Annie Ernaux: The Return to Origins

Annie Ernaux: The Return to Origins

Annie Ernaux: The Return to Origins

Annie Ernaux: The Return to Origins

Excerpt

Annie Ernaux is one of the most commercially successful writers in France today. Her works appear repeatedly on bestseller lists, have been translated into more than fifteen languages, and she is a familiar figure on literary arts programmes in France, such as Bouillon de culture and its predecessor, Apostrophes. Ernaux is also relatively wellknown in Anglophone circles, due to the popularity of her texts on British school and university syllabi and to her regular visits to Britain in order to discuss her writing with students and academics. While Ernaux's writing clearly strikes a chord with general readers, who, like herself, are ‘transfuge[s] de classe’, her success with an Anglophone readership may also be attributable to similarities between her confessional, autobiographical accounts of female experience written in the first person and the realist mode of feminist writing epitomised by American writers such as Marilyn French during the 1970s, a form of feminist Bildungsroman which continues to characterise much AngloAmerican women's writing. In the manner of Christiane Rochefort and Marie Cardinal, Ernaux provides a predominantly ‘existential’ or materialist analysis of women's social situation, as opposed to the more ‘essentialist’ or differentialist branch of contemporary French women's writing frequently referred to under the umbrella term of écriture féminine, a writing which typically focuses on linguistic or psychoanalytic concerns, on the textual rather than the contextual.

Despite Ernaux's consistent popularity with both Francophone and Anglophone readers, her deceptively straightforward portrayal of ordinary, everyday ‘reality’ has resulted in her writing being considered less theoretically challenging, and consequently less fashionable – particularly in French academic circles – than that produced by the ‘holy . . .

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