The Swedish Academy announced Thursday that Annie Ernaux has won the Nobel Prize for literature. According to The New York Times, the Academy praised Ernaux for her “courage and clinical acuity” as she unraveled her personal memory to pen her memoirs.
By winning this prize, Ernaux joins other celebrated authors and lyricists like Bob Dylan (2016), Toni Morrison (1993) and Doris Lessing (2007). The Nobel Prize was established by Alfred Nobel and is decided by the Swedish academy.
Here’s what you should know about Ernaux.
Who is Annie Ernaux?
Annie Ernaux is a French author who has been celebrated for her memoirs and autobiographies. Her biography details how she grew up in a middle-class family and that her work explores “the body and sexuality; intimate relationships; social inequality and the experience of changing class through education; time and memory; and the overarching question of how to write these life experiences.”
According to CNN, Ernaux’s writing is highly personal. To explore class and gender, she draws on her own experience as well as the experiences of people around her in her writing.
Ernaux has been writing for several decades. NPR reported that her first book was called “Cleaning Out” and published in 1974. The novel was an autobiography of having an abortion when they were illegal in France. BBC indicated that this novel fictionalized an illegal abortion she had in 1964 and had hidden from her family.
Ernaux’s literary breakthrough wasn’t until after her debut novel. According to The Guardian, her fourth novel, “A Man’s Place,” was her breakthrough novel. This novel traces her father’s development and experience growing up in rural France.
She made history by winning this prize — BBC reported that Ernaux is the first French woman to ever receive this honor. Ernaux was surprised when she found out that she won. She said, “It is a great responsibility ... to testify, not necessarily in terms of my writing, but to testify with accuracy and justice in relation to the world.”
The Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded 115 times.