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Annie Ernaux

Annie Ernaux

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2022

French writer, autobiographical novelist. Prize awarded "for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory."


Bio by Lalitha M. Kutty, M.S. [Library & Information Science], M.A. [English Literature]

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to French writer, Annie Therese Blanche Ernaux. The Swedish Academy honored Ms. Ernaux with this award "for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory" (as declared by the Nobel committee). Ms. Ernaux, who has published over 20 books, is the first French woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Other recognition for her writings include the Prix Renaudot for A Man's Place, the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize, the International Strega Prize, the Prix Formentor, the French-American Translation Prize, and the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. Ms. Ernaux's book The Years was also shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019.

Ms. Ernaux's first book was Cleaned Out published in 1974 and one of her most recent publications is Getting Lost published in 2022. Ms. Ernaux refers to her literary work as mostly autobiographical or "impersonal biography." According to Britannica, Ms. Ernaux is known for "her lightly fictionalized memoirs, which are written in spare, detached prose. Her work examines her memories, sometimes revisiting events in later works and reconstructing them, thus revealing the artifice of her own genre. Themes include her illegal abortion, her troubled marriage, her mother's decline from Alzheimer's, her love affairs during middle age, and her experience with cancer." Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee, said Ms. Ernaux is "an extremely honest writer who is not afraid to confront the hard truths....... And she gives words for these experiences that are very simple and striking. They are short books, but they are really moving" and "in her oeuvre, she consistently explores the experience of a life marked by great disparities regarding gender, language, and class."

Ms. Ernaux's book titled Happening, was made into a critically acclaimed film, directed by Audrey Diwan, which won the Golden Lion at the 2021 Venice Film Festival. At the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022, Ms. Ernaux presented Les Années Super 8, a film she co-directed with her son David Ernaux-Briot. It is a compilation from her home movie images filmed from 1972 to 1981.

Ms. Ernaux was born in Normandy, France, on September 1, 1940, to a working-class couple, Blanche and Alphonse Duchesne. Ms. Ernaux worked as a secondary school teacher of French in the Haute-Savoie and the Paris region from 1966-1977. Ms. Ernaux graduated from the University of Rouen with a degree in Modern Literature after which she taught at the Centre National d'Enseignement par Correspondence (National Center for Distance Learning) from 1977-2000. Ms. Ernaux married Philippe Ernaux in 1964 who she later divorced in 1985. She has two sons and lives in Cergy, in the northwestern suburbs of Paris. Ms. Ernaux’s published novels:

  • Les armoires vides (Cleaned Out) - 1974
  • Ce qu'ils disent ou rien (Do What They Say Or Else) - 1977
  • La femme gelée (A Frozen Woman) - 1977
  • La place (A Man's Place) - 1983
  • Une femme (A Woman's Story) - 1987
  • Passion simple (Simple Passion) - 1991
  • Journal du dehors (Exteriors) - 1993
  • La honte (Shame) - 1997
  • Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit (I Remain in Darkness) - 1997
  • La vie extérieure (Things Seen) - 2000
  • L'evénement (Happening) - 2000
  • Se perdre (Getting Lost) - 2001
  • L'occupation (The Possession) - 2002
  • L'usage de la photo (The uses of Photography) -2005
  • Les années (The Years) - 2008
  • L'autre fille - 2011
  • L'Atelier noir - 2011
  • Écrire la vie - 2011
  • Retour à Yvetot - 2013
  • Le vrai lieu - 2014
  • Regarde les lumières mon amour - 2014
  • Mémoire de fille (A Girl's Story) - 2016
  • Le jeune homme – 2022

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Photo: Annie Ernaux at the L'orma editore stand at the Turin International Book Fair 2017.

Name: Annie Ernaux
Birth: Birth: 1 September 1940, Lillebonne, France
Residence at the time of the award: France
Prize motivation: "for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory"
Language: French
Portion of Cash: 1/1