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‘She writes about things no one else writes about’: French writer awarded Nobel Prize in literature

Annie Ernaux, a French writer, has been awarded 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature for her “courage and clinical acuity” through her autobiographical books.

The 82-year old author was the first French woman to win the prestigious literature prize. Her debut novel Les Armoires Vides was published in 1974. In English, it was called Cleaned Out. La Place (A Man’s Place) was released in 1983.

After the 2008 publication of Les Annees (translated into The Years) she gained international recognition. In 2017, her adaptation of Happening, her 2000 novel about her experience of aborting a child in France during the 1960s, won the Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival 2021.

Image Michel Euler/AP

Ernaux was born to Normandy grocers in the north of France. He worked as a teacher and then became a full-time author.

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She is well-known for her direct, honest style about class. Her struggle to adapt the codes and practices of the French bourgeoisie, while still being true to her working class roots, has led to more than 20 books being published.

Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist-engineer, established the Nobel Prizes for Science, Literature and Peace. They have been given since 1901.

The Swedish Academy announced Ernaux as the winner of this year’s literature award. It said Ernaux, “consistently” and “from different angles, examined a life marked with strong disparities regarding gender and language, and that her “path towards authorship was long- and arduous”.

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Anders Olsson was the chairman of the Nobel literature commission and described her as an “extremely honest writer who isn’t afraid to confront hard truths”.

He said, “She writes about things no one else is writing about, such as her abortion, jealousy, and her experiences with an abandoned lover. It’s really difficult experiences.

Ernaux said to Swedish broadcaster SVT, “I was very shocked… It was not something I had expected to see in my work as a writer.

“It is a great obligation… to testify, and not necessarily in terms my writing but with accuracy, justice in

Relation to the rest of the world


“Her voice is one of women’s freedom”

French President Emmanuel Macron was one of those who congratulated her. He tweeted: “Annie Ernaux is the author for fifty years of the novel of the intimate and collective memory of our nation. Her voice is one of freedom for women and the century’s forgotten.

Ernaux is not always a fan, however. She has been critical of the president’s banking background and has said that his first term did not advance French women’s rights.

She is the 17th woman to be named among the 119 Nobel Literature laureates.

Seven Stories Press, Ernaux’s US publisher for 31 years, stated that it had published her latest book, Getting Lost in English, two days prior to her win and was now rushing several titles from her backlist to press.


Other Nobel Prize Winners

On Monday, the week began with the announcements of the Nobel Prizes. A Swedish scientist who used DNA sequencing technology to discover the link between extinct humans and modern humans was honoured the 2022 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Alain Aspect from France, John F Clauser from America and Anton Zeilinger from Austria won the Physics Prize on Tuesday for their work showing that even tiny particles can still be connected to one another – a phenomenon called quantum entanglement.

The chemistry prize was presented to K Barry Sharpless and Carolyn R Bertozzi, Americans, and Morten Meldal (Danish scientist), for their invention of a method of “snapping together molecules “. This can be used to map DNA, explore cells and create drugs that target cancer.

On Friday will be announced the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, followed by Monday’s economics award.

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