French author Annie Ernaux has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in literature for “the courage and clinical acumen with which she uncovers the roots, distances and collective constraints of personal memory,” the Swedish Academy said on Thursday.
Ernaux, 82, started out writing autobiographical novels but quickly abandoned fiction in favor of memoirs.
Her more than 20 books, most of them very short, narrate events from her life and the lives of those around her. They present uncompromising portraits of sexual encounters, abortions, illnesses and the death of her parents.
Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature, said Ernaux’s work was often “uncompromising and written in simple, clean language.”
“She has achieved something admirable and enduring,” he told reporters after the announcement in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ernaux describes his style as “flat writing” (plaque de ecriture), a highly objective view of the events he describes, not shaped by flowery description or overwhelming emotions.
In the book that made her famous, “La Place” (A Man’s Place), about her relationship with her father, she writes: “No lyrical reminiscences, no triumphant displays of irony. This neutral writing style comes naturally to me.” “.
Her most critically acclaimed book was “The Years” (Les annees), published in 2008 and describing herself and French society in general from the end of World War II to the present day. Unlike the previous books, in “The Years”, Ernaux writes about herself in the third person, calling her character “her” instead of “I”. The book received numerous awards and distinctions.
Last year’s award went to Tanzanian-born, UK-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose novels explore the impact of migration on people and societies.
Gurnah was only the sixth African-born Nobel laureate in literature, and the prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers. It is also dominated by men, with only 16 women among its 118 laureates.
Awards to Gurnah in 2021 and to American poet Louise Gluck in 2020 helped the literature prize overcome 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 prompted an exodus of members. The academy was revamped but faced further 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 began on Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the prize in medicine for uncovering secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided key information about our immune systems.
Three scientists jointly won the physics prize on Tuesday. The Frenchman Alain Aspect, the American John F. Clauser and the Austrian Anton Zeilinger had shown that tiny particles can maintain a connection with each other even when they are 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, and Danish scientist Morten Meldal for developing a way to “join molecules” that can be used to explore cells, map DNA and design drugs. that can attack diseases such as cancer with greater precision.
The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the one for economics on Monday.
The prizes have a cash prize of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000) and will be awarded on December 10. The money comes from a legacy left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.