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August 13, 2020


#French Les années Annie Ernaux

by N@ncy



  1. I will use a quote by a
  2. reader Susan Clark Germaine on
  3. who just finished the book yesterday.
  4. She took the words right out of my mouth:
  5. “…very long and tedious, and I had to force myself to continue to read it.”
  6. There were some strong points (see review) and
  7. …some memorable quotes but all in all this book was
  8. …not worth the effort it took to read it in French.
  9. All credit to Ms Ernaux for creating such a complex book.
  10. There is so much reality (politics, philosophy, literature) mixed into her memoires
  11. …it is just a bit too much to take in.
  12. She overwhelmed this reader to the point that
  13. …I was struggling to finish the book.
  14. But….at least I’m reading again!


Strong point: Nice feature of Ernaux’s writing
…she takes the reader into a shoebox of photographs
…of the past and guides us with her memories.

Book is filled with….
“…les sentiments, images et sensations…”

1940s – The book spans the time frame from the author’s birth in 1940 up to 2006,
and moves from her working-class upbringing in Normandy to her years teaching French literature in a lycée….living in the Parisian suburb of Cergy, raising two sons and eventually divorcing.

1950s – Ernaux writes both personally and collectively, situating
her own story within the story of her generation,
without ever confusing the two.
There is no “I”…..only “one” and “we”.

1960s – emphasis of politics and how the younger generation will
be able to create a better future

1970s – the ideals of May ‘68 convert themselves into
objects (fridge, Hi-Fi music player, color TV), entertainment and starting families.

1980s – the desire to vacation without the husband and children
Fluctuating between the desire and fear of losing everything.
Wife and mother contemplating….divorce.
Ready for anything to regain, find the desire of a future.

Weak point: Difficult to stay engaged with this book.
There is not really a traditional story.
It is just a continuous summation of life lived
1940s-2000 with some ah-ha moments:
1960s transistor
1980s deaths of Barthes, Satre, Beauvoir, assassination attempt Pope John Paul II
Surprised Chernobyl is cover in one sentence…this was a major incident!
1990s – Mitterrand dies, Marguerite Duras dies….mobile telephones.
‘Elle’ …her last lover…her last retreat.

Note: this is NOT a ‘touchy-feel-ly’ fictive memoir….it is filled with
references to literature, philosophy, existentialism, politics, protests, sit-in, gender issues, French Algeria (Harkis, Pied-noirs)
revolution/liberation (May ‘68 in Paris, Chili, Cuba, Vietnam, Czechoslovakia)

Strong point: page 166 Ms Ernaux describes the moment she decided to write this book.
A book like ‘Une Vie’ 1940-1985….’le destin ( the fate) de la femme’
She wants to re-live the passage of time in and around her in the
dispossession of (freeing oneself) people, things and events.

Last thoughts:
I have been taking photos during my daily walks during the COVID Lockdown.
It was a way to enjoy life that is still within a 5 km radius from my home.
The last sentence in this book reminded met of the importantce of photos:
“Sauver quelque chose du temps, où on ne sera plus jamais.”
Save something of time….where we will never be again.


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 13 2020

    Sounds like you picked a tough one to get you reading again! Yet every cloud has a silver lining…& you found some relevant quotes to enhance youR day to day.


    • Aug 14 2020

      All credit to Ms Ernaux for creating such a complex book. There is so much reality (politics, philosophy, literature) mixed into her memoires…it is just a bit too much to take in. She overwhelmed this reader to the point that I was struggling to finish the book. But….at least I’m reading again!

      Liked by 1 person


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