Annie Ernaux: An Introduction to the Writer and Her Audience

Annie Ernaux: An Introduction to the Writer and Her Audience

Annie Ernaux: An Introduction to the Writer and Her Audience

Annie Ernaux: An Introduction to the Writer and Her Audience

Synopsis

The award-winning novels of Annie Ernaux are controversial, innovative, and address the topical issues of gender and social class. Surprisingly, there has been no major study of her work, despite the fact that it is increasingly taught and has been widely translated. This book fills that gap by presenting Ernaux's work through a range of readings: those of the author herself, those of academics, of reviewers and of 'ordinary' readers. Ernaux's own curiosity about the relationship between writing and the reality she is describing leads her to adopt a self-reflective approach to the narration of her life experience. This stimulating introduction to her work reflects both on the relationship between writing and identity in general terms, and specifically on the process of writing literary criticism. In the final chapter the impersonal register of academic writing is extended by a more personal dialogue with Ernaux's texts. What emerges is a new critical method that explores the multiple relationships between readers and texts.The first work in English on Annie Ernaux, this book goes far beyond traditional analyses to address the fundamental question of critical writing and to present a new methodology for the study of literary texts. It is thus essential reading for those interested in French literature, critical theory, gender and cultural studies.

Excerpt

In France Annie Ernaux's popularity and success are rarely disputed; within weeks of its publication in January 1997 Ernaux's La Honte was near the top of the bestseller lists in magazines and newspapers as diverse as Elle, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Point, L'Express and Aujourd'hui Le Parisien. By February Marie-Franyyoise Leclyyre in Le Point spoke of the book's sales as an astonishing result; 68,000 copies had been sold by April 1997 (Leclyyre, 1997, p. 94; Gallimard, unpublished summary sheet, April 1997). The sales figures for some of the earlier works are even more striking: to date 459,179 copies of La Place have been sold in France, whilst the figure for Passion simple is 274,014 copies. La Place and Passion simple have so far been translated into sixteen and fourteen languages respectively (Gallimard, April 1997). The significance of these statistics is reinforced by the fact that, particularly since 1984, each of Ernaux's publications has been followed by invitations to appear on radio and TV, including the prestigious television discussion programme Bouillon de Culture. However, despite this success, and the award of the Prix Renaudot for La Place in 1984, Ernaux's literary status in France is controversial, and she has received more academic attention outside France, particularly in Britain, Canada and America. In America, Ernaux has also acquired a following among the general reading public: she was interviewed by Publishers Weekly in December 1996, and to date six of the nine texts are available in translation in the United States. In Britain and Ireland, although translations of three of the texts are available, Ernaux is not widely known outside university French departments.

This book aims to provide a critical discussion of Ernaux's writing for existing readerships, particularly academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students in university French departments, and students and teachers of French in schools. I also aim to introduce Ernaux's works to a wider English-speaking public than they have so far reached, and to provide an introduction to Ernaux's work for the general reader. The first part of the book focuses on the nine texts Ernaux has published to date. In chapter 1 I provide a chronological account of Ernaux's development as a writer, indicating the broad variations in narrative structure, language and to . . .

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