Annie Ernaux, Autofiction Author, Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature

Annie Ernaux Photo: Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Annie Ernaux, the French writer known for her autobiographical novels and nonfiction works, has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature. Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Nobel-awarding Swedish Academy, praised Ernaux’s “courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” The 82-year-old writer is perhaps best known for her memoir The Years, which fuses Ernaux’s own experiences with historical events and was shortlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2019. Born in France in 1940, Ernaux published her first book, Cleaned Out, in 1974. That first work toes the line between fiction and autobiography — a stylistic tool she has continued to employ throughout her career — to tell a story about obtaining an abortion when the procedure was illegal in France. In later novels, Ernaux, the 17th female writer to earn the prize, describes her experiences with cancer, affairs, and her mother’s Alzheimer’s.

While the critically lauded French writer has long been a favorite, some thought Salman Rushdie would be awarded the honor following his attack in August. The Nobel Prize for Literature honors a writer’s entire body of work — past winners include Toni Morrison, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Louise Glück, and even Bob Dylan.

French Writer Annie Ernaux Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature