STOCKHOLM: French author Annie Ernaux has won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory”, the Swedish Academy said on Thursday.
In explaining its choice, the Academy said Ernaux, 82 “consistently and from different angles, examines a life marked by strong disparities regarding gender, language and class”.
Her debut novel was Les Armoires Vides in 1974 but she gained international recognition following the publication of Les Années in 2008, translated into The Years in 2017.
“It is her most ambitious project, which has given her an international reputation and a raft of followers and literary disciples,” the Academy said of that book.
The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were established in the will of Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel, whose invention of dynamite made him rich and famous, and have been awarded since 1901.
While many previous literature winners were already widely read before landing the prize, the award generates huge media attention and can catapult lesser known authors to global fame while spurring book sales even for literary superstars.
Some prizes have gone to writers from outside mainstream literary genres, including the French philosopher Henri Bergson in 1927, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1953 and the American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 2016.
Accurately predicting the winner of the literature award is educated guesswork at best and favourites to win this year’s prize included a string of authors who have been considered to be high in the running for years.
Among the bookies’ favourites for this year’s prize were French writer Michel Houellebecq, who gained international fame with his 1998 novel Atomised, Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Canadian poet Anne Carson and India-born Salman Rushdie.
Rushdie was stabbed in New York state in August as he was preparing to deliver a lecture, sustaining serious injuries.
Last year’s prize, widely seen as the world’s most prestigious literary award, was won by Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah.
Ernaux, whose name has circulated in Nobel speculation for several years, is the 17th woman to win the prestigious prize, out of 119 literature laureates since the first Nobel was awarded in 1901.
The Swedish Academy has in recent years pledged to make the prize more diverse, after a 2017-18 #MeToo scandal that left it in tatters.
The prize awarded by the Swedish Academy is worth 10 million Swedish crowns (US$915,000).
Ernaux will receive the Nobel from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on Dec 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of Alfred Nobel.