French writer Annie Ernaux receives the Nobel Prize for Literature

Annie Ernaux, one of the leading figures on the contemporary literary scene, received the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday, October 6. The 82-year-old writer is awarded for “the courage and clinical acuity with which he discovers the roots, distances and collective limitations of personal memory”explained the Nobel jury.

The novelist becomes the 17th woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and the 16th French winner since the famous prizes were founded in 1901.

With a work that feeds on the story of her own life, of an emancipation that is both intimate and social, the novelist has become a “intellectual reference” for an entire generation that came to feminism as a result of the #MeToo movement”underlines the diary international mail. “In her work she constantly explores the experience of a life marked by great disparities in terms of gender, language and class”academic Anders Olsson underlined.

Born Annie Duchesne on September 1, 1940 in Lillebonne (Seine-Maritime), she grew up in Yvetot, in Normandy, and came from a modest social background. Her parents, workers, became merchants after buying the town’s café-grocery store. After studying literature at the University of Rouen and then in Bordeaux, which led her to aggregation, she taught in the early 1970s in Annecy.

The novelist extracted the material of her books from her own life, building stone by stone a literary work while at the same time testifying to her class of origin, the shame that accompanied it, her desire for extraction and all the feelings that accompany social ascent, thus doing a work of sociology. Through an essentially autobiographical work, Annie Ernaux has traced the inner cartography of a woman and the broader cartography of French society since the post-war period.

Throughout her novels, she has also explored the question of the feminine condition, that of a woman born during the war and who became an adult in the 1960s, a whole life recorded in a work that is both intimate and universal. She recounted childhood, adolescence, youth in empty cabinets (1974), or in what they say or nothing (1977); recounted his family, his parents and his social emancipation in Square (1983), or Shame (1997).

“I am not an exhibitionist. I am not self-centered even though I have been criticized for it. I think I’ve always talked about myself in detached terms, as if it were the site of an experience I was having. restoring. I speak of myself because it is the subject that I know best anyway… I am interested in what may have been socially deposited in me as in everyone else”


in Le Monde newspaper, in April 2017

The novelist recounted her marriage, her children, her work as a teacher in the frozen woman (1981) ; he counted the abortion in The event (2000), the death of his mother in A woman (1987), the passion in easy passion (1992), The family secret, the death of his sister before birth in the other girl (2011); also recounted the brutal entry into sexual life in girl memory (2016) and his city in Look at the lights my love, a diary of the moments he spent in his Auchan hypermarket. Annie Ernaux gave a synthesis form of all this in The yearspublished in 2008.

In his latest novel, The young man (Galimard, 2022), Annie Ernaux returns in a short and dense text to the story that she lived with a man thirty years her junior when she was in her fifties. An experience that reconnects her with her youth, and returns her, again and again, to what is essential for her, writing. The young man it is a reflection on the passage of time, on maturity, which makes each new experience echo those that preceded it, as in a great case of reasoning.

Annie Ernaux has also become a model for a younger generation of writers, such as Edouard Louis. “Annie Ernaux talked about the working classes; I talk about the lower classes. We continue what the other started. She made other stories possible, she opened doors”confided to the Canadian newspaper Pressat the time of launch Fights and metamorphosis of a womanin May 2021.

Maria Pourchet, author of Fire (Gallimard, 2021), confident in The world in 2019 having learned from Annie Ernaux “The role of language in girls’ education”. “It also allowed me to evacuate the question of style, the concern with looking pretty. She is the secretary of reality.”, she added. The Goncourt 2017, Nicolas Mathieu, or the historian and novelist Ivan Jablonka, do not hide their admiration for Annie Ernaux either.

The novelist was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019 for The years (2008, Gallimard) published in 2018 in English, like most of his work, until now little translated into the language of Shakespeare.

If the work of Annie Ernaux has not been adapted to the cinema, two of her novels have recently been: easy passionby Danielle Arbid, released in August, based on her novel published in 1992 in which she recounts the passion of a woman in her forties for a married man, and The eventby Audrey Diwan, Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, adaptation of the novel published in 2000, in which she tells the story of her abortion.

The life and work of Annie Ernaux are also at the center of a documentary, I liked living thereby Régis Sauder, shot in Cergy-Pontoise (Val-d’Oise), Annie Ernaux’s place of residence.

In May 2022 at the Cannes Film Festival, Annie Ernaux presented the film The Super 8 Years, produced with his son David Ernaux-Briot. Like his literary work, this documentary is both very personal, autobiographical, and political, universal. Testimony in images of the life of a French family in the 70s, it is above all an intimate and committed story, a look at the woman who wants to free herself from her only “parenting task” and organization of domestic life, a woman “class dropout”a woman especially “perforated by the need to write”.

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