Annie Ernaux

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Annie Ernaux

Annie Ernaux (née Duchesne; born on 1 September 1940) is a French writer.[1]

Life and work[edit]

Childhood and education[edit]

Ernaux grew up in Yvetot in Normandy. She is from a working-class background,[2] but her parents eventually owned a café-grocery store. She studied at the universities of Rouen and then Bordeaux, qualifying as a school-teacher, and gaining a higher degree in modern literature (1971). She worked for a time on a thesis project, unfinished, on Marivaux.[3]

In the early 1970s, she taught at the Bonneville Lycée,[4] at the College of Évire in Annecy-le-Vieux, then in Pontoise, before joining the National Center for Distance Learning (Centre national d'enseignement à distance - CNED).[5]

Literary career[edit]

Annie Ernaux started her literary career in 1974 with Les Armoires vides (Cleaned Out), an autobiographical novel. In 1984, she won the Renaudot Prize for another of her autobiographical works La Place (A Man's Place), an autobiographical narrative focusing on her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up in a small town in France, and her subsequent process of moving into adulthood and away from her parents' place of origin.[6][7]

Very early in her career, she turned away from fiction to concentrate on autobiography.[8] Her work combines historic and individual experiences. She charts her parents' social progression (La place, La honte), her adolescence (Ce qu'ils disent ou rien), her marriage (La femme gelée), her passionate affair with an eastern European man (Passion simple), her abortion (L'événement), Alzheimer's disease (Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit), the death of her mother (Une femme), and breast cancer (L'usage de la photo).[9] Ernaux also wrote L'écriture comme un couteau (Writing as Sharp as a Knife) with Frédéric-Yves Jeannet.[9]

A Woman's Story, A Man's Place, and Simple Passion were recognized as The New York Times Notable Books, and A Woman's Story was a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Shame was named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1998, I Remain in Darkness a Top Memoir of 1999 by The Washington Post, and The Possession was listed as a Top Ten Book of 2008 by More Magazine.

Her 2008 historical memoir Les Années (The Years), very well received by French critics, is considered by many to be her magnum opus.[10] In this book Ernaux writes of herself in the third person (elle) for the first time, providing a vivid look at French society from just after the Second World War until the early 2000s.[11] It is the poignant social history of a woman and of the evolving society she lived in. The Years won the 2008 Françoise-Mauriac Prize of the Académie française, the 2008 Marguerite Duras Prize,[12] the 2008 French Language Prize, the 2009 Télégramme Readers Prize, and the 2016 Premio Strega Europeo Prize. Translated by Alison L. Strayer, The Years was a Finalist for the 31st Annual French-American Foundation Translation Prize. In 2018 she won the Premio Hemingway.

Many of her works have been translated into English and published by Seven Stories Press. Ernaux is one of the seven founding authors from whom the press takes its name.

Awards and distinctions[edit]

In addition, the Annie-Ernaux Award, of which she is the "godmother", bears her name.


  • Les Armoires vides, Paris, Gallimard, 1974; Gallimard, 1984, ISBN 978-2-07-037600-1
  • Ce qu'ils disent ou rien, Paris, Gallimard, 1977; French & European Publications, Incorporated, 1989, ISBN 978-0-7859-2655-9
  • La Femme gelée, Paris, Gallimard, 1981; French & European Publications, Incorporated, 1987, ISBN 978-0-7859-2535-4
  • La Place, Paris, Gallimard, 1983; Distribooks Inc, 1992, ISBN 978-2-07-037722-0
  • Une Femme, Paris, Gallimard, 1987
  • Passion simple, Paris, Gallimard, 1991; Gallimard, 1993, ISBN 978-2-07-038840-0
  • Journal du dehors, Paris, Gallimard, 1993
  • La Honte, Paris, Gallimard, 1997[14]
  • Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit, Paris, Gallimard, 1997
  • La Vie extérieure : 1993-1999, Paris, Gallimard, 2000
  • L'Événement, Paris, Gallimard, 2000, ISBN 978-2-07-075801-2
  • Se perdre, Paris, Gallimard, 2001
  • L'Occupation, Paris, Gallimard, 2002
  • L'Usage de la photo, with Marc Marie, Paris, Gallimard, 2005
  • Les Années, Paris, Gallimard, 2008, ISBN 978-2-07-077922-2 [15]
  • L'Autre fille, Paris, Nil 2011 ISBN 978-2-84111-539-6
  • L'Atelier noir, Paris, éditions des Busclats, 2011
  • Écrire la vie, Paris, Gallimard, 2011
  • Retour à Yvetot, éditions du Mauconduit, 2013
  • Regarde les lumières mon amour, Seuil, 2014
  • Mémoire de fille, Gallimard, 2016

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Annie Ernaux". EVENE (in French). Archived from the original on 1 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  2. ^ Elkin, Lauren (2018-10-26). "Bad Genre: Annie Ernaux, Autofiction, and Finding a Voice". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Héloïse Kolebka (2008). "Annie Ernaux : "Je ne suis qu'histoire"". L'Histoire (332): 18. ISSN 0182-2411..
  5. ^ Annie Ernaux,, accessed October 12, 2011.
  6. ^ Ferniot, Christine (2005-11-01). "1983 : La place par Annie Ernaux". L'EXPRESS (in French). Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  7. ^ Schwartz, Christine (1992-05-24). "The Prodigal Daughter". Newsday. Long Island, N.Y. p. 35. Retrieved 2010-10-31. (Paywall))
  8. ^ "Annie Ernaux. Les Années". Le Télégramme (in French). 2009-05-03. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  9. ^ a b "People / Personnalités / Annie Ernaux". Elle (in French). 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  10. ^ Peras, Delphine (2010-02-11). "Les Années par Annie Ernaux". L'EXPRESS (in French). Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  11. ^ Laurin, Danielle (2008-04-03). "Autobiographie : Les années: le livre d'une vie" (in French). Radio-Canada. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  12. ^ "Prix Marguerite Duras". Association Marguerite Duras (in French). Retrieved 2019-04-18.
  13. ^ Daniel Verdu (May 6, 2019). "La escritora Annie Ernaux gana el Premio Formentor". Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  14. ^ Tison, Jean-Pierre (1997-02-01). "Critique: Annie dans l'arrière-boutique". L'EXPRESS (in French). Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  15. ^ Massoutre, Guylaine (2008-04-19). "Littérature française - La chronique douce-amère d'Annie Ernaux". Le Devoir (in French). Retrieved 2010-10-31.

External links[edit]