Annie Ernaux delivers her Nobel Prize lecture
On December 7, 2022, Annie Ernaux delivered her Nobel Prize lecture on Literature at the Swedish Academy. In a very moving speech, Ernaux discussed her journey as a writer and the themes which have inspired her and influenced her writing.
She recalled how her experiences growing up as a working-class woman shaped much of her writing. "Very quickly too, it seemed self-evident—to the point that I could not imagine any other way to start—to anchor the story of the rift in my social being in the situation that had been mine as a student, a revolting situation to which the French state still condemned women", she said, emphasising "the need to seek out clandestine terminations at the hands of backstreet abortionists".
"And so, without being aware of it at the time, that first book, published in 1974, mapped out the realm in which I would situate my writing, a realm both social and feminist. Avenging my people and avenging my sex would, from that time on, be one and the same thing".
She also spoke about her mother, who had influenced her reading habits, stating that her "appetite was nurtured by a mother who, between customers in her shop, read a great many novels, and preferred me reading rather than sewing and knitting".
Ernaux further added how her experience as a writer had also driven her to explore and experiment with different forms of writing: "I had to break with 'writing well' and beautiful sentences—the very kind I taught my students to write—to root out, display, and understand the rift running through me. What came to me spontaneously was the clamour of a language which conveyed anger and derision, even crudeness; a language of excess, insurgent, often used by the humiliated and the offended as their only response to the memory of others' contempt, of shame, and shame at feeling shame."
Her Nobel Prize win was a stepping stone for other female writers, the writer noted, as well as an acknowledgement of the struggles of different people beyond the boundaries of gender, race, sex, culture or social class.
She stated, "I share the pride of it with those who, in one way or another, hope for greater freedom, equality, and dignity for all humans, regardless of their sex or gender, the colour of their skin, and their culture; and with those who think of future generations, of safeguarding an Earth where a profit-hungry few make life increasingly unliveable for all populations".
Read her full speech here.