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The Palimpsest Sensation

Joanna Biggs: Annie Ernaux’s Gaze, 21 October 2021

by Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie.
Fitzcarraldo, 74 pp., £8.99, September, 978 1 913097 68 4
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... feeling, but to history, we are two dates engraved in stone, if we’re lucky.It was the death of Annie Ernaux’s father that prompted her to write memoir (her previous three books had been novels), as if the assumptions and structures of fiction crumbled when she wanted to recuperate someone she loved from the mass of history. But writing about her ...

Men are just boys

Marina Warner: Boys’ Play, 6 May 2021

No Boys Play Here: A Story of Shakespeare and My Family’s Missing Men 
by Sally Bayley.
William Collins, 253 pp., £14.99, January, 978 0 00 831888 8
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... when compared to the portraiture methods of, say, Philip Roth (in his Zuckerman novels) or Annie Ernaux, who, in The Years, describes the life of a woman of her generation as if she were a concave mirror, able to capture, from the very edge of vision, the lives of all her contemporaries thronging round her. ...

The People of the Village

Tash Aw: ‘The End of Eddy’, 16 February 2017

The End of Eddy 
by Edouard Louis, translated by Michael Lucey.
Harvill Secker, 192 pp., £12.99, February 2017, 978 1 84655 900 6
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Histoire de la violence 
by Edouard Louis.
Editions du Seuil, 230 pp., £22, January 2016, 978 2 7578 6481 4
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... of his new identity as class renegade appears to continue the tradition of French writers like Annie Ernaux, in her trio of slim autobiographical novels, and, especially, Didier Eribon (to whom The End of Eddy is dedicated), whose influential memoir Retour à Reims involves a now celebrated writer revisiting the tough working-class childhood in which ...

I want it, but not yet

Clair Wills: ‘Checkout 19’, 12 August 2021

Checkout 19 
by Claire-Louise Bennett.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 78733 354 3
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... first chapter, in which Bennett learns how not to spoil books by not reading them, is taken from Annie Ernaux’s A Girl’s Story: ‘One cannot see the future of something learned.’ The rangy first-person plural of Bennett’s opening (‘we could wonder couldn’t we’ … leading to that snagging ‘ourself’) could put us in mind of the ...

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