Annie Ernaux, a Nobel whose “I” says common experience

At her work desk in her home in Cergy-Pontoise (Val-d’Oise), Annie Ernaux was a little surprised, on Thursday, October 6, to find her phone ringing non-stop. However, she didn’t to the point of abandoning her before finishing what she had in class. Thus, with a slight delay, the writer learned from the Swedish press agency TT that she had been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature. “I am very surprised, are you sure I received it?” », asked the one who had been among the favorites on online betting sites for several days, as had already been the case in 2021. Safe and secure! With this reward, the committee of the Swedish Academy has wanted to salute (in its broken language that offers a delight every year renewed) “the courage and clinical sharpness with which he discovers the roots, the distances and the collective constrictions of personal memory”.

Annie Ernaux is the first French author to receive, since 1901, the distinction endowed with 8 million crowns (about 730,000 euros), the sixteenth French writer, eight years after Patrick Modiano, and the seventeenth woman. She succeeds the Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah.

Also read: The 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to French writer Annie Ernaux

What is thus celebrated worldwide is a work that only practices autobiography (a term that it rejects, however) to tell a story, feelings, and common emotions. Who writes ” ME “ so that the reader, in turn, reads “I” and finds himself, whatever the details of his own life, in the text before his eyes. An admirable work for its perseverance, its sharpness and its intensity, whose writing has always been conceived by its author as a requirement “who cannot rest”, focusing sentence after sentence, book after book, on trying 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 situated exercise, according to whom she has always agreed to generously comment on her work during interviews, Between literature, sociology and history.

“political act”

Since empty cabinets (Gallimard, 1974) in Young man (Gallimard, 2022), via Square, The eventgirl memory (Gallimard, 1983, 2000, 2016) or even Look at the lights, my love (Seuil, 2014), the writer has greatly contributed to the evolution of French literature, and beyond, as the Nobel Prize attests.

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