The Annie Ernaux phenomenon: life after the Nobel

“My father tried to kill my mother on a Sunday in June. It was early in the afternoon.” Thus, brutal and direct is the beginning of The shame, the classic novella annie ernaux 1997, and which he published in France with Gallimard. In Spanish, the stamp that was commissioned was the Spanish publisher Tusquets.

In its pages, the Frenchwoman made a harrowing account of a family fight in 1952, when she was almost 12 years old. She then contextualizes it with her childhood in a Catholic school in Yvetot, Normandy; the news that happened on that day (marked by the wars in Indochina and Korea); a previous trip that she made alone with her father -a somewhat grumpy man-; and her harassing life in her provincial town “everyone was watching everyone… Being like everyone else was the general goal, the ideal to be achieved. Originality passed for eccentricity”.

Of course, Ernaux maintains his characteristic stamp, in that narrates the events of his own life, as if he saw them from another side. “Writing is placing myself outside, and from this point of view, all values ​​pass, all things transform, constantly evolving,” she said in 2011.

The shame is part of the 4 novels that Tusquets has from the Ernaux catalogue, and which he has just made available again to the Chilean public together with The event, pure passion Y The place. This after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last October.

In The event, narrates her experience having a clandestine abortion. “That memory has never left me. It represents in my life, as I believe in that of many women, whether before or after the Veil Law of 1975, an event in the true sense of the word, that is, something that happens and transforms you,” she said in an interview. 2002 for Gallimard. On the other hand, in The place, deals with the death of his father and it was the novel with which he marked his style. “Writing a (fiction) novel would have been the ultimate betrayal. It had to be in the truth and therefore in the true self,” he said in 2011; and in Pure passionnarrates his affair with a married foreign diplomat. “I knew that he wasn’t going to write a ‘love story’, that he was incapable of doing it. I was this woman crossed by this passion, what does she do? What does she think? How does she behave herself?” she commented in 1994.

1667612133 587 The Annie Ernaux phenomenon life after the Nobel

The reissue of material is something that usually happens with every Nobel winner. In 2021, the Spanish publishing house Salamandra acquired the rights to translate and publish in Spanish the winner of that year, the Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose work was scarcely disseminated in our language. So far there have been published Paradise Y Seaside. At the beginning of 2020, via Alfaguara and Lumen, the books of the Austrian Peter Handke, the controversial 2019 Nobel Prize winner, were published in Chile. At the end of that year, with the American poet Louise Glück as the winner, his work went to the Visor publishing house, who published his poems Faithful and virtuous nightand arrived in Chile only in May 2021.

How much does the Nobel Prize influence an author’s books to sell? We consulted a series of booksellers and in general, the conclusion is that it is relative. Serge Parra, of heavy metals, assures: “In the old days, the Nobel Prize could have pushed an author further, but now that doesn’t happen anymore. The Nobel Prize lost that magic, because the great writers are already dead: Borges or Roth. Now we have to settle for the massive ones, like Murakami, but they are smaller. If Zurita does not win it, the Nobel will be given to only minors.”

However, Parra notes an exception: “The one that did happen was with JM Coetzee. When he won the Nobel, he reissued everything and from then on he never stopped selling, until today”.

Nicholas Letelierof Ulises, explains that there are two problems that usually occur with award-winning authors: “Either their works are not there, or they are writers who are not popular. For example, Peter Handke. He’s a great writer, but people don’t engage with him because it’s such hard writing. Nothing happened with Gurnah because he talks about Tanzania, and here that doesn’t catch on”. Elena Bahrs, also from Ulises, complements: “When Patrick Modiano won it, it didn’t catch on much.”

Cecilia Palmaof Palmaria, opines: “It depends on the author and if the book is available. Winners’ books are generally never available. He happened with Louise Glück, who just ended her contract with Pre-Textos and it took a long time to get it published again, but nothing happened with her”.

The Annie Ernaux phenomenon life after the Nobel

In the case of Ernaux, the Nobel did boost his sales a lot. Laura Infanteof Catalonia, points out: “In general, readers usually took their books with them. But as soon as the prize was won, everything we had of her was sold out. In two days they were all sold and they began to ask us a lot about their titles. In any case, the award has an influence, due to all the media behind it and the interest of readers, who begin to look for it because they are up to date”.

“People knew Annie Ernaux, she was sold. Here her books were sold out when she won the prize, after a week I had nothing left. They are short and personal books, which go from the intimate to the social”, adds Palma. Hurricane Ernaux also passed through Ulises. “Because we see ourselves much more reflected in her reality than in that of a Tanzanian. It’s much more natural,” says Letelier. “Annie Ernaux is much more universal, if she talks about abortion and passion in women,” says Bahrs.

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The Annie Ernaux phenomenon: life after the Nobel