Author Who Uses Words Like ‘a Knife’ Wins Nobel in


French author Annie Ernaux is the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature. Ernaux, 82, was cited for “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements, and collective restraints of personal memory,” the Nobel committee said. Mats Malm, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, announced the winner Thursday in Stockholm, per the AP. “Annie Ernaux manifestly believes in the liberating force of writing,” Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee, says in a release. “Her work is uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean.” The Nobel Committee added in a tweet that Ernaux has said “that writing is a political act, opening our eyes for social inequality. For this purpose she uses language as ‘a knife,’ as she calls it, to tear apart the veils of imagination.”

Ernaux, born in 1940 in the small town of Yvetot in Normandy, came out with her debut book, Les Armoires Vides (Cleaned Out), in 1974, and it jumped right into an exploration of that Norman background. But it was her fourth book, 1983’s La Place (A Man’s Place) that really put her on the literary map. “In a scant hundred pages she produced a dispassionate portrait of her father and the entire social milieu that had fundamentally formed him,” the release notes. An Ernaux “masterpiece,” per the release, is 2000’s L’evenement (Happening), a first-person narrative about an illegal abortion and a “ruthlessly honest text, where in parentheses she adds reflexions in a vitally lucid voice, addressing herself and the reader in one and the same flow. In the spaces in between, we are in the time of writing, 25 years after the ‘event’ took place, making even the reader intensely part of what once happened.”

Last year’s prize went to the Tanzanian-born, UK-based writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, whose novels explore the impact of migration on individuals and societies. A week of Nobel Prize announcements kicked off Monday with Swedish scientist Svante Paabo receiving the award in medicine. Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser, and Austrian Anton Zeilinger jointly won the prize in physics on Tuesday, while the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded Wednesday to Danish scientist Morten Meldal and Americans Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless. The 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics award on Monday. The prizes carry a cash award of nearly $900,000 and will be handed out on Dec. 10. The money comes from a bequest left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896.

(Read more Nobel Prize for Literature stories.)