French author Annie Ernaux won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory”, the award-giving body said on Thursday.
Ernaux, whose work is mostly autobiographical, is 82.
The prize is awarded by the Swedish Academy and is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($914,704).
The prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace were established in the will of Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Nobel, whose invention of dynamite made him rich and famous, and have been awarded since 1901.
While many previous literature winners were already widely read before landing the prize, the award generates huge media attention and can catapult lesser known authors to global fame while spurring book sales even for literary superstars.
Some prizes have gone to writers from outside mainstream literary genres, including French philosopher Henri Bergson in 1927, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1953 and American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in 2016.
Accurately predicting the winner of the literature award is educated guesswork at best and favourites to win this year’s prize included a string of authors who have been considered to be high in the running for years.
Among the bookies’ favourites for this year’s prize were French writer Michel Houellebecq, who gained international fame with his 1998 novel Atomised, Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Canadian poet Anne Carson and India-born Salman Rushdie.
Rushdie was stabbed in New York state in August as he was preparing to deliver a lecture, sustaining serious injuries.
Last year’s prize, widely seen as the world’s most prestigious literary award, was won by Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah.
The 2022 #NobelPrize in Literature is awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” pic.twitter.com/D9yAvki1LL
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 6, 2022