A word on Ernaux: she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in December 2022, “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.” Born in 1940 to a low-income family in provincial France, she was able to experience upward social mobility thanks to her parents’ encouragement, successful studies, and access to higher education. Ernaux became what is called a ‘transfuge de classe’ (‘class migrant’). Her numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, as well as the political stances that have punctuated her almost 50-year career, bear witness to this experience and to key preoccupations of her generation and gender. Her writing scrutinises the manifestations and interiorisation of social determinism and symbolic violence, the hurdles that thwart upward social mobility, women’s alienation within the domestic sphere, the experience of illegal abortion, the limits of sexual consent, the gaze that a disease or female sexual desire may elicit in Western society, and the living places and sites of consumption, such as new towns and superstores, that numerous people use today. Ernaux is known for the originality of her ‘life-writing’, which dissects deeply personal, and sometimes taboo, subjects in an often-minimalistic language. Many of her narratives are thereby faithful to a goal she set for herself in her youth: ‘to avenge [her] people’. In the course of her long literary career, she has frequently taken sides in contemporary debates through interviews, petitions, and open letters, acting as an outspoken feminist and left-wing intellectual.
This series features in the following public collections: