Telephone interview, October 2022
“I think that when we write, what is really important is that we need to read a lot”
Telephone interview with Annie Ernaux on 6 October 2022.
Literature laureate Annie Ernaux gives her advice to young people and speaks about the importance of honesty in writing in this conversation with Nobel Prize Outreach’s Claire Paetkau. Recorded on the day the Nobel Prize was announced, Ernaux describes how she found out she was the 2022 literature laureate while listening to the radio alone in her kitchen – and how to her it felt like being “in the desert and there is a call that is coming from the sky, that was sort of the feeling I had.”
The interview was recorded in French and is subtitled in English.
Annie Ernaux: Hello?
Claire Paetkau: Good day, or good evening rather. Am I speaking with Annie Ernaux?
AE: Yes, it’s me. Yes, good evening.
CP: Good evening. My name is Claire Paetkau. We have a tradition here every year to do short telephone interviews with the new laureates. Would you be available for a quick conversation?
AE: Right now?
CP: Yes, right now!
AE: Yes, of course. Of course.
CP: First of all, congratulations on your Nobel Prize. I understand that you just finished a press conference?
CP: May I ask, how are you feeling? I imagine it has been a long day.
AE: Yes, half the day, since I only learned that I received the prize around one o’clock. And the press conference went very well, because I think that I answered what it means for me to receive the prize, that it’s a great responsibility and at the same time an honour. But that precisely because of this honour I have more responsibilities regarding… regarding my engagement in writing.
CP: So, then where were you when you received the news if it was only at one o’clock?
AE: Listen, I was in the kitchen, where there is a radio. And I wanted to listen to the radio because I wanted to find out who had won the Nobel Prize. Voilà!
CP: And it was you!
AE: Yes it was me!
CP: What an exciting way to receive the news!
AE: Yes, it’s obviously very surprising. All the more because I was alone. It’s like… I will give you a comparison. You are in the desert and there is a call that is coming from the sky. That was sort of the feeling I had.
CP: What a fun story, anyway! You have a long bibliography. For someone just discovering your work, where to start?
AE: You know, I think my books don’t resemble each other. From the perspective of both the topics and content, and sometimes even from a writing perspective. So it’s a little bit difficult and it would be a different recommendation for young people and older people. But the book that would possibly bring together everyone would be The Years. Yes.
CP: OK! You mentioned young people. Do you have a message for young writers, especially for those who are writing in their native language?
AE: I think that when we write, what is really important is that we need to read a lot. Sometimes young people say, “Oh no, I don’t read… I write!” Well, no. That’s not possible. You need to read a lot. And the second message I would give them is not to strive to write well, but rather to write honestly. It’s not the same thing.
CP: Such good advice.
CP: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me, we hope to see you in Stockholm in December.
CP: Thank you again, and all my congratulations!
AE: Thank you very much.
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