The Nobel Prize in literature for 2022 was 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,” said a bibliography published by the Swedish Academy.
Her works are available in English from the publishers Quartet, Four Walls Eight Windows, Seven Stories Press and the University of Nebraska Press.
Nebraska published in English her second novel, Do What They Say or Else. “Set in a small town in Normandy, France, the novel tells the story of a 15-year-old girl named Anne, who lives with her working-class parents. The story, which takes place during the summer and fall of Anne’s transition from middle school to high school, is narrated in a stream-of-consciousness style from her point of view. Ernaux captures Anne’s adolescent voice, through which she expresses her keen observations in a highly colloquial style,” said the press’s description of the novel. “As the novel progresses, and Anne’s feelings about her parents, her education, and her sexual encounters evolve, she grows into a more mature but also more conflicted and unhappy character, leaving behind the innocence of her middle school years. Not only must she navigate the often-confusing signals she receives from boys, but she also finds herself moving further and further away from her parents as she surpasses their educational level and worldview.”
Nebraska also published in 2010 a translation of Things Seen, of which it said, “Ernaux turns her penetrating focus on those points in life where the everyday and the extraordinary intersect, where ‘things seen’ reflect a private life meeting the larger world. From the war crimes tribunal in Bosnia to social issues such as poverty and AIDS; from the state of Iraq to the world’s contrasting reactions to Princess Diana’s death and the starkly brutal political murders that occurred at the same time; from a tear-gas attack on the subway to minute interactions with a clerk in a store: Ernaux’s thought-provoking observations map the world’s fleeting and lasting impressions on the shape of inner life.”
Next fall, Yale University Press will publish Ernaux’s Look at the Lights, My Love, the author’s “diaristic meditation on the phenomenon of the big-box superstore.”