Where to start reading Annie Ernaux?
The French writer Annie Ernaux has been awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in literature. This is an opportunity for every one of us to read her best books. Annie Ernaux has written more than 20 books and has received a dozen distinctions, including the Renaudot Prize in 1984 for the novel La Place, le Prix de la Langue Française in 2008 for the entirety of her oeuvre and the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize in 2017. Through the books of Annie Ernaux, you will immerse yourself in the history of French society in the 20th century.
La Place (1984)
In this novel Annie Ernaux explores a true story, she reveals to the readers the life of her father. Throughout the book, she describes the society in Normandy at the start of the 20th century. She dives into the world of her parents, her grandparents, the rural community, and the agricultural society where she lived. She discusses the small business that her parents are proud to run and which will allow them to occupy a central place in the life of the Norman village. Annie Ernaux tells us how this silent father did everything to ensure that his daughter receives an education and how she was able to become a woman of letters. She brings to life all these people through numerous outdated expressions. It is the memory of an era portrayed through her father’s life, without artifice. You can find a copy of La Place by clicking here.
Les années (2008)
This post-war chronicle outlines the evolution of society through the eyes of the author. Annie Ernaux reminds us of the pieces of music, the titles of books, as well as the advertising slogans from the 1940s to the 2000s. It is an autobiographical novel but the author isn’t the center of the book. Instead, the book highlights are around the evolving society. The author uses photography as a catalyst. “She does not judge, she goes through things“. Les années is a sociological novel that leaves no one indifferent. Read les années to learn more.
Une femme (1988)
In this brief story, Annie Ernaux deals with the disappearance of her mother. This unique situation can relate to many of us. It’s when we lose the person who gave us birth. It won’t happen a second time. Annie Ernaux took 10 months to write Une femme, a 100-page story. Every word is weighed. Find Une femme by clicking here.
In this novel, Annie Erneaux relates the abortion she had to undergo, long before the law of January 19, 1975. Her “event” dates from 1963, and she carried it within her for more than thirty years, until she writes this book. In 1963, she was appreciated because she was a student in Letters. She, therefore, detaches herself from the proletarian class of her parents. However, in people’s eyes, this new state of a pregnant girl will bring her directly back to the social condition of her parents. She meticulously reconstructs the episodes thanks to her notes from the time and adding the perspective taken until 1999. On this link, you will find a copy of l’évènement.
La femme gelée (1981)
La femme gelée is Annie’s third novel, published in 1981. She describes both in a personal and universal way each loss of freedom of the woman who must stay at home while the husband works. Annie Ernaux was born in a counter-the-flow parental model: her mother pushed her to study to find her freedom, her father helped with housework, and she ended up doing brilliant studies. She got married, but quickly realized she had trapped herself and moved away from her ideal of gender equality. Flat writing puts a profitable distance to the identification and universality of his testimony. Find a copy of la femme gelée by clicking here.
It’s a nice list to start reading the best of Annie Ernaux. And here’s the list of all Annie Enraux books in order.