Annie Ernaux – The Years

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.

and ending

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”…?


17 thoughts on “Annie Ernaux – The Years

  1. Dear friends, thanks for introducing new authors and for your honest reviews of their books! Be well and stay strong in a much safer Australia than our USA. Take care! 🙂

  2. Just skimming this review for now as I have a copy of The Years in my TBR and would rather not know too much about it in advance. Good to see that you would recommend it very highly, though – that’s very reassuring to know!

    1. I think you would enjoy it if you have an interest in French history Leslie. It is remarkable how she links events in her own life to those in the wider society And she is fearlessly frank!

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