numerous theses, the writer was probably made “Noble Worthy” by the translation into English, in 2018, ten years after its first publication, of what is considered the his masterpiece: Years. This text opens with a certainty: “All images will disappear”, and ends with the hope of a writer: “To save something from the time when we will never be again. ”

Between the two, in the distant and impersonal way of the third person, a life is told, that of Ernaux, with, in the background, the evolution of the world over the years. Scrolling from “her” to “us” to “us”, this book, whose working title was “total romance”it is a masterful text on individual and collective memory, what makes us as individuals and as generations, classes … Those who have read it cannot be surprised by the choice of the Swedish Academy.

Read the interview with Annie Ernaux published in 2016: Article reserved for our members Annie Ernaux: “Literature dissolves”

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