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Things Seen

Overview


“Annie Ernaux’s work,” wrote Richard Bernstein in the New York Times, “represents a severely pared-down Proustianism, a testament to the persistent, haunting and melancholy quality of memory.” In the New York Times Book Review, Kathryn Harrison concurred: “Keen language and unwavering focus allow her to penetrate deep, to reveal pulses of love, desire, remorse.”
 
In this “journal” Ernaux turns her penetrating focus on those points in ...
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Overview


“Annie Ernaux’s work,” wrote Richard Bernstein in the New York Times, “represents a severely pared-down Proustianism, a testament to the persistent, haunting and melancholy quality of memory.” In the New York Times Book Review, Kathryn Harrison concurred: “Keen language and unwavering focus allow her to penetrate deep, to reveal pulses of love, desire, remorse.”
 
In this “journal” Ernaux turns her penetrating focus on those points in life where the everyday and the extraordinary intersect, where “things seen” reflect a private life meeting the larger world. From the war crimes tribunal in Bosnia to social issues such as poverty and AIDS; from the state of Iraq to the world’s contrasting reactions to Princess Diana’s death and the starkly brutal political murders that occurred at the same time; from a tear-gas attack on the subway to minute interactions with a clerk in a store: Ernaux’s thought-provoking observations map the world’s fleeting and lasting impressions on the shape of inner life.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
How do you feel about reading another person's diary? Journaling cannot be dismissed as mere solipsism, particularly with a writer as focused and politically committed as French memoirist Ernaux. This work covers April 1993 through November 1999. Her anecdotal, passing entries can be as plainly descriptive as a shopping list or as ponderous as a philosophical tract—"either writing is outside morality, or it deals continually with morality." What makes her work cogent is the tension between the distant, foreign wars we ignore and the pedestrian observations about the grocery store checkout line. Ernaux's novels (Les Années) and memoirs (La Place) employ a similar, unflinching transcription: "Things seen in the outside world require everything; most works of art, nothing." This is a quick book and entries rarely go over a page long, but the work is not slight or easily dismissed. VERDICT Readers unafraid of mixing the personal and political, as in the works of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, will glean much here. And memoir readers of a more traditional bent may look at the world quite differently after savoring this book.—Travis Fristoe, Alachua Cty. Lib. Dist., FL
Alison McCulloch
This slim, hard-to-categorize book by the French writer Ernaux is made up of a series of observations of the quotidian: people on trains, in supermarkets, at the hairdresser; people panhandling in subway cars…Spanning the years 1993 to 1999 and written like diary entries, the vignettes, though grim in their piercing observations, are for the same reason both beautiful and powerful.
—The New York Times
Le Devoir

La Vie extérieure bears witness to the desire, the need to capture life, even the insignificant. It attests to the memory that we have of others, including strangers, and in whom Annie Ernaux searches for and recognizes herself. La Vie extérieure is also a book of assessment and indignation. The writer reacts to human distress, war, poverty, and to the arrogance of power.”—Johanne Jarry, Le Devoir (Montreal)
World Literature Today
"Annie Ernaux somehow succeeds in expressing the personal, whether it be . . . a description of her terror during a tear-gas attack in the subway, or her references to the importance of the role of writing in her own life. . . . It successfully compels the reader to reflect critically on our current era."

-E. Nicole Meyer, World Literature Today

Los Angeles Times Discoveries
"Annie Ernaux was blogging about her daily life long before the blog was invented. If anyone can raise it to an art form, she can. . . . This is a beautiful translation."

— Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Discoveries

ForeWord Reviews
Like a poet, Ernaux writes with dense, image-packed language; like a novelist, she seeks compelling characters to appear and disappear throughout her text.—Rachel Mennies, ForeWord Reviews

— Rachel Mennies

Los Angeles Times
Annie Ernaux was blogging about her daily life long before the blog was invented. If anyone can raise it to an art form, she can. . . . This is a beautiful translation.—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Discoveries

— Susan Salter Reynolds

New York Times Book Review
Beautiful and powerful.—Alison McCulloch, New York Times Book Review

— Alison McCulloch

Los Angeles Times - Susan Salter Reynolds

"Annie Ernaux was blogging about her daily life long before the blog was invented. If anyone can raise it to an art form, she can. . . . This is a beautiful translation."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Discoveries
New York Times Book Review - Alison McCulloch

"Beautiful and powerful."—Alison McCulloch, New York Times Book Review
ForeWord Reviews - Rachel Mennies

"Like a poet, Ernaux writes with dense, image-packed language; like a novelist, she seeks compelling characters to appear and disappear throughout her text."—Rachel Mennies, ForeWord Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803228153
  • Publisher: UNP - Bison Books
  • Publication date: 3/1/2010
  • Series: French Voices Series
  • Pages: 106
  • Sales rank: 989,531
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Annie Ernaux was born in 1940 in Lillebonne, France. Her autobiographical narrative, La Place,won the Prix Renaudot, and her books, A Woman’s Story and A Man’s Place, were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Ernaux’s most recent novel, Les Années, is widely considered one of her greatest works. Jonathan Kaplansky has translated numerous works, including Hélène Dorion's novel Days of Sand and Hélène Rioux's novel Wednesday Night at the End of the World. Brian Evenson is a professor and director of the Literary Arts Program at Brown University. He is the author of Altmann’s Tongue (available in a Bison Books edition) and, most recently, Last Days and Fugue State.
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