A Man’s Place
Written in diary entries we find Annie Ernaux’s narrator totally subsumed by an affair with a married man who finds himself in France for some business or government stay of several months. Willing to drop everything in an instant to meet up with him, to make a supply run for cigarettes and whiskey and nuts, willing to wait for days on end to get the smallest of satisfaction, and willing change one’s life around for fear of missing a connection, this book illustrates a particular kind of obsession. I couldn’t make a life or a marriage on it, but if you’ve ever been completely captured in this way, I am not sure I can recommend it (but definitely the book) but it’s an intense and amazing and devastating place to be.
|Now years on after the legalization of abortion in France, Annie Ernaux narrates her own unsanctioned abortion. It’s not as horrifying an experience as it might have been, as she was able to find someone who was as good as their word, but the fraught danger of her experience, the terror and isolation of needing this medical procedure and not being able to obtain it legally, and the paranoia of her experience and of the various people she brings into it is amazing to read. In the US we’re clearly approaching some kind of precipice as it comes to abortion. I don’t know if the same is true in France, but throughout many of Ernaux’s writing, there’s a looming phantom in Jan-Marie Le Pen, so who knows given his daughter has made a surge in years past.
Some stray thoughts. This book is brilliantly harrowing without being apologetic. Abortions are only horrifying when they’re dangerous or unwanted, so to write about them without remorse or couching it in dishonest handwringing is nice.
Men see a pregnant women as inherently sexual and have no qualms about making that known, if they unattached.
There’s a lot of cowards in this book, and only a few heroes.
It feels quite vital.
This book interrogates a scene of violence between Annie Ernaux’s parents that she narrates as “My father tried to kill my mother on Sunday in June” and the spiraling that occurs out from this event both in the memory of it, but also in the attempts to cover up this memory, to conform this memory to a worldview, and to incorporate this memory into one’s own life story.
I Remain in Darkness
This book spends much more time with Annie Ernaux and her mother as her mother is dying from Alzheimer’s disease. The chilling title comes from her mother’s final entry in a journal she was keeping throughout her life.
A journal of outsider experiences at looking at others and the world, more than the interiority (well duh) of the other books.