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French author Annie Ernaux receives Nobel Literature Prize

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The jury announced on Thursday that the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux, whose deceptively simple works reflect her personal experience of class and gender.

The panel commended Ernaux, 82, “for the boldness and clinical precision with which she reveals the origins, estrangements, and collective constraints of human memory.”

Ernaux described it as a “very tremendous honor” and “a great responsibility” in an interview on Swedish television immediately following the news.

Her more than 20 novels, many of which have been required reading in French schools for decades, provide one of the most nuanced and perceptive perspectives on the social life of contemporary France.

Above all, Ernaux’s crystalline prose dug her own path from working-class girl to literary elite, examining social institutions and her own complex emotions with a critical eye.

Her literary legacy is the grit in the French literary oyster, or, as she puts it, an alternative to “unconditional admiration for the pretty phrase.”

The Swedish Academy stated that Ernaux’s writing constantly and from a variety of perspectives investigates a life characterized by significant gender, language, and class differences.

“Her writing is tough and written in straightforward English,” it remarked.

“And when, with tremendous boldness and clinical acuity, she conveys the misery of the class experience, revealing shame, humiliation, jealousy, or the incapacity to know who you are, she has accomplished something wonderful and enduring,”

Diversity commitment

The Nobel Prize is accompanied by a medal and a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor (about $911,400).

The award was given to novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose work focuses on the hardships of refugees and exile, colonialism, and racism, the year before.

Ernaux will receive the Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf in a formal event in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the death of physicist Alfred Nobel in 1896, who established the rewards in his will.

Ernaux, whose name has swirled in Nobel speculation for several years, is the 17th woman out of 119 literature laureates to win the renowned accolade since the first Nobel Prize was presented in 1901.

After a #MeToo crisis in 2017-2018 left the prize in shreds, the Swedish Academy has committed in following years to diversify the award.

However, the panel has frequently asserted that its prize is not political nor subject to gender or ethnic quotas, despite being known for its Eurocentric, male-dominated Nobel selections.

It has stressed that the quality of a writer’s body of work is its sole criterion.

The Nobel season continues on Friday with the announcement of the highly awaited Peace Prize, which is the only Nobel to be announced in Oslo.

Bettors have speculated that this year’s award could serve as a warning regarding the conflict in Ukraine or the environment. The Economics Prize concludes the 2022 awards season on Monday, October 10.