Happening

Happening

by Annie Ernaux
     
 

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In 1963, Annie Ernaux, 23 and unattached, realizes she is pregnant. Shame arises in her like a plague: Understanding that her pregnancy will mark her and her family as social failures, she knows she cannot keep that child.
This is the story, written forty years later, of a trauma Ernaux never overcame. In a France where abortion was illegal, she attempted, in vain,…  See more details below

Overview

In 1963, Annie Ernaux, 23 and unattached, realizes she is pregnant. Shame arises in her like a plague: Understanding that her pregnancy will mark her and her family as social failures, she knows she cannot keep that child.
This is the story, written forty years later, of a trauma Ernaux never overcame. In a France where abortion was illegal, she attempted, in vain, to self-administer the abortion with a knitting needle. Fearful and desperate, she finally located an abortionist, and ends up in a hospital emergency ward where she nearly dies.
In Happening, Ernaux sifts through her memories and her journal entries dating from those days. Clearly, cleanly, she gleans the meanings of her experience.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
French novelist and memoirist Ernaux (Shame; A Frozen Woman; etc.) was 23 in 1963 when she discovered she needed an abortion. After an unsuccessful attempt with a knitting needle, she tracked down a backstreet abortionist in Paris. Her three-month-old embryo was finally expelled some days later in the bathroom of her student dorm, the bloody remains flushed down the toilet. Ernaux tells the story of those awful months very simply, with only occasional asides of hindsight. A few well-chosen details "If I Had a Hammer" on the jukebox, the Singing Nun's "Dominique," the sexually predatory Movement men anchor her story in the early '60s, although most of the emotional texture (the body denial, panic, that feeling that "my ass had caught up with me") is disturbingly timeless. Ernaux's preoccupation with "power" over her "text" makes her postmodernism plain, although there's also a wonderfully old-fashioned Frenchness in her world view. Stretched out on the abortionist's table, she sees the scene before her like a still life: Formica table with enamel basis, probe, hairbrush. Ernaux needed to write this history: the making of a written record is the only reason she can find for this otherwise accidental pregnancy and its bloody aftermath. Indeed, readers who lived through the Bad Old Days before abortion was legalized will meet a lot of old demons here, even if a younger generation may find it bafflingly understated. Though not destined for a wide readership, it is an important, resonant work. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609802264
Publisher:
Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
01/04/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Born in 1940, ANNIE ERNAUX grew up in Normandy, studied at Rouen University, and began teaching high school. From 1977 to 2000, she was a professor at the Centre National d’Enseignement par Correspondance. Her books, in particular A Man’s Place and A Woman’s Story, have become contemporary classics in France. She won the prestigious Prix Renaudot for A Man's Place when it was first published in French in 1984. The English edition was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The English edition of A Woman’s Story was a New York Times Notable Book.

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