Annie Ernaux: 'I'm just a woman who writes'

Published: 06:26 PM, 6 Oct, 2022
Annie Ernaux: 'I'm just a woman who writes'
Caption: Books by French author Annie Ernaux are on display at the Swedish Academy after the announcement that Ernaux is this years winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.
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A feminist icon for generations in France and beyond, the newly crowned Nobel literature laureate Annie Ernaux described herself to AFP earlier this year as "a woman who writes -- that's all".

Ernaux was speaking in Cannes where she was presenting "The Super 8 Years", a documentary drawn from home videos of her family life during the decade that made her one of the leading voices in French literature.

The recordings were made between 1972 and 1981 by her ex-husband, now deceased, and show Ernaux torn between married bourgeois living, and her burgeoning calling as a writer.

"These 10 years were the crucial years of my life because they confirmed my desire to write," she told AFP.

"And also because I gained my freedom. I suffered without that freedom, even if I was in a loving marriage.

"It is the story of my life but also that of thousands of women who have also been in search of freedom and emancipation."

Ernaux published her first novel "Cleaned Out" in 1974 -- a harrowing account of an abortion that she kept secret from her family.

She divorced in 1984 and raised her sons alone.

- 'The images of memory' -

"The Super 8 Years" was Ernaux's directing debut, but her books have long served other filmmakers.

"The Happening", based on another account of her youthful abortion, won the Golden Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival.

The same year also saw an adaptation of her romance "Simple Passion", as well as a documentary, "I Have Loved Living Here", about new towns in France that uses her writings as a voiceover.

But Ernaux said she was not interested in working in film herself.

"I write with internal images, the images of memory," she said. "The process of writing for cinema is very different."

"The Happening" proved very timely, released just as the United States Supreme Court reversed its ruling on abortions, and allowing them to once again be criminalised.

Ernaux was not shocked.

"One could expect this conservative wave, because when women take power -- or when their voices are elevated -- men close ranks with each other," she said.

But she was pleased to see the impact of the film, since the original book, published in 2000, "didn't make many waves at the time of its release when feminism was in a dip".

Though many would argue otherwise, she does not see herself as an icon.

"I'm just a woman, a woman who writes -- that's all," she said.

She rejoices, however, at the wave of feminism triggered by MeToo and other movements.

"Women are no longer willing to let things happen to them," she said.

She spoke of her "real joy" at this new generation of activists.

"When the political scene is not too joyful, one thing that gives life, that pushes the boundaries, is feminism."

Categories : Lifestyle

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.