Annie Ernaux wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Photograph: Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

The 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to French author Annie Ernaux, among the most celebrated French writers of the last 40 years. She has published nearly two dozen works of memoir, as well as a few works of fiction. (According to The Guardian, “her work is so rooted in fact that some English-speaking critics and publishers have been tempted to categorize it as memoir. Ernaux herself has always been adamant that she writes fiction, however.”)

The Nobel committee recognized Ernaux for the “clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”

Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel committee, said that in her work, “Ernaux consistently and from different angles, examines a life marked by strong disparities regarding gender, language and class.”

Olson said Ernaux “manifestly believes in the liberating force of writing. 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.

Ernaux, 82, grew up in a small town in Normandy. She attended Rouen University and later taught at a secondary school. From 1977-2000, she was a professor at the Centre National d’Enseignement par Correspondance.

Ernaux has also won the Prix Renaudot for A Man’s Place and the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize for her body of work. More recently, she received the International Strega Prize, the Prix Formentor, the French-American Translation Prize, and the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation for The Years, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019. Her other works include Getting LostExteriorsA Girl’s Story, A Woman’s Story, The Possession, Simple PassionHappeningI Remain in DarknessShameA Frozen Woman.

Seven Stories Press has been publishing Ernaux’s work in the U.S. since releasing the first English translation of A Woman’s Story, in 1991. Her latest book, Getting Lost, was published just two days ago. Her newest book in French, Le jeune homme, will be published by Seven Stories Press in Fall 2023. Ernaux’s books have been published in 42 languages.

In a statement to Publishers Weekly, Dan Simon, Seven Stories Press publisher (and Ernaux’s editor for 31 years), said, “Congratulations first of all to Annie Ernaux, who has stood up for herself as a woman, as someone who came from the French working class, unbowed, for decade after decade. Also, congratulations to the Nobel Prize for Literature Committee, which here makes a brave choice by choosing someone who writes unabashedly about her sexual life, about women’s rights and her experience and sensibility as a woman—and for whom writing is life itself.”

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