Wow. This is both is pretty amazing. It’s called The Years, and it’s presented as a kind of anti-narrative like an annals or other time keeping, but not storytelling history format. It’s an anti-memoir at times, and while there’s no “plot” pre se, there’s a implied plot throughout via a kind of impression or cut out, clearly articulated of where the plot would go and what shape it would take.
This is a memoir told through many declarative statements about both a singular woman, but also a woman of a type. This woman is French, white, born during the war, growing up post-war. This woman goes to school, goes to university, have love affairs, gets married, has kids, thinks about Charles de Gaulle a lot, and holds herself up to a kind of intellectual faux leftist middle class existence.
The book is beautifully rendered of a life, while also resisting conventional storytelling throughout. Almost anyone could tell this story about their life if they were capable, and by so would not only telling their own story but the story of the world around them as it happens. This is both the most consequential time period in the history of the 20th century, while simultaneously nothing happens. This is post war, and since WWII is our last war-war, it’s the end of wars (so long as you’re in the West or America). This is a narration of the world after the death of the nation-state and after the rise of the corporation in its stead.
“They will all vanish at the same time, like the millions of images that lay behind the foreheads of the grandparents, dead for half a century, and of the parents, also dead. Images in which we appeared as a little girl in the midst of beings who died before we were born, just as in our own memories our small children are there next to our parents and schoolmates. And one day we’ll appear in our children’s memories, among their grandchildren and people not yet born. Like sexual desire, memory never stops. It pairs the dead with the living, real with imaginary beings, dreams with history.”
“at every moment in time, next to the things it seems natural to do and say, and next to the ones we’re told to think—no less by books or ads in the métro than by funny stories—are other things that society hushes up without knowing it is doing so. thus it condemns to lonely suffering all the people who feel but cannot name these things. then the silence breaks, little by little, or suddenly one day, and words burst forth, recognized at last, while underneath other silences start to form.”