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French author Annie Ernaux takes 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature

Published October 06,2022

French author Annie Ernaux has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory," the Swedish Academy announced on Thursday.

Among her most successful works is "Les années" (The Years), and "L'événement" (Happening), about a student's unwanted pregnancy and abortion in 1960s France. It was adapted into a film by director Audrey Diwan that won the Golden Lion at the 2021 Venice Film Festival.

In announcing the award, the academy noted the "universal consequence of her work that can reach everyone."

The 82-year-old French author, who writes non-fiction as well as novels turning on everyday life, was chosen from a list of 233 candidates – the names on this longlist are kept secret.

Before the prize was announced, many experts counted the Frenchwoman among the narrow favourites. Ernaux is considered by critics to be a master of autofiction - a mix of the autobiographical and fiction.

The German literary critic Denis Scheck had her on the list as his winner pick. Both aesthetically and politically, this year's decision was "a delightful choice," he told dpa on Thursday.

Academy secretary Mats Malm said he had not been able to reach Ernaux by phone before making the announcement.

She learned of the award shortly afterward through a call from Swedish news agency TT, the agency reported. "No, really?" she said in amazement. The phone had been ringing constantly - but she hadn't answered it, she said.

She was very surprised, she later told Swedish Radio, calling it an "honour." At the same time, she said, the Nobel Prize also comes with "a great responsibility."

Reviewing Ernaux's "Se perdre" (Getting Lost) for Britain's Guardian newspaper last month, the critic said the book would "become a kind of totem for lovers: a manual to help them find their centre when, like Ernaux, they are lost in love."

Ernaux was born in 1940 in Lillebonne, in France's Normandy region, and grew up in modest circumstances. In her work, she frequently deals with the experiences of a life marked by gender, language and class differences, said Anders Olsson, chairman of the Nobel literature committee.

Last year the prize went to the relatively unkown Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah "for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fates of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents," in the words of the academy.

Louise Glück, who was US Poet Laureate in 2003 to 2004, received the 2020 prize.