Nobel prize winner Annie Ernaux: the French writer who 'wants to destroy literature'


The news that French author Annie Ernaux – who has written a string of acclaimed books - has been awarded the Nobel prize for literature is a cause for celebration, writes Mediapart journalist and literature lecturer Lise Wajeman. But how should one interpret the bestowal of this prestigious prize to the French writer, given that she herself once declared: “What I also want to destroy is literature”?

Reading articles is for subscribers only. Subscribe now.

“The Queen.” That is the writer Nicolas Mathieu's affectionate nickname for French author Annie Ernaux who has just been awarded the Nobel prize for literature. She is something of a mother figure or perhaps grandmother figure – she was born in 1940 – for a whole generation of artists who have emerged in recent years. The writer Édouard Louis, the singer Jeanne Cherhal and the director Audrey Diwan – who last year adapted Ernaux's novel 'L’Événement' for the cinema – all acknowledge the importance of her literary legacy to their own work. This is literature which, written in a deliberately modest form, hits the reader with real impact. It is a form of writing that marshals intimate details in order to unleash deep emotions and the hard-hitting force of political anger.