Annie Ernaux's father died exactly two months after she passed her practical examination for a teaching certificate. Barely educated and valued since childhood strictly for his labor, Ernaux's father had grown into a hard, practical man who showed his family little affection. Narrating his slow ascent towards material comfort, Ernaux's cold observation reveals the shame that haunted her father throughout his life. She scrutinizes the importance he attributed to manners and language that came so unnaturally to him...
Annie Ernaux's father died exactly two months after she passed her practical examination for a teaching certificate. Barely educated and valued since childhood strictly for his labor, Ernaux's father had grown into a hard, practical man who showed his family little affection. Narrating his slow ascent towards material comfort, Ernaux's cold observation reveals the shame that haunted her father throughout his life. She scrutinizes the importance he attributed to manners and language that came so unnaturally to him as he struggled to provide for his family with a grocery store and cafe in rural France. Over the course of the book, Ernaux grows up to become the uncompromising observer now familiar to the world, while her father matures into old age with a staid appreciation for life as it is and for a daughter he cautiously, even reluctantly admires. A Man's Place is the companion book to her critically acclaimed memoir about her mother, A Woman's Story.
``May I venture an explanation: writing is the ultimate recourse for those who have betrayed,'' says Jean Genet in the epigraph to Ernaux's ``autobiographical narrative'' about her relationship with her father. The betrayer is Ernaux herself, a cultivated intellectual whose bitter resentment towards her petit bourgeois parents first appeared in her novel Cleaned Out . The betrayed, of course, are her parents, without whose efforts the disparity in stations would not have existed. Although not as painfully immediate as Ernaux's depiction of her mother in A Woman's Story , this is nonetheless an affecting portrait of a man whose own peasant upbringing typified the adage that a child should never be better educated than his parents. Ernaux uses, as she says, ``no lyrical reminiscences, no triumphant displays of irony,'' but rather a dispassionate narrative to describe her father's climb to the relative prosperity of a shopkeeper in a small Norman town, and his fretful vigilance lest his manners, language, posture--or daughter--betray his uneasy social position. (Apr . )
A companion to A Woman's Story LJ 4/1/91, the biographical novel of Ernaux's mother, this work is a narrative of the life and death of her father. It is a story of a working-class man who believed that self-denial, hard work, and careful speech would gain him entrance into the middle class where good manners, well-spoken words, and respectability reigned. Ernaux tells the story without sentimentality, conveying the alienation and pain of the humiliating limitations of class. Possessing the honesty, perceptiveness, and universality in A Woman's Story and Cleaned Out LJ 12/90, this book will make readers glad that Ernaux was able to unravel her suppressed memories, no longer surrendering to a world ``where memories of a lowly existence are seen as a sign of bad taste.'' For public libraries.-- Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
An austere but poignant account from acclaimed French writer Ernaux of those ties that bind as well as separate fathers from daughters, in this companion volume to last year's A Woman's Story. Ernaux expands on personal experience to reflect universal themes of generational and class alienation, of grief at a parent's loss, and of the evanescence of memory, in what she has called an "autobiographical narrative." As she describes her father's life, she comes to accept his recent death and his "legacy with which I had to part when I entered the educated, bourgeois world." Her father, son of Normandy farmhands, managed to struggle up from cowherd—the lowest rung in society—to become a tenuous member of the working class. With his wife he ran a small cafe and grocery store, an increasingly marginal business as supermarkets moved in but viable enough to send his only daughter to a private school. It was a life permeated from the beginning with fear of poverty and shaped by stark prescriptions: "The only way to escape one's parents' poverty was not to impregnate a woman"; "You don't have ideas when you are in trade"; "never lay oneself open to criticism—for what are people going to say?" Her father is a man who's remembered for childhood outings to the circus and beach, but also a figure, a country man at heart, from whom she grew irrevocably away. "Books and music are all right for you. I don't need them to live," he told her—yet at the end his "greatest satisfaction, possibly even the raison d`etre of his existence, was the fact that I belonged to the world which had scorned him." An unsentimental portrait of a man loved as a parent, admired as an individual but,because of habits and education, heartbreakingly apart. Moving and memorable.
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.