Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Review: A Girl's Story, by Annie Ernaux


A Girl's Story, by Annie Ernaux. Seven Stories Press, 2020. Translated from the French by Alison L. Strayer.

A Girl's Story is a memoir about Ernaux's late teen years including her first sexual experience and its fallout. It's a dense and moving piece, made more so by the device of telling her story as though it's happening to someone else, as if the "girl of '58" is someone else. Ernaux refers to this self as "her" and "she" rarely breaking into the first person except to narrate her own efforts to tell the story of her younger self. The effect of this is profound alienation.

I found myself underlining so many passages. The last page of my copy is a list of page numbers. At the beginning she talks about what is was like for her when it was over, this romance:

"Everything you do is for the Master you have secretly chosen for yourself. But as you work to improve your self-worth, imperceptibly, inexorably, you leave him behind. You realize where folly has taken you, and never want to see him again. You swear to forget the whole thing and speak of it to no one."

But this is impossible as evinced by the existence of this book. "Both these periods of time are at once lived and imagined." An important line for the memoirist.

I loved this book deeply. I want to find a French copy so I can re-read it and get the quotes I liked in the original, not that I'm sure the translator hasn't done a wonderful job but still. Since I can read it in the original I really want to. I have so much to say about this but I don't feel like this is the right place for those thoughts though they may end up somewhere else.

Anyway another fine entry in Ernaux's piecemeal autofictional series.

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

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