Thank you for joining us today for the liveblog. You can read the full story by Sarah Shaffi here.
The Nobel peace prize will be announced tomorrow at 10am BST (11:00 CEST).
Novelist Brandon Taylor jokes that “Perhaps modernity is saved” given Ernaux’s win
Who is Annie Ernaux?
The French novelist grew up in Normandy to working class parents. She is known for her mostly autobiographical work, such as A Woman’s Story, A Man’s Place, and Simple Passion. She started her literary career in 1974, and her work is so rooted in fact that some English-speaking critics and publishers have been tempted to categorise it as memoir. Ernaux herself has always been adamant that she writes fiction, however. Many of her works have been translated into English, and she was nominated for the International Booker prize in 2019 for her book The Years.
Her work is published in the US by Seven Stories Press. Ernaux is one of the seven founding authors from whom the press takes its name.
“We concentrate on literature and literary quality”, not on current affairs, the Swedish Academy has said. But it does feel poignant that an author known for her work about abortion has been selected in the year that the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade.
Ernaux’s UK publisher Fitzcarraldo is “over the moon” that the long-tipped author has been chosen for this year’s award
Mats Malm, the permanent secretary of the Nobel Committee, said that he had not been able to reach Ernaux yet. He “expects her to become aware of the news soon.”
Read Angelique Chrisafis’s interview with Ernaux from 2019
And the winner is Annie Ernaux from France
The Nobel prize in literature 2022 has been awarded to Annie Ernaux
The Nobel for literature has been turned down twice. Boris Pasternak, after accepting it in 1958, was forced to decline it by the Soviet Union. In 1964, Jean Paul Sartre turned it down because he had consistently declined all official honours.
The livestream has started
And we’re off! You can watch the video at the top of this liveblog (you may need to refresh your browser if you joined us a while back). Fifteen minutes until the winner is announced...
It’s difficult to predict a winner for this year’s prize, given that there’s a 99.9% chance I’ll be wrong, but I’ll go ahead anyway and say that I think Margaret Atwood could be in with a chance.
My choice is pretty calculated: it’s unlikely that the academy will award two consecutive prizes to people from the same geographic region, and as last year’s prize was awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah, who was born in Zanzibar, that unfortunately rules out a number of truly excellent African writers. (I’d like to be very wrong here.)
The last Canadian to win was Alice Munro in 2013, so there’s a long enough gap between wins for the award to go to another Canadian legend. Plus, Atwood is in her 80s, and if now is not the time to honour her, when is?
And lastly, Atwood produces work that speaks to our political, cultural and social times, but she’s not faddy, something the Swedish Academy would surely shy away from.
So that’s my prediction. Apologies to Atwood in advance, I’m definitely wrong.
Facts and figures for the Nobel prize in literature
The Nobel prize in literature has been award 114 times, to 118 people, between 1901 and 2021.
The seven “missing” prizes were in 1914, 1918, 1935, 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1943. Many of those years correspond with the two world wars, when fewer prizes were awarded, but the academy can also choose to reserve the prize money if they find “none of the works under consideration” match the aim of honouring “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”.
The youngest literature laureate is Rudyard Kipling, who was 41 years old when he was awarded the literature prize in 1907, while the oldest is Doris Lessing, who was 88 years old when she was awarded the prize exactly 100 years later in 2007.
Lessing is one of just 16 women who have won the prize, a dismally small number. The prize has also been traditionally Eurocentric, and in 2019 promised to be less so; that year it awarded two European writers.
Previous years have taught us that any Nobel predictions we make are usually very, very wrong … But that won’t stop us guessing every year! My money’s on French author Michel Houellebecq this year, who is also one of the bookies’ favourites.
It wouldn’t be right to do a Nobel prize live blog without sharing the hilarious video of 2007 winner Doris Lessing.
Over at The Atlantic, the New Republic’s staff writer Alex Shepherd said it’s a “fool’s errand” to try and predict the winner of the literature prize; admitting he’s got it wrong for seven years in a row.
This year, instead of winners, he’s picked authors who “have never won the prize” and likely won’t this year, but who have “over the past several decades, built up an astonishing and influential body of work”.
Shepherd’s first pick is Norwegian novelist and playwright Jon Fosse, who was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize this year for A New Name: Septology VI-VII, translated by Damion Searls.
Also on Shepherd’s list is French writer Annie Ernaux, who was last year’s bookies’ favourite to win, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, who Shepherd describes as “arguably the most important and influential African novelist working today”. The 84-year-old regularly appears on lists of possible winners of the Nobel, but Shepherd says this year is particularly unlikely given the academy awarded an African writer, Abdulrazaq Gurnah, in 2021.
Chinese writer Can Xue and Australian author Gerald Murnane are the final two authors on Shepherd’s list.
Rules of the Nobel prize - no posthumous awards
People hoping to see Hilary Mantel, who died last month, win the Nobel prize in literature might have to think again; the rules state that the Nobel Prizes cannot be awarded posthumously.
Since 1974, if a recipient dies after the prize has been announced, they can still be awarded it. Previously, a person could be awarded posthumously if they had already been nominated before 1 February of the same year.
Ellen Mattson, writer and member of the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Committee, said the “world is full of very good, excellent writers, and you need something more to be a laureate”.
She said it’s difficult to explain what that something more is, but that it’s “something you’re born with, I think”. “The romantics would call it a divine spark,” she added.
Mattson also said there’s no age limit on writers who can be nominated, but it “takes quite a lot of time to be a good writer”.
“It is possible to find a laureate who is perhaps 30 or 40, but it’s highly unlikely because as I say, you need time to develop,” she continued. “It’s a mistime’s process to reach that level of excellence.”
How it works
The recipient of the Nobel prize in literature is decided on by the Swedish Academy, a group of 18 members, but there’s a whole process that takes place before this.
The selection begins when the Nobel Committee for Literature – a group of four or five people – sends out invitations to hundreds of people, asking them to nominate writers for the prize. The candidates eligible to nominate can’t be revealed until 50 years after the prize is awarded, but the group consists of four different types of people:
Members of the Swedish Academy and of other academies, institutions and societies which are similar to it in construction and purpose;
Professors of literature and of linguistics at universities and university colleges;
Previous Nobel Prize laureates in literature
Presidents of those societies of authors that are representative of the literary production in their respective countries
Once the nominations are in, the committee first selects 15–20 names for consideration, and then whittles these down to five for the Swedish Academy to look at. The academy meets in September, and decides the Nobel literature laureate in early October; the winner must receive more than half the votes cast.
Several people on Twitter are hoping for a Rushdie win
Possible contenders: Margaret Atwood
Like Rushdie, Atwood has already won the Booker Prize, twice, in fact: for The Blind Assassin in 2000 and for The Testaments in 2019 (when she shared the award with Bernardine Evaristo, who won for Girl, Woman, Other). The 82-year-old author has consistently produced critically and commercially acclaimed books, and writes across genres and forms.
The Swedish Academy does like to award writers who speak about power and politics in their work; last year’s winner, Abdulrazaq Gurnah was awarded for “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”. Given how often ideas and imagery from Atwood’s work, particularly The Handmaid’s Tale, has been used in recent years, the academy could judge that now is the perfect time to award her.
Possible contenders: Salman Rushdie
British-American novelist Rushdie is clearly at the forefront of people’s minds, given the horrific attack on him earlier this year. His work has long been admired – and he’s already won one of the world’s other great literary prizes, the Booker, for Midnight’s Children in 1981. His name has been floated as a possible Nobel literature winner for years, and he’s among the bookies’ favourites this year. Certainly, David Remnick at the New Yorker thinks it’s Rushdie’s time; earlier this year he wrote: “As a literary artist, Rushdie is richly deserving of the Nobel, and the case is only augmented by his role as an uncompromising defender of freedom and a symbol of resiliency.”
But whether the academy takes into account recent events and makes Rushdie this year’s winner is anyone’s guess, and the fact that it took them 27 years to condemn the fatwa issued against Rushdie. If he does win, he’d be the first Indian-born writer to do so since Rabindranath Tagore, all the way back in 1913.
Last year’s winner was Abdulrazak Gurnah, making him the first Black African in 35 years to win the prize. Gurnah, who grew up on one of the islands of Zanzibar before fleeing persecution and arriving in England as a student in the 1960s, was praised by the Nobel for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”.
Here’s a roundup of the bookmakers’ favourites for this year’s prize
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the Nobel prize in literature, which should be awarded to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”, according to the will of Alfred Nobel.
This year’s winner will be announced at 12pm BST (1pm CEST). Will it be Salman Rushdie, a bookmaker’s favourite after he was stabbed at a public lecture earlier this year? Could it be another songwriter, like Bob Dylan, who was chosen in 2016? Or is it finally the year for Haruki Murakami, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o or Annie Ernaux – all names that are predicted year after year.
Join my colleague Sarah Shaffi and I for the next hour or so as we post updates, trivia and speculation about this year’s prize.