82-year-old Frenchwoman Annie Erno wins Nobel Prize in Literature

French writer Annie Erno

French writer Annie Erno


Every year, the bookmakers compile a list of the most likely contenders for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and every year the same names flash across it. French writer Annie Erno. Another Frenchman, Michel Houellebecq. Canadian poet Ann Carson. British Margaret Atwood, best known to the general public for “The Handmaid’s Tale”, which turned into a popular TV series. French-speaking novelist from Guadeloupe Maryse Condé. Russian Ludmila Ulitskaya. Kenyan born in 1938 Ngugi Van Thiong’o. Japanese Haruki Murakami. Norwegian novelist and playwright Jun Fosse. American Cormac McCarthy. Another American, Stephen King (he usually hung somewhere at the very bottom of the list – academics, as academicians at all times, despise the “lower genres”, which include science fiction and thrillers; but this year King rose in the rankings unexpectedly high, some bookmakers included him in the top five contenders).

Of course, the Swedish Academy can throw out any tricks, which they proved in 2016 (when Bob Dylan received the Nobel prize for the lyrics of his songs) and in 2021 (when the Nobel Prize went to the little-known Abdulrazak Gurna, whom no one thought to bet on, because that almost no one read it). But this time, the award went to a well-deserved author, who stayed long in the contenders.

This is Annie Erno. She is not very well known in Russia, but she is highly valued by her French compatriots. She was born in Normandy in 1940, that is, she is now 82 years old. Studied in Rouen and Bordeaux. For some time she was engaged in literary criticism, studied the plays of Marivo, and in her 30s she began to write books herself. All her works are autobiographical to some extent, but the life and fate of an individual woman are inextricably intertwined in them with the fate of all of France. Extremely observant and sensitive, Erno could have received the title of master of sports in her favorite French discipline – the search for lost time. She has many literary awards – moreover, in France there is already a separate award named after her.

The book “Years”, published in 2008 (which many consider her main work) links everything in the world: an advertisement for goods popular in the 50s that caught the eye of a young heroine (this is Erno herself, but she writes about herself in the third person), footage from old films like “So Long Away”, teenage chatter, escalopes with French fries that she ate on Sundays, the discovery of her own sexuality, the death of Stalin, the decree of the head of the French government, according to which elementary school students were to be given milk to drink at school, war in Vietnam, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s entry into the political arena, disappointment in François Mitterrand, the Rubik’s Cube, a tourist trip to Spain, the August coup in the USSR, the appearance of Walkman players, then the Internet, then Nintendo consoles, rapidly approaching old age … And also faces and the actions of the people you meet along the way. A flurry of images flashing in the turbulent stream of memory, which is human life. And when we die, Erno writes, “they will all disappear at once, just as the millions of images that were stored in the minds of grandparents who died half a century ago, and those of the parents who died after them, disappeared.”

In fact, many thought that Salman Rushdie would receive the Nobel Prize in 2022. But the Swedish academy has for many years been afraid to reward the writer, whose murder was once called for by Ayatollah Khomeini: well, how will the wrath of radical Islamists fall on her after that? Two months ago, in August 2022, an assassination attempt was made on Rushdie, he almost died, but this did not make Swedish academics abandon their caution. If after this attack the writer was not awarded the prize, then they will never be awarded. Cross out.

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