The truth behind a price
By Annie Ernaux/ What does "winning a prize" mean? Not in general, but for me. And not just any award, but one that carries a prestigious, even intimidating, name like Marguerite Yourcenar. I'm one of those people who, faced with a random question, jumps and falls into an abyss of contradictory thoughts, embarrassing to unravel. And these thoughts expose me to a great danger of lack of sincerity. Or at the risk of uttering irrefutable platitudes. To put an end to this obstacle, I see only one way: to move myself to the beginning of time, not of writings than of my publications, and - with that frankness that temporal distance from myself makes it easier to examine - to cultivate my relationship with the prizes, an institution from which the French school was freed in 1968.
First of all it was the desire. Desire for a prize. This represents a case where the verb is too weak to describe the excitement that came over me when I saw my name on the list of the "Goncourt" prize, a little more than forty years ago. In the spring of 1974, I had just experienced the earthquake caused by the publication of my first novel, "Empty Cupboards", when in the pages of "Le Monde", in black on white, it was mentioned the possibility that that debut could receive the prize known from all over France and from across the border too.
I shrugged and admitted to myself that it was a farce, that I would never win. But the damage was done. The fact that I had never had much faith in Goncourt's ability to recognize literary values was clearly irrelevant: my name was on the list, in that sadistic device that flashes glory in the eyes of a dozen writers, to eliminate them. then, excluding them one after the other as defective products. Slowly, silently, I began to "believe". And there was something prophetic in my belief in it, as if the Goncourt prize represented the final goal of that book, the highest revenge against the shame and humiliation that were the subject of the novel.
I had to confess that, quite suddenly, those fantasies took a definite form: to quit teaching and do nothing but write. But the whole scaffolding collapsed at the very moment of the announcement of the winner on the radio, which was Pascal Lainé, and I felt anger only against my naivety, my ignorance of the mechanisms that run those distant Parisian forums. In any case, to put it simply, I was deceived. What touches me deeply about the "Marguerite Yourcenar" award is that it is not given for a specific book, but for a literary engagement spanning time.
If I see the works of their predecessors, Pierre Michon and Hélène Cixous, it seems to me a form of approval towards writings characterized by freedom and research. It is the recognition of a path that Marguerite Yourcenar has marked powerfully, almost brazenly in its unflappability.
Among her many books, I can distinguish the importance that "Memories of Adrian" had for me, a book that I discovered in my first year of university, as well as those texts with which I developed a kind of internal conversation before I started writing "Years", such as the books "Precious Memories" and "North Archives".
Mund të tregoja për admirimin tim për personin, për gruan që e ka përballuar gjithmonë me sensualitet botën, që nuk i ka mohuar kurrë dëshirat e saj, e cila në vitin 1980, në moshën 76-vjeçare, kur gjeti dhe rilexoi një shënim të vjetër në të cilin thoshte e bindur se kishte mposhtur "lakminë" e saj, shkroi: "Jo".
Por preferoj më mirë të sjell një kujtim të gjallë dhe të fshehtë, që më erdhi menjëherë në mendje kur u shpall çmimi. Atë mbrëmje nëntori të vitit 1984, pas çmimit “Renaudot”, isha në hotelin du Pont-Royal, duke darkuar në heshtje, e trullosur nga dita që sapo kaloi, në shoqërinë e Antoine Gallimard dhe punonjësve të shtypit dhe të shitjeve. Në një tavolinë pak më larg prej tonës, ishte ulur Marguerite Yourcenar me shallin e saj të bardhë. Në një moment ndesha vështrimin e saj, që po pushonte mbi mua me nuancën e ëmbël të buzëqeshjes. M’u duk se i lexova kureshtje dhe argëtim.
And as I finish these lines, in front of my window a woodpecker attacks the trunk of a fir tree. I see his red head, the long pointed beak striking the dark bark with quick movements. Suddenly he rises, gliding over the lawn. I think intensely of her, of Marguerite Yourcenar, who has always felt herself to be a link in a chain within nature in which the kingdoms are not separated from each other.
*Annie Ernaux is the winner of the "Nobel" prize for literature in 2022. She has previously been honored with important prizes such as the "French Language Prize", the "Strega European Prize", the "Marguerite Yourcenar Prize" in 2017 or the "Formentor Prize" ". The novels "Kujtime vajze", "Simple Passion" and "Vendi i Baiit" were published in Albanian. This article was translated by Erjon Uka.