French writer Annie Ernaux wins the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature
The French writer Annie Ernaux has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in literature. The 82-year-old writer is known for works that blur the line between memoir and fiction.
In making the announcement, the committee noted the “clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” The permanent secretary also noted during his announcement that they had not been able to reach Ernaux to let her know of the award, worth approximately $900,000 in U.S. dollars.
Ernaux was born in 1940 in France. Her first book, Cleaned Out, 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 had made fun of me after my first manuscript,” she told the New York Times in 2020. “I pretended to work on a Ph.D. thesis to have time alone.”
While Ernaux was only recently discovered in the English-speaking world, she’s been making waves in her home country for decades. Her first book, Les Armoires Vides (Cleaned Out), published in 1974, was a fictionalised account of her own back-alley abortion in her early 20s that shed light on how working-class women had to resort to clandestine and perilous procedures in France’s judgmental society. Since then, she’s continued to write on controversial topics spanning class, gender, sexuality, race, and more. She returned to the topic of abortion in her 2000 novel L’événement (Happening), which was turned into a film and won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 2021.
At the time of the announcement, the Swedish Academy said it couldn’t “reach her on the phone” but said it looked forward to presenting the award to her in Stockholm in December.