Annie Ernaux, Nobel Prize for Literature? It’s anything but trivial

LITERATURE – An obvious choice. Even though the name of Annie Ernaux has often been cited among the favorites of bookmakers, the 82-year-old writer (finally) received the Nobel Prize for Literature, this Thursday, October 6 in Stockholm, thereby becoming the first woman of French literature to win the prestigious distinction.

Renaudot Prize in 1984 for The place and finalist of the Booker Prize in 2019, the professor of literature at the University of Cergy Pontoise is known in France, but also throughout the world, for her autobiographical stories in which she dissects the weight of class domination or the patriarchy than his amorous passions.

The author, whose last novel The young man appeared last May, believes in the liberating power of writingnotes the Nobel Academy. His work is uncompromising and written in simple, uncluttered language. With great courage and great acumen (…) she has achieved something admirable and lasting. »

Scandal at the Swedish Academy

Even if the jury keeps repeating that its prize is not political, nor even subject to the rules of parity or ethnic diversity, and that only the quality of the letters prevails, the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Annie Ernaux, this year, comes at the right time. It comes three years after the overhaul of the Swedish Academy, which began in 2019 following a scandal.

In 2018, eighteen women accused Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault, an influential figure on the Swedish cultural scene, of rape and sexual assault that occurred between 1996 and 2017. Husband of Swedish poet and academician Katarina Frostenson, he received generous grants from the Academy, boasted of being its “19th member” and, according to witnesses, whispered the names of future winners to his friends.

A preliminary investigation had been opened, but quickly dismissed, prompting six of the wise men, including the permanent secretary in office Sara Danius, to leave their chairs. Time passed and, in December 2018, the Swedish justice finally condemned Arnault on appeal to two and a half years in prison with a fine for the rape twice of one of the signatories of the tribune in 2011.

In 2019, a new perpetual secretary was elected. This is Mats Malm, a 54-year-old literature teacher. New members have also joined, while five independent external consultants to bring new perspectives have been hired.

A woman who writes »

Long criticized for its masculine and Eurocentric choices, the Academy seems to have changed its tune. She is now ” obviously concerned about her image in terms of diversity and gender representation in a whole different way than before the scandal “, blows to AFP, in this month of October, the head of the cultural department of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

For some, the coronation, in 2021, of Abdulrazak Gurnah, an author from Tanzania whose novels (like Heaven and Farewell Zanzibar) poignantly evoke the exile of refugees and anti-colonialism, can testify to this. That of Annie Ernaux, in 2022, too. The author, who claimed in 2022 to be ” feel a little illegitimate in the literary field is a reference for a whole new generation of artists and intellectuals who see in her a feminist icon.

One who is defined as a woman who writes has been talking about since 1974, when she published The empty cupboards, events that have crossed his life. In The frozen woman, besides the nation of watermark mental burden, it is the failure of his marriage. In girl memory, it is the rape of which she was the victim as a teenager. With easy passion and occupationshe describes amorous alienation.

The Event

Since 2021, her work has taken on a new dimension with the film adaptation by Audrey Diwan of The Event. The film, which won its director the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2021, faithfully follows the original text, published in 2000. It is the story of Annie Ernaux’s obstacle course , then a student of literature, to abort in the early 1960s.

Like the autobiographical novel from which it is inspired, the feature film addresses a cross-section of issues, such as the freedom of women to dispose of their bodies or the desire to free themselves from social determinism, a constant in the work of the French writer.

In France, abortion has been authorized since the promulgation of the Veil law of January 17, 1975. In many countries abroad, it is prohibited. In others, it is questioned. In Poland, for example, the government has been tightening its laws on access to abortion for several years, to the point where it is almost prohibited in 2022.

In the United States, the Supreme Court caused an earthquake revoking the right to abortion, leaving the possibility for States to adopt their own legislation. The facts told in The Event may well be earlier, they resonate in the news. The awarding of the Nobel Literature to the star of French literature, too.

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Annie Ernaux, Nobel Prize for Literature? It’s anything but trivial