Nobel Prize in Literature Is Awarded to Annie Ernaux

Nobel Prize in Literature Is Awarded to Annie Ernaux
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Islam News – The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded on Thursday to Annie Ernaux, the French novelist whose intensely personal books have highlighted incidents from her own life, including a back-street abortion in the 1960s and a passionate extramarital affair.

Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, the body that decides the prize, announced the decision at a news conference in Stockholm, saying she had received the award “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”

The committee had not been able to reach Ernaux by telephone, Malm said, but he expected her to “soon be aware of the news.” They intended to present her with the prize on Dec. 10.

Ernaux, 82, becomes only the 17th female writer to have won the prize, widely considered the most prestigious award in world literature, since it was formed in 1901. She is the second woman to be given the prize in three years after Louise Glück, who was awarded the 2020 prize for writing “that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.”

Ernaux’s books include her debut, “Cleaned Out,” a bracing account of her working-class youth, including the abortion, carried out when the procedure was still illegal in France, and “A Simple Passion,” a best seller in France about Ernaux’s affair with a married foreign diplomat.

Outside France, she is perhaps best known for “The Years,” which weaves together events from over 70 years of Ernaux’s life with French history. In 2019, “The Years” was shortlisted for the Booker International Prize, a major British award for fiction translated into English.

“This is an autobiography unlike any you have ever read,” Edmund White said in a review of that book for The New York Times.

Her works have long been praised by critics. Ernaux’s autobiographical novels defy “the demands of her genre — the desire for melodramatic intimate revelation and the smoothness of fictional tale-telling,” Claire Messud wrote in The Times in 1998. The books instead “offer a searing authenticity and reveal the slipperiness of much that we call memoir.”

Ernaux first tried writing in college, but her book was rejected by publishers as “too ambitious,” she told The Times in 2020. She didn’t take up writing again until her 30s, when she was a married mother of two, working as a French teacher.

She wrote “Cleaned Out” in secret. “My husband had made fun of me after my first manuscript,” Ernaux said. “I pretended to work on a Ph.D. thesis to have time alone.” After the book was published, her husband reacted badly again. “He told me: If you’re capable of writing a book in secret, then you’re capable of cheating on me,” Ernaux said. Soon, she was writing about her unhappy marriage.

Later books detailed her mother’s Alzheimer’s and Ernaux’s experience of cancer, as well as happier events, like her affairs.

Jacques Testard of Fitzcarraldo Editions, her British publisher, said in a telephone interview that he was “shaken, to be honest” by the news. He described Ernaux as “an exceptional and unique writer” who has for decades chronicled what it is like to be a woman in the 20th and 21st century. Her books are socially and politically relevant inside and outside France given events such as the United States Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, he added.

Ernaux has long been a favorite for the prize, although before Thursday’s announcement, Salman Rushdie had been expected to take the accolade. Rushdie, the Booker Prize-winning author of “Midnight’s Children,” was stabbed in August on a western New York stage in what prosecutors said was a premeditated attack.

The Nobel Prize, which is given for a writer’s entire body of work, is regarded as the foremost prize in world literature, with past winners having included Toni Morrison, J.M. Coetzee and even Bob Dylan. It comes with an award of 10 million Swedish krona, or about $911,000.

The Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, has in recent years tried to increase the diversity of authors considered for the prize, after facing criticism that before today’s announcement, 95 of the past 118 Nobel laureates have been European or North America, and only 16 women. Last year’s award went to Abdulrazak Gurnah, an author who was born in Tanzania and whose novels focus on experiences of migration. He was the first Black writer to receive the prize since Morrison in 1993, and the first African to win in more than a decade.

Source: The New York Times

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