This year the Nobel Prize for Literature goes to a French writer, Annie Ernaux. She became famous for her brave memoirs in which she talks about her relationships with her parents, her mother’s experience of Alzheimer’s disease, but also her own experiences following an abortion or her love story with a Russian diplomat.
Her novels are mainly autobiographical, exploring realities experienced during adolescence and youth, but also life situations that she imagines, such as the short life of her sister, who dies at the age of 6, just two years before her birth (the novel L’Autre Fille ).
The novel that made her notorious, “The Years” (Les Années) is a description of the history of France in the period 1940-2006, from her own perspective. Critics have compared her style of writing to Marcel Proust’s famous book “Searching for the Lost Time.” The book was published in France in 2008 and had great success.
Other critics have compared her books to that of Lev Tolstoy, because both wrote about characters that reveal the history of the times in which they lived, a history that restricted their freedom. Ernaux writes about relationships, sexuality, inequality, education, discrimination, vinovăție, rușine, and how the experiences of individuals speak about the world in which her characters live their lives. In her work, which counts 30 titles, Annie Ernaux constantly explores and describes from different angles a life marked by strong discords of gender, language and class.
Half a century of defending feminist ideals
Moreover, the books published by the Nobel laureate share a strong feminist belief, as Ernaux writes, “glory for a woman can only be the dazzling mourning of happiness.” After half a century of defending feminist ideals, Ernaux said “it doesn’t seem to me that women have become equal in freedom, in power” and strongly defended women’s rights to abortion and contraception.
“She writes about herself, but in a flat, observational, reportage-style way that relentlessly probes what lies beneath the surface,” describes the New Yorker, in the feature article dedicated to the writer’s Nobel award. A style called an impersonal autobiography.
Unfortunately, in Romania, her books have not been translated until now, but this handicap will be recovered. According to Radio România Cultural, three of Annie Ernaux’s novels are in preparation at Pandora M Publishing House, in the “Anansi. World Fiction”, coordinated by the writer Bogdan-Alexandru Stănescu.
Two of these, the novel Simple Passion (reissue, translated by Vasile Zincenco) and Confession of a teenager (unpublished translation, signed by Mădălina Ghiu), will be published in a special edition this fall.
The next book signed by Annie Ernaux that will appear in Romanian is the monumental novel The Years (Les Années), translated also by Mădălina Ghiu.
The motivation of the jury that awarded her the prestigious prize was “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she reveals the roots, alienations and collective constraints of personal memory”.
Since 1974, when Annie published her first autobiographical novel Les Armoires vides, more than 30 titles and many awards have followed.
Some of her most famous books – L’Autre Fille, a letter to her sister who died at the age of six, two years before the author’s birth, published L’Atelier noir, a collection of notes, plans and thoughts about her work, Mémoire de fille, in which she talks about her first sexual experiences which she describes as “the memory of shame”.
Among the prizes, we mention the Prix Renaudot for La Place, the Prix de la langue française” for her entire work.
Photo: Annie Ernaux/ photo Catherine Hélie, Gallimard, from annie-ernaux.org