French Woman Wins Nobel Literature Prize

    06 October 2022

    French writer Annie Ernaux used her own experience to explore life in France since the 1940s. On Thursday, the Swedish Academy announced that she had won this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. It said she received the award for work that shines light on dark corners of memory, family and society.

    The Swedish Academy also said Ernaux, who is 82 years old, earned the prize for the way she writes about the complex nature of personal memory. She is the first French writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature since Patrick Modiano in 2014.

    Ernaux started out writing creative stories, or fiction, based on her own life, but quickly moved from fiction to factual stories about her life.

    FILE - French writer Annie Ernaux has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2022. (Francesca Mantovani-editions Gallimard/Handout via REUTERS)
    FILE - French writer Annie Ernaux has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2022. (Francesca Mantovani-editions Gallimard/Handout via REUTERS)

    Anders Olsson is chair of the Nobel literature committee. He said Ernaux had said she was producing a scientific study of herself rather than writing fiction.

    She wrote more than 20 books. Most of them are very short. They record events in her life and the lives of those around her. They present uncompromising pictures of sexual encounters, abortion, illness and the death of her parents.

    Olsson said Ernaux's work was often "uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean." He told reporters that she has created something we can respect that lasts a long time.

    Ernaux describes the way she writes, her style, as "flat writing." She tries to tell the facts of the events she is describing. She does not include colorful description or strong emotions.

    Her book A Man's Place, about her relationship with her father, was the first to bring her fame. She wrote, "This neutral writing style comes to me naturally."

    Her 2000 novel Happening, tells about the result of illegal abortion.

    Her most highly praised book is The Years, published in 2008. She describes herself and French society from the end of World War II to the present day. Unlike in earlier books, in The Years, Ernaux writes about herself in the third person, calling her character "she" rather than "I". The book received many awards and honors.

    A Girl's Story, from 2016, follows a young woman's coming of age in the 1950s. Ernaux is the 17th woman among the 119 Nobel literature prize winners. Last year's winner, Tanzanian-born, British-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, was only the sixth Nobel literature prize winner born in Africa. There has long been criticism of the literature prize giving too much attention to European and North American writers and to men rather than women.

    The prizes to Gurnah in 2021 and U.S. poet Louise Glück in 2020 helped the literature prize move on from years of arguments and investigations into wrongdoing.

    The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics award on Monday. The prizes include a cash award of about $900,000. All the prizes, except the one for economics, were established by Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.

    I'm Jill Robbins.

    This story was reported by David Keyton, Frank Jordans and Jill Lawless for the Associated Press. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    abortion - n. to end a pregnancy at an early stage

    scrape – v. to move (a rough or sharp object) across (a surface), especially to smooth or clean

    character –n. a person in a book, play, movie or television production