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This narrative charts Annie Ernaux's teenage awakening and then the parallel progression of her desire to be desirable and her ambition to fulfill herself in her chosen profession—with the inevitable conflict between the two. And then she is thirty years old, a teacher married to an executive, a mother of two infant sons. She looks after their nice apartment and raises her children. And yet, like…

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In A Girl's Story, Annie Ernaux revisits a night fifty years earlier when she found herself submerged and controlled by another person’s desire and willpower. It was the summer of 1958, the year she turned eighteen, and the man she had given herself to had moved on. She’d submitted her will to his and then found that she was a slave without a master. Now, fifty years later, she realizes she can ob…

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Barely educated and valued since childhood strictly for his labor, Ernaux's father had grown into a hard, practical man who showed his family little affection. Narrating his slow ascent towards material comfort, Ernaux's cold observation reveals the shame that haunted her father throughout his life. She scrutinizes the importance he attributed to manners and language that came so unnaturally to hi…

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Upon her mother’s death from Alzheimer’s, Annie Ernaux embarks on a daunting journey back through time, as she seeks to “capture the real woman, the one who existed independently from me, born on the outskirts of a small Normandy town, and who died in the geriatric ward of a hospital in the suburbs of Paris.” She explores the bond between mother and daughter, tenuous and unshakable at once, the al…

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In Exteriors, Annie Ernaux concentrates not on the essential details of a relationship with a family member or lover as before but on ephemeral encounters within the larger circle of one's environment and the hundreds of strangers who inhabit it. Here, she captures the feeling of contemporary living on the outskirts of a great city: tortured, chaotic, lyrical, and powerfully alive. Exteriors is, i…

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In 1963, Annie Ernaux, twenty-three and unattached, realizes she is pregnant. Shame arises in her like a plague: Understanding that her pregnancy will mark her and her family as social failures, she knows she cannot keep the child. In a France where abortion was illegal, she attempted, in vain, to self-administer the abortion with a knitting needle. Fearful and desperate, she finally located an ab…

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This extraordinary evocation of a grown daughter’s attachment to her mother—and of both women’s strength and resiliency—recounts Annie’s attempt to first help her mother recover from Alzheimer’s disease and, then, when that proves futile, bear witness to the older woman’s gradual decline and her own experience as a daughter losing a beloved parent. I Remain in Darkness is a new high-water mark for…

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My father tried to kill my mother one Sunday in June, in the early afternoon begins Shame, the probing story of the twelve-year-old girl who will become the author herself and the single traumatic memory that will echo and resonate throughout her life. With the emotionally rich voice of great fiction and the diamond-sharp analytical eye of a scientist, Annie Ernaux provides a powerful reflection o…

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In her spare, stark style, Annie Ernaux documents the desires and indignities of a human heart ensnared in an all-consuming passion. Blurring the line between fact and fiction, an unnamed narrator attempts to plot the emotional and physical course of her two-year relationship with a married foreigner where every word, event, and person either provides a connection with her beloved or is subject to…

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Self-regard, in the works of Annie Ernaux, is always an excruciatingly painful and exact process. Here, she revisits the peculiar kind of self-fulfillment possible when we examine ourselves in the aftermath of a love affair, and sometimes, even, through the eyes of the lost beloved.

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The Years is a personal narrative of the period of 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present—even projections into the future—photos, books, songs, radio, television, and decades of advertising and headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and written notes from six decades of diaries. Local dialect, words of the time, slogans, brands, and names for ever-prolif…

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