Annie Ernaux wins the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature : NPR

Erneaux, photographed in 1984, is known for her works that deal with shame, sexism and class.

Pierre Guillaud/AFP via Getty Images

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Pierre Guillaud/AFP via Getty Images

Erneaux, photographed in 1984, is known for her works that deal with shame, sexism and class.

Pierre Guillaud/AFP via Getty Images

French writer Annie Ernaux has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature. The 82-year-old writer is known for her works that blur the line between memory and fiction.

By making the announcement, the committee noted “the clinical acuity with which she discovers the roots, the distances and the collective constraints of personal memory”. The permanent secretary also noted during his announcement that they had not been able to reach Ernaux to tell him of the victory.

Ernaux was born in 1940 in France. His first book, Cleaned up, in 1974, was an autobiographical novel about obtaining an abortion when it was still illegal in France. She wrote the book in secret. “My husband made fun of me after my first manuscript”, she told the New York Times in 2020. “I pretended to be working on a doctoral thesis to get some alone time.”

The book was translated into English in 1990.

At the press conference for the announcement, Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature, was asked if there was any political sentiment behind awarding the prize to someone who has written so personally about the ‘abortion. Olsson pushed back, saying the committee is focused on literature and literary quality. That said, “it’s very important for us too, that the winner has a universal reach in her work. That she can reach everyone.”

After decades of delving into his own past in various works, Ernaux published Years, which many critics considered his defining statement. First published in 2008, Years was a broad look at the company that created it. While this was an examination of each year of her life from 1940 to 2006, Ernaux avoided all use of the pronoun “I” in favor of a broader “we”, or sometimes “she”.

By examining the 2018 English translation of Years for the LA Review of Books, writer Azarin Sadegh likened his reading to exploring old family photos.

“For the reader, images of the past reveal themselves in broken shapes and holey shapes everywhere,” Sadegh writes. “You flip through this pile of images and text and feel like you’ve been immersed in the past. The years have passed and most of the moments you lived – captured only in photos and partially in memory – are gone.”

In 2020, his book A girl’s story has been translated into English. He recalled his early teenage sexual experiences and excavated the shame of it all just before the sexual revolution.

Erneaux has another book being translated into English, scheduled for release in 2023, titled Look at the lights, my love. According to the book’s press release, it is a “meditation on the big-box superstore phenomenon.” Of course, through the prism of Ernaux’s own memory.

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