The French writer Annie Ernaux, 82, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 2022, is a shy, authentic and introspective woman, starkly distant from these times of "I appear therefore I am".
Since she received the most coveted award for writers, she has closed herself even more in her own world, refusing interviews while always responding courteously to requests via email. The reality is that that award had shaken her. And she revealed it for the first time in front of an audience: in a conversation with the writer Sally Rooney during the last day of the Charleston literary festival (England).
Annie Ernaux declared in her usual sober tone, almost in a low voice, that she had never tried to obtain the prestigious award and that the Swedish award fell into her life "like a bomb". She yes she used this very word, a bomb. "Hampering now my ability to focus on writing." From a coveted prize of prizes, the Nobel has turned into a tsunami that has invaded his quiet residence in the French countryside: «I will be brutal and I will say that I have obtained a prize that I never wanted - said the French novelist - The Nobel Prize it fell on me. It fell into my life like a bomb. It was a huge upheaval; since I won it, I can no longer write and the act of writing has always been my future».
And he added: «And so, not being able to look forward to writing, it's really painful for me. Yes, it is a great acknowledgment, an acknowledgment of my work, for me who has been writing for 40 years - added Ernaux - What touches me is not the award itself, but the conversations with people, when they tell me that by reading my work they see themselves. It's the feeling that the prize belongs not only to me, but to all of us; this is important to me."
Ernaux, author of about twenty books that distinguish themselves between fiction and memoirs, also told Rooney that when she started writing, at the age of 20, she lacked self-confidence. "When I was a young writer like her, I didn't think I was a good writer, I was full of doubts and questions." Rooney asked if writing was an act of love for others and Ernaux replied that "an act of writing is inherently ambiguous". She added that "writing can be used to castrate and kill," but that it is also "a substitute for salvation ... literature always has the potential for morality."
Rooney, who said she was fascinated by the creative writing process, asked how Ernaux worked. As always, the author replied in an unconventional way: «If on the one hand I would rather die than not finish something, on the other hand I often work on several manuscripts at the same time. Then when I realize that one shouts louder than the others».