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Nobel Prize In Literature Awarded To French Author Annie Ernaux

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The 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.

The French writer Annie Ernaux was born in 1940 and grew up in the small town of Yvetot in Normandy, where her parents had a combined grocery store and café. Her setting was poor but ambitious, with parents who had pulled themselves up from proletarian survival to a bourgeois life, where the memories of beaten earth floors never disappeared but where politics was seldom broached. In her writing, Ernaux consistently and from different angles, examines a life marked by strong disparities regarding gender, language and class. Her path to authorship was long and arduous.

A masterpiece from her production is the clinically restrained narrative about a 23-year-old narrator’s illegal abortion, ‘L’événement’ (2000; ‘Happening’, 2001). It is a first-person narrative, and the distance to the historical self is not stressed as in many other works.

The is made an object anyway through the moral restrictions of a repressive society and the patronising attitude of people she is confronted with. It is a ruthlessly honest text, where in parentheses she adds reflexions in a vitally lucid voice, addressing herself and the reader in one and the same flow. In the spaces in between, we are in the time of writing, 25 years after the “event” took place, making even the reader intensely part of what once happened.

Annie Ernaux manifestly believes in the liberating force of writing. Her work is uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean. And when she with great courage and clinical acuity reveals the agony of the experience of class, describing shame, humiliation, jealousy or inability to see who you are, she has achieved something admirable and enduring.

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