Annie Ernaux was born in Normandy in 1940 the daughter of working-class parents who eventually came to own a cafe-grocery store. She became a teacher and started writing in 1974. Her slender books chart the events of her life and deal with issues that concern all women; her relationship with her father and mother, her adolescence, her marriage, her mother’s death, her own illness.
Her books, translated into English, have titles like A Woman’s Story, A Man’s Place, I Remain in Darkness, Simple Passion and are widely read both in English and French. The Years is considered by many to be her most significant work. Through a third person view of her own life, she charts the history of political and social change in France
Her book begins when the Second World War was still a vivid presence in the lives of the French, particularly in Normandy where she lived, and ends in 2006 in a world of mobile phones and Ebay.
Her first line
All the images will disappear.
And then she gives images, words, memories, that she has experienced, beginning
-the woman who squatted to urinate in broad daylight, behind the shack at the edge of the ruins in Yvetot, after the war, who stood, skirts lifted, to pull up her underwear and then returned to the cafe.
–the dazzling sun on the walls of the San Michele Cemetery, seen from the shade of the Fondamenta Nuove
Save something from the time where we will never be again.
Here is a book for our times, remarkable in its honesty. Highly recommended.
The translator is Alison L Strayer. Here is her comment
In translating The Years there was a balance to maintain between the plain, incisive writing so often associated with the author’s work, and a prose more sinuous and expansive. There were times to be terse and times to be sweeping.
Is this Ernaux’s Remembrance of Things Past (or her Gone the Wind, Life and Fate, with perhaps a nod to Virginia Woolf : the stream of consciousness, the struggle with the “I”…?