French author Annie Ernaux 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 award-giving body said on Thursday from Stockholm.
Ernaux, whose work is mostly autobiographical, is 82.
In explaining its choice, the Academy said Ernaux “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 and later a finalist for the international Booker Prize.
“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 prize is worth 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.2 million Cdn).
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.
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, including Canadians Margaret Atwood and Anne Carson.
Some prizes have gone to writers from outside mainstream literary genres, including French philosopher Henri Bergson in 1927, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1953 and American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 2016.
Canada’s Alice Munro won the award in 2013, while last year’s prize was awarded to Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah.