French author Annie Ernaux has been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy announced today in Stockholm.
Ernaux becomes the seventeenth woman to receive the prize—out of 119 total—and the first woman from France.
The Academy said the award was ‘for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory’.
Ernaux, born Annie Duchesne in 1940 in France, is best known for her autobiographical works, including The Years, which is perhaps her most recognised book among English audiences. The Years, translated by Alison Strayer, was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019.
Ernaux’s American publisher, Dan Simon of Seven Stories Press, offered his congratulations:
‘Congratulations first of all to Annie Ernaux, who has stood up for herself as a woman, as someone who came from the French working class, unbowed, for decade after decade,’ Simon said in a statement to Publishers Weekly. ‘Also congratulations to the Nobel Prize for Literature Committee, which here makes a brave choice by choosing someone who writes unabashedly about her sexual life, about women’s rights and her experience and sensibility as a woman—and for whom writing is life itself.’
In a 2021 interview with French Marie Claire, Arnaux spoke about the reaction of scorn and contempt to her book Simple Passion:
Instead of making you angry, it seems to have given you even more energy.
I’m not angry, it’s true. I try to analyze what is happening to me. A cold analysis, finally, cold, no, not too much anyway. I’m still in life, and I’m still revolted, racism, sexism, injustice, there you go, revolted, that’s the word. I cannot be silent. In one of my notebooks, there is this sentence: ‘I will write to avenge my race.’
What is your race?
It comes from Rimbaud. He said, ‘I’ve been an inferior race from all eternity.’ I appropriated this word, race, but it is obviously of social origin that I speak. I speak of those from whom I come.
The JRB extends félicitations to Ernaux on receiving the Nobel Prize.