Home / News / World /  Best books written by Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2022 has been awarded to French author Annie Ernaux. known for her deceptively-simple writing. She is one of the 17 women who have been awarded with the prestigious Nobel Prize till date. It is a rare occasion in the history of the Nobel Prize in literature as a non-English author has been awarded.

The Swedish Academy, which decides the prize, lauded “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory."

Annie Ernaux is a writer who turned her own shame into a career. She writes with the intention of meticulously cataloguing her humiliations and anxieties from her past. She has mostly written about her past experiences in a lucid way which show her lifelong engagement with estrangement, love, family affairs.

The general contours of her life are readily available in her work: a Roman Catholic, working-class upbringing in rural Normandy; an unintended pregnancy and abortion prior to the legalization of the procedure;her numerous affairs and failed marriage;and connections with her loved ones, particularly her parents.

Here are some of her exceptional works of writing.

Cleaned Out (1974)

Cleaned Out came out as Annie's first book, a novel about a young woman whose life is similar to Ernaux's as she has an illegal abortion and thinks about her childhood and the choices she made.

Shame (1997)

Shame tells the probing story of the twelve-year-old girl who will become the author and the one traumatic memory that will reverberate throughout her life. Annie Ernaux offers a powerful reflection on experience and the power of violent memory to endure through time and to determine one's life course with the emotionally rich voice of great fiction and the scientific eye of a diamond.

Happening (2000)

Happening, a novel which narrated Annie's own story. Annie Ernaux, then a 23-year-old single woman, learns she is pregnant in 1963. She suffers from a plague of shame: She knows she can't keep that child because she knows her pregnancy will make her and her family social failures. The book was also turned into a film.

Getting Lost (2001)

Getting Lost is the diary kept by Annie Ernaux during the year and a half she had a secret love affair with a younger, married man, an attaché to the Soviet embassy in Paris. It is a haunting record of a woman in the grips of love, desire and despair.

The Years (2008)

This book was Ernaux's breakout work for many readers outside of France, which was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. It also serves as a generational memoir of postwar France and is autobiographical.

A Girl’s Story (2016)

In this book, Ernaux returns to a fifty-year-old episode, her traumatic first sexual encounter and its lasting effects on her life. Ernaux looks back at her 18-year-old self, who was shattered by the encounter with an older man and considers how that event formed her identity as a writer and a woman. She puts it this way: “I have the vast memory of shame, which is more detailed and unyielding than any other and is a gift that only shame has."


Shweta Birendra Shukla

I create real art through my articles.
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