Home / Opinion / Views /  Emotional asymmetry

French author Annie Ernaux has been awarded the literature Nobel Prize this year for, as the Swedish Academy says, “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory". Ernaux’s popularity shot up after her 2008 work The Years was shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker prize. Happening, a 2001 book about her illegal abortion back in the 1960s, also found fresh readers after abortion rights were curtailed in the US. What’s common to her works is the deep dive she takes into complex emotions like the shame that women are often conditioned by a patriarchal social set-up to experience. As readers have noted, she uses personal anecdotes such as her first sexual experience with lucidity enough to shine a light on how women are judged for their actions. It is thanks to books like Ernaux’s that men who sometimes fail to recognize their own casual complicity in gender inequity began to grasp what being on the other side of privilege can be like. The chief purpose of literature is to stir thought, foster empathy and open conversations that could give us a better world. It’s what Ernaux’s writing is known for.

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