French author Annie Ernaux, who excerpted her own biography to explore life in France since the 1940s, was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday for work that sheds light on dark corners of memory, family and society.
The Swedish Academy said Ernaux, 82, was recognized for “the courage and clinical acumen with which she discovers the roots, the remoteness and the collective constraints of personal memory”. She is the first winner of French literature since Patrick Modiano in 2014.
Ernaux began by writing autobiographical novels, but soon abandoned fiction in favor of memoirs.
Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature, said Ernaux used the term “an ethnologist of herself” rather than a writer of fiction.
His more than 20 books, most of them very short, chronicle events in his life and the lives of those around him. They present uncompromising portraits of her parents’ sexual encounters, abortions, illnesses and death.
Olsson said Ernaux’s work was often “uncompromising and written in simple, uncluttered language”.
“She has achieved something admirable and lasting,” he told reporters after the announcement in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ernaux describes her style as “flat writing” – aiming for a very objective view of the events she describes, not shaped by flowery description or overwhelming emotions.
In the book that made her name, “La Place”, about her relationship with her father, she writes: “No lyrical reminiscences, no triumphant irony. This neutral writing comes naturally to me.”
Her 2000 novel “Happening” describes the consequences of illegal abortion.
Her most critically acclaimed book is ‘Les Années’ (The Years), published in 2008 and describing herself and wider French society from the end of World War II to the present day. Unlike previous books, in “The Years”, Ernaux writes about herself in the third person, calling her character “she” rather than “I”. The book has received numerous awards and accolades.
2016’s “A Girl’s Story” follows a young woman’s coming of age in the 1950s.
Ernaux is only the 17th woman among the 119 winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Last year’s winner, Tanzanian-born, UK-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, was just the sixth African-born Nobel Prize laureate in literature, and the prize has long been the subject of of criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers, as well as too masculine. -dominated.
“We try to broaden the scope of the Nobel Prize first, but we have to focus on literary quality,” Olsson said.
The awards given to Gurnah in 2021 and American poet Louise Gluck in 2020 have helped the literature prize emerge from years of controversy and scandal.
In 2018, the prize was postponed after allegations of sexual abuse rocked the Swedish Academy, which appoints the Nobel literature committee, and sparked an exodus of members. The academy has reorganized but faced more criticism for awarding the 2019 literature prize to Austrian Peter Handke, who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.
A week of Nobel Prize announcements kicked off on Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the medicine prize for unlocking the secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided key insights into our immune system.
Three scientists jointly won the physics prize on Tuesday. Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger had shown that tiny particles can maintain a connection with each other even when separated, a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement. , which can be used for specialized computing and to encrypt information.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to Americans Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless, along with Danish scientist Morten Meldal, for developing a way to “glue molecules together” that can be used to explore cells , map DNA and design drugs that can more precisely target diseases like cancer.
The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics prize on Monday.
The prizes come with a cash reward of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000) and will be presented on December 10. The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.
Jordans reported from Berlin and Lawless from London. Naomi Koppel in London contributed
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