Home / News / World /  A 'great honour' and 'responsibility': Annie Ernaux on her Nobel prize win

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to French author Annie Ernaux on Thursday for her work that sheds light on the murky recesses of memory, family, and society. After the announcement of the award, Ernaux said that receiving the Nobel Literature Prize was a "great honour" but also a "great responsibility."

Ernaux is hugely popular for her deceptively simple novels drawing on personal experience of class and gender, She used her own biography as a starting point for her exploration of life in France since the 1940s. 

She told public broadcaster SVT moments, "I consider this to be a great honour for me and at the same time a great responsibility, a responsibility given to me."

The 82-year-old French author was honoured for "the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements, and collective restraints of personal memory."

Since Patrick Modiano in 2014, she is the nation's first laureate for literature in French. She has written over 20 books, the majority of which are very short accounts of the events in her life and the lives of those around her. They present uncompromising portraits of sexual encounters, abortion, illness and the deaths of her parents.

Her autobiographical works La Place (A Man's Place) is an autobiographical narrative focusing on her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up in a small town in France.

In her writings she has charted her parents' social progression, her teenage years, her marriage, her passionate affair with an eastern European man (Simple Passion), her abortion, Alzheimer's disease, the death of her mother, and breast cancer.

The New York Times named her works A Woman's Story, A Man's Place, and Simple Passion as notable books.

The Nobel literature committee's Anders Olsson claimed that Ernaux had referred to herself as "an ethnologist of herself" rather than a fiction author.

Olsson said Ernaux's work was often “uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean."

Ernaux, the novel Nobel laureate calls her style of writing “flat writing". She describes it as a very objective view of the events, free of flowery description or intense feelings.

Ernaux is just the 17th woman among the 119 Nobel literature laureates. Last year's winner, Tanzanian-born, U.K.-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, was only the sixth Nobel literature laureate born in Africa.

The Nobel prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European and North American writers, as well as too male-dominated. The prizes to Gurnah in 2021 and U.S. poet Louise Glück in 2020 have helped the literature prize move on from years of controversy and scandal.

A week of Nobel Prize announcements kicked off on Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the award in medicine for unlocking secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided key insights into our immune system.

The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics award on Monday.


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