Annie Ernaux has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. When that happens, the work of the author in question multiplies and is everywhere. To the point of sickness. And also, why not say it, the Nobel already brings, at this point, seeing how the matter works, the odd prejudice. But despite the Nobel, and not just because of it, it is worth reading Annie Ernaux.
Master of fine autofiction, with an objective hand, almost a surgeon’s to dissect reality as he does, exposes, from an analytical vision, what he had to live. As is well. Personally, whether it has a greater or lesser content of real life experience is indifferent to me, because what remains is what builds, and in this case the story stands on its own.
His best-known texts may be Pure passion, The event either The shame where one minds with a good eye in the most intimate, the hidden secret, what it is socially forbidden to talk about.
Taking a look at Annie Ernaux’s texts, one can go over them because the language is absolutely polished, it’s clean, cruel sometimes because of the distance it puts with what should be so emotional, but this, in a quick reading, is difficult to perceive, unless you find one of those details that hook you. And that’s what happened to The place.
Annie Ernaux and the small story
To understand where we are getting into The place tells the story of the father of the protagonist, voice that speaks, exact, precise. The story is framed by the death of the father, which begins the novel and to which it turns at the end of the book., but it is what serves as a link to go back, to retake the memory of what the father has been and, as a consequence, what the daughter has experienced in that context. Which she would later do with her mother in A woman.
The relationship between the protagonist and the environment, her vision of that reality and family ties mark the story. A very personal story, very private but that could be the story of many. The community represented in one.
Courage and fine hand to choose the facts that narrates. That is what the Swedish Academy came to emphasize, by telling, far from flourishes and linguistic ostentation, the clean, hard fact of what had not been told.
The sensation that the story generates, and this in the end is a very personal reading, has almost automatically led me to that Steinbeck from of mice and men with that devastating sentence that says that “none of these unfortunates has ever achieved it”. The class, the context that traps, is also in the place of Ernaux when his parents say that “and what was going to be done to him”, “it is what it is”. The displaced dream, the forced accommodation, the smiling resignation, and a critique of that vision of the contented and happy poor.
This is how Annie Ernaux photographs a reality that is not so far away. Neither in time nor in space. Absolutely. He photographs the separation, the margin, the periphery, the difficulty to get out of it, what is abandoned to get out of it. Contempt, kindness, tenderness, the brute force of life, and that where one hates, one also loves..
The heart of The place
I have reviewed some of Ernaux’s criticisms of this particular work, and I am struck by the distance that seemed to exist between the readers and what he recounted when it seemed cruelly familiar to me: wild intimacy, the one he gets into with the hands of a surgeonwith total objectivity, although sometimes a taste of condescension may be glimpsed when talking about that place from which he came.
A large part of his work reflects the environment where he grew up and how writing, and the bourgeois and literary world that he enters thanks to his studies, works as a liberation. He allows you the escape from limitations, poverty and complicated situations. It stops being different in a bad way and integrates into the world that welcomes it, far from where it came from.
Little by little, the abyss opens in terms of the relationship with the father. The bond remains but the daughter’s flight is necessary, she had to save herself from that “humiliation” that she remembered. And this is how she also becomes the little hope that everyone who is hopelessly tied to certain contexts has: “Each essay that I did well, each exam afterwards, was ground gained, the hope that I would be Better than him.”
Obviously this scenario conditions all the affects and especially their expression. Annie was the first student in her family, the first to get out of the hole they found themselves in and you can see that continuous idea of not wanting the children to end up like the parents -in this case especially the father-, but at the same time, from the narrator’s perception, she is also envious for having been able to achieve that freedom. Why you do and I don’t: “And always with the fear OR PERHAPS THE DESIRE that I wouldn’t make it.”
The distance is also marked by the way of speaking. The question of language is curious. The marks in speech indicate the place to which one belongs, but it also separates there, and in fact, their memory of what has to do with language is painful, the mark that identifies them and so on. identity is erased and it is no longer known where one roots. The father does it when he talks to others, controls the image he gives, controls who he is, hides what he doesn’t want others to see. He can become almost inhuman.
Annie Ernaux: dissecting affects
Master of autofiction then, but from here I insist, it doesn’t matter that she is obsessively faithful to her life, what matters is what you build, the fiction that rises, the eye with which you look at it. I don’t know if it’s a read for everyone, the shock and hooking may depend a lot on the context of each one, but what can be said is that, if luckily or unfortunately, you get hooked on any of his texts, good luck. with that.
He gets into the heart, in a wild way you could say, and he does it without flinching. There is no special emotional charge in his words, I would say none, which is cold, objective, concrete, which selects anecdotes in a precise way to build the exact image. Perhaps objectivity is what gives the most cruelty to all this, as that vision that a foreigner who visits a place has about those who live there, in that place, the deep town.
The experience has been similar to reading authors’ diaries regarding the invasion of privacy, I read some time ago that Kafka was sometimes excessive in his diaries and made him uncomfortable because of the privacy of his writings. Perhaps this intimacy is necessary to be able to see the reality that cannot be seen, that is in the shadows, but while a newspaper is written without the awareness of the reader, Ernaux writes so that the text can be read.
The word is so well selected, the text so refined that it seems an analysis, that dissection of the affects, and that coldness, and that detachment of what is so linked to us is what shocks when one identifies what one reads. The distance approaches, the analysis teaches, shows, and everything builds an emotional report of the memory. Universal, collective history, through tiny history, not to be forgotten.
We wish to say thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable content
Annie Ernaux, Nobel Prize 2022: introduction to the author of ‘El Lugar’ – Las Furias Magazine – Cultural and Feminist Magazine