With Annie Ernaux, the Nobel Prize rewards a constant, astute and intense work that has spurred the development of French literature

At her desk in her home in Cergy-Pontoise (Val-d’Oise), on Thursday October 6, Annie Ernaux was a little surprised to find her phone ringing non-stop. Though not to the point where she stopped before she was done with what she had in class. With a slight delay, the writer learned from the Swedish press agency TT that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2022. “I’m very surprised, are you sure I got it?” », asked the one who had been among the favorites on online betting sites for several days – as it was in 2021. Clear and safe! With this reward the committee of the Swedish Academy wanted to greet (in its choppy language, which brings joy every year) “the courage and clinical acuity with which she discovers the roots, the distances and the collective constraints of personal memory”.

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

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

What is celebrated globally in this way is a work that practices autobiography (a term she however rejects) only to tell a story, feelings, shared emotions. who writes ” I “ so that the reader reads again ” I “ and whatever the details of his own life, he finds himself reflected in the text he has in mind. A work that is admirable for its constancy, sharpness and intensity, and whose writing has always been considered a challenge by its author “who cannot rest”, sentence by sentence, book by book, focused on attempting to illuminate reality in order to access the understanding and expression of an otherwise inaccessible truth about existence. This is the fundamental power that Annie Ernaux ascribes to this situated practice, according to the one who has always agreed to generously comment on her work in interviews, “between literature, sociology and history”.

“political act”

Of Empty closets (Gallimard, 1974). Young man (Gallimard, 2022), about The place, The event, girls memory (Gallimard, 1983, 2000, 2016) or even Look at the lights, my love (Seuil, 2014), the writer made a major contribution to the development of French literature and beyond, as testified by the Nobel Prize.

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