The 82-year-old writer is known for her body of semi-autobiographical works charting the lives of women and social change in France from the 1960s onwards.
Highlights of her literary career span her 1974 debut work Cleaned Out (Les Armoires Vides), A Man’s Place (1984), A Woman’s Story (1987) and her 2008 memoir The Years.
A number of her novels have been successfully adapted to the big screen, topped by Diwan’s Happening, which was adapted from Ernaux’s 2019 novella. Diwan, a novelist herself, consulted with Ernaux as she wrote the screenplay adaptation.
The powerful drama is based on Ernaux’s experiences when she fell pregnant as a student in the early 1960s when abortions were illegal in France.
Other features based on Ernaux’s work include Danielle Arbid’s 2020 erotic drama Passion Simple. Laetitia Dosch stars as a lecturer who becomes embroiled in a passionate affair with a Russian diplomat, played by star ballerina Sergei Polunin, who then disappears from her life.
More recently Ernaux made her directorial debut with this year’s Cannes Directors Fortnight documentary The Super 8 Years, in which she explored 1970s France through old family videos, taking co-director credits with son David Ernaux-Briot.
The Nobel Foundation said in a short statement that Ernaux had been awarded the Nobel Prize “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”
Previous winners of the prize include Kazuo Ishiguro (2017), Bob Dylan (2016), Alice Munro (2013) and Mario Vargas Llosa (2010).