Starting with yourself to talk about the world. Using the facts that make up us to explore the humanity we relate to. And make writing a gesture essential to life, without which “Things are not finished”, as she writes in the motto of her last text. Through her work on style, structure, tonality, Annie Ernaux has managed to solve a problem akin to squaring the circle: talking about yourself without narcissism, reliving your past without complacency, and upset readers with economic details, physical , sociologically carrying the scent of the past.
“There is no lower truth”believes Annie Ernaux, which has often led her to put herself at risk and consciously expose herself to scandal – especially in The eventwhere she told from her life what a clandestine abortion in the 1960s could be. The placewho talks about his father, social shame and language separation, girl memory† years†
The texts of Annie Ernaux form a literary genre in themselves, on which many useless labels have been attached. As in his last short, dense and beautiful novel, the young man, about two lovers who have been separated for thirty years. He is a student, she is a famous novelist, he would like to have a child from her, she knows they have no future, but these truths do not stand in the way of their love: they are part of it. And they are part of a time that for him is that of erotic discovery and exploration, for her that of a repetition of youth that also takes the form of a memory of death. Here too, without treading the traditional paths of amorous discourse, Annie Ernaux touches us deeply.
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Annie Ernaux is regularly mentioned on the Nobel lists and dislikes sums or mausoleum compilations that seem to close a work during the author’s lifetime. To celebrate her, the Cahiers de L’Herne have therefore prepared a cheerful open number, rich in unpublished texts (excerpts from her diary, letters, interviews), in which numerous writers intervene. We find there above all the intelligence of the author and the extreme individuality of her writing, always aimed at the universal. A truly inclusive writing, in a sense, in a world that isn’t at all.
“If I do not write them, things have not ended, they have only been lived”, we can read in the young man, your latest novel. For you, something is not fully experienced until it is written?
Oh yeah ! When I’m not writing, I feel like things aren’t real and will fade. There is a kind of imperative. Obviously not all realities are affected by the same urgency or necessity, but the ones that endure, as if asking to be written down, are. Sometimes it’s extremely large and complex things, like what I’ve done with years † other times this results in short texts like The place†
Why did you decide to tell the story of Young man only now ?
Simply because it wasn’t finished yet [rires]† It was written for the most part from 1998 to 2000. I did not see the need to continue this text and so I gave up in 2000. It was clearly not written and took the form of disparate pages, but I knew my intent. had at the beginning. It was shortly before the incarceration, when I began to classify my writings, that I was seized: it had to be completed! After interrupting another text I was writing, I wanted to finish this one. At the same time, I reviewed unpublished texts for the Notebooks of the Herne† In short, I wouldn’t have had the desire to finish it had it not been for all this work around the Notebooks.
In Passion simpleYou write about the lover: “He did not choose to appear in this book, but only in my existence. “Don’t you do the same in the young man †
Absolute. I don’t want us to follow [rires]† I really wanted broad anonymity, even if the places remain marked. Rouen has an important role.
We have the impression that this book draws a loop: you find the places you’ve known through the eyes of your loved one, which offers a double look.
This all collides. I studied in Rouen for six years, until 1964. This youth that permeates me makes me feel like I’m living twice. And the second time is never like the first…
You even speak of “fiction” as if, through gestures, you are rewriting something that you have already written…
It’s the whole idea of fiction or even theatre. It’s about playing the part of the girl I used to be.
The role of the scandalous girl that you are of course very happy with!
[Rires] Yes ! She’s always been there.
This time you say you play the part of the bourgeois…
Yes, because there is a difference in age and social status, this “poverty” young man who is attractive: I want to be the one who can give a lot. Everyone knows that giving is also taking. The economic side counts a lot and I even wanted to accentuate it by listing everything, not adding, but restoring order.
When we talk about love, we often forget the economic side. You remember that economy and domination are part of the love affair.
It’s an aspect of dominance that has to do with my age, because I didn’t have any money either. [rires]† This domination makes his life easier, but I also consider the benefits. When he’s not working, he gives me his time: I pay him for that.
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You also say with humor that it is a good…