Nobel Library: one by one the books of Annie Ernaux, the winner of the highest prize

The 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature, Annie Ernaux, aspires to incisive writing and searches for “reality enclosed in an instant”. His books, devoid of boring preambles and narcissistic digressions, accomplish this task through a genre that in recent years has been “accused” of being frivolous: autofiction, fictional autobiography, literary amplification of personal experiences ( and not necessarily with the use of the first person singular). Several titles of the brand new Nobel Prize for Literature are translated into Spanish by publishers such as Tusquets, Cabaret Voltaire and Milena Caserola.

Annie Ernaux, the 17th woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, today outside her home outside ParisMichel Eulero – AP

“I admire the way of narration invented by Ernaux, mixing autobiography, history and sociology”Said his compatriot, the writer and journalist Emmanuel Carrère. “Annie Ernaux invents a way of writing, she proposes something completely new and revolutionary”, said the writer Édouard Louis.

His first novel, from 1974, empty cupboards, sets the record for a “fictitious autobiography”, to which the author will return several times over the decades. The protagonist, Denise Lesur, tells fragments of two worlds in tension: that of her parents, poorly educated provincial merchants, and that of the bourgeoisie, to which she aspires to join for training and ambition; while making room for passionate evocation of her school years, the young woman undergoes an abortion (in which case she will return The event). In what they say or nothing (What They Say or Nothing), from 1977, follows the story of a teenager who collides with the ideological, cultural, economic, moral limits of her family environment.

the frozen woman, since 1981, it became Ernaux’s first hit. The protagonist is thirty years old and, like the author, she is a teacher, she is married to an executive and she is the mother of two children. However, she has lost her curiosity and has no time for her personal interests; Now you have to take care of your work, housework and your children. The rough and stripped style by Ernaux is embodied in the voice of the protagonist: “I began to live in another time. The suspended hours are over, soft and smooth on the terraces of the cafes, the Mountains in October. The forgotten hours that haunt a book until its last chapter, conversations with friends. Dead for me the rhythm of childhood and the years before, with full and tense moments at work; dead head and body suddenly floating, open, rested. But not for him. “

In 1983 he published The place, which begins when the protagonist is appointed teacher in a Lyceum in Lyon. “My father died exactly two months later,” Ernaux writes. I was sixty-seven years old and I ran a grocery shop with my mother in a quiet neighborhood, not far from the station, on the Y … (in the Seine-Maritime department). She planned to retire in a year. Often, for a few seconds, I no longer know if the scene in Lyons high school happened before or after, if the windy April when I find myself waiting for the bus on the Croix-Rousse should precede or follow the sweltering month of June. of his death. “The author adopts an almost ethnographic tone by reconstructing the funeral arrangements, the story of his father and the class distance between the two.

A woman She was born in 1987 and, through an intimate story, the author revisits the life of her mother, who died in 1986; her origins and her relationships, her work as a worker and then as the owner of a bar-warehouse. The author also expresses mixed feelings about her love as her mother, her desire for status and her prejudice. With this book Ernaux won the 2019 Gregor von Rezzori Prize. Pure passion, from 1992, tells of the outburst felt by the protagonist, a divorced woman with two grown children, by a diplomat from an eastern country (who reappears as a ghost or memory in later works). “When she called to meet us, her long-awaited call from her didn’t change anything, I continued with the same painful tension as before,” says the narrator. I was in a state where even the reality of her voice couldn’t make me happy. Everything was an infinite lack, except the moment we were together making love. Yet I was obsessed with what would follow when he was gone. I experienced pleasure as a future pain“.

Diary from the outside (external diary), from 1993, is a collection of scenes, notes and reflections written on “life” in the hypermarkets and shopping center of the Ville Nouvelle, where Ernaux lived. “I wanted to preserve something of the time and of the people we meet only once, whose existence passes through us, triggering anxiety, anger or pain,” said the author. external diary was published in Argentina by Milena Caserola together with external lifeof 2000, where the author briefly and comprehensively describes the life of the inhabitants (many of them immigrants) in Cergy, a suburb of Paris, between 1993 and 1997.

Another of the author’s great books is The shame, in 1997, where from the scene of a violent family brawl in which the father tried to kill the author’s mother, when she was twelve, documents the context in which she grew up. Furthermore, you describe the codes of the French petty bourgeoisie (similar in many Western countries). “Considered a protective barrier, civilization was useless between husband and wife, and between parents and children, it was even considered hypocrisy or evil. Rudeness, sulking and yelling at each other were the usual forms of family communication. Being like everyone was the general goal, the ideal to be achieved. Originality has passed through eccentricity, even as a sign of madness. All the dogs in the neighborhood were called Toby or Boby. Ernaux claimed that both shame and resentment were two drivers of his writing.

In 1997 he published I haven’t left my night; the title reproduces the last words of the author’s mother and the texts are linked to the plot of A woman. “My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s in the early 1980s,” says Ernaux. Eventually, I had to put her in a retirement home. Every time I returned from my visits I needed to write about her, about her body, about her words, about where she was. I did not know that that period would lead me to her death in 1986. By making these pages public, I reveal them as they were written, the result of the amazement and disorder I felt then. I didn’t want to change anything in transcribing those moments when I was with her, out of time, out of all thoughts. She had ceased to be the woman I had known, who watched over my life, yet, under that inhuman face of her, through her voice, her gestures, her laugh, she was my mother, more than ever . French writer Delphine de Vigan claimed that, with her work, Ernaux had opened “a door” to French writers.

“Happy”, “proud” and with “many responsibilities”: this is how Annie Ernaux confessed today that she felt after winning the Nobel Prize for LiteratureJULIEN DE ROSA – AFP

In The event, since 2000, recounts the experience of clandestine abortion she suffered when she was a young philology student in Rouen. The novel, reprinted in Argentina by Tusquets in 2020, weeks before the voluntary termination of pregnancy law was sanctioned, popularized the writer’s name. In 2021, Lebanese-born French writer and director Audrey Diwan released the film The eventbased on Ernaux’s “clinical” autofiction, and won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

To be lostsince 2001, it resumes in the form of a intimate diary the romance with the Russian diplomat appeared in Pure passion. “I never knew anything about his activities, which were officially cultural in nature,” Ernaux writes. I’m surprised today that you didn’t ask him any more questions. I’ll never know what I was to him either. Desiring him for me is the only thing I’m sure of. He was, in every sense, the lover in the shadows. I am aware that I am publishing this diary for some kind of inner prescription, without worrying about what he, S., might feel. Rightly, he will be able to estimate that it is an abuse of literary power, even a betrayal ». The occupationsince 2002 and so on will be released in the coming weeks from the Spanish label Cabaret Voltaire, tells the story of a woman who, after breaking up with a man, gets angry and jealous when she finds out that her former partner has a new lover.

In The use of the photo, since 2005, has been writing about her breast cancer and, at the same time, about her love affair with Marc Marie. “Often, since the beginning of our relationship, I have been fascinated to discover when I woke up at the table with the leftovers from dinner, the chairs moved, our clothes confused, thrown on the ground everywhere the night before while we were making love. Each time it was a different landscape. I wonder why the idea of ​​photographing it didn’t occur to me before. Or why I never proposed to any man. Maybe he thought there was something vaguely shameful, or undignified, about it. Fourteen photographs of Ernaux and Marie accompany the texts.

Years, from 2008, is a memoir ranging from the postwar period to the 21st century. “Like sexual desire, memory never stops,” notes Ernaux. Also includes photos. the other daughterof 2011 and published in Spanish by KRK Ediciones, is another exploration of childhood of the author, which comes from the memory of a conversation between the mother and a customer of the family business that reappears in her autofiction. Who is or was “the other daughter”? An unknown sister of the author or herself, when she revealed to her parents a harsh and insolent character? The Black Workshop (El atelier negro), also from 2011, is a diary with reflections on the writing process carried out between 1982 and 2007. write life (Escrito la vida), from 2011, in addition to summarizing her literary project in the title, is a photographic book organized chronologically, with fragments of the author’s diary.

Look at the lights, my love, from 2014, is a “supermarket diary”, with notes taken during his visits to the Alcampo hypermarket in the Les Trois-Fontaines shopping center, on the outskirts of Paris. “Seeing to write is seeing in another way”, is one of the author’s slogans. memory of the girl, from 2016, tells of the first sexual encounter he had, in the summer of 1958. “I wanted to forget that girl. Really forgetting her, that is, not wanting to write about her anymore. To stop thinking that I have to write about her, about her desire, about her madness, about her stupidity and her pride, about her hunger and her cut blood. I’ve never been able to. “In her most recent book, A young man (El Jovencito), narrates a woman’s relationship with a man thirty years her junior. For those who want (and can) read Ernaux in French, it should be noted that all his books have been published by the prestigious Gallimard publishing house.

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