By DAVID KEYTON, FRANK JORDANS and JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
STOCKHOLM (AP) — French author Annie Ernaux, who sought her own biography to explore life in France since the 1940s, was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature Thursday for a work that illuminates murky corners of memory. family and society.
The Swedish Academy said Ernaux, 82, was recognized for “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the collective roots, distances and restrictions of personal memory.” She is the first French literature laureate since Patrick Modiano in 2014.
Ernaux told Swedish broadcaster SVT over the phone that the award was “a great honour” and “a great responsibility”.
Ernaux started out writing autobiographical novels, but quickly abandoned fiction in favor of memoirs.
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Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee, said Ernaux had used the term “herself an ethnologist” instead of a fiction writer.
Her more than 20 books, most of them very short, narrate events from her life and the lives of those around her. They present uncompromising portraits of sexual encounters, abortions, illnesses and the death of her parents.
Olsson said that Ernaux’s work was often “uncompromising and written in simple, clean language”.
“She has achieved something admirable and enduring,” he told reporters after the announcement in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ernaux describes his style as “flat writing”, aiming for a very objective view of the events he describes, without the form of flowery description or overwhelming emotions.
In the book that made her famous, “La Place” (A Man’s Place), about her relationship with her father, she writes: “Without lyrical reminiscences, without triumphant displays of irony. This neutral writing style comes naturally to me.”
Her 2000 novel “Happening” describes the consequences of illegal abortion.
Her most critically acclaimed book is “The Years” (Les annees), published in 2008 and describing herself and French society in general from the end of World War II to the present day. Unlike her previous books, in “The Years,” Ernaux writes about herself in the third person, calling her character “she” instead of “I.” The book received numerous awards and distinctions.
2016’s “A Girl’s Story” follows a young woman’s coming of age in the 1950s.
Ernaux is only the seventeenth woman among the 119 Nobel laureates in literature. Last year’s winner, UK-based, Tanzanian-born writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, was only the sixth African-born Nobel laureate in literature, and the prize has long faced criticism that it is too focused on European writers and Americans, as well as too masculine. -dominated.
“First of all, we try to broaden the scope of the Nobel Prize, but our focus must be on literary quality,” Olsson said.
Awards to Gurnah in 2021 and to American poet Louise Glück in 2020 helped the literature prize overcome years of controversy and scandal.
In 2018, the prize was postponed after allegations of sexual abuse rocked the Swedish Academy, which appoints the Nobel literature committee, and prompted an exodus of members. The academy was revamped but faced further criticism for awarding the 2019 literature prize to Austrian Peter Handke, who has been called an apologist for Serbian war crimes.
A week of Nobel Prize announcements began on Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the prize in medicine for uncovering secrets of Neanderthal DNA that provided key information about our immune systems.
Three scientists jointly won the physics prize on Tuesday. The Frenchman Alain Aspect, the American John F. Clauser and the Austrian Anton Zeilinger had shown that tiny particles can maintain a connection with each other even when they are separated, a phenomenon known as quantum entanglement, which can be used for specialized computing and to encrypt information. .
The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to Americans Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless, and Danish scientist Morten Meldal for developing a way to “join molecules” that can be used to explore cells, map DNA and design drugs. that can attack diseases such as cancer with greater precision.
The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the one for economics on Monday.
The prizes have a cash prize of 10 million Swedish kronor (nearly $900,000) and will be awarded on December 10. The money comes from a legacy left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, in 1895.
Jordans reported from Berlin and Lawless from London. Naomi Koppel in London contributed.
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