Annie Ernaux: The Return to Origins (Liverpool University by Siobhan McIlvanney

By Siobhan McIlvanney

During this first severe research in English to concentration completely on Annie Ernaux’s writing trajectory, Siobh?n McIlvanney offers a stimulating and demanding research of Ernaux’s person texts. Following a largely feminist hermeneutic, this learn engages in a sequence of provocative shut readings of Ernaux’s works in a circulate to spotlight the contradictions and nuances in her writing, and to illustrate the highbrow intricacies of her literary undertaking. through so doing, it seeks to introduce new readers to Ernaux’s works, whereas enticing on much less typical terrain these already acquainted with her writing.

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32 The narrator’s appropriation of bourgeois values is less notable in Ce qu’ils disent ou rien than in Les Armoires vides due to both the minor role played by education in the work and the greater financial security of Anne’s parents. Indeed, when compared to the framing works of the trilogy, the reader is obliged to take up a more ‘proactive’ role when interpreting the content of Ce qu’ils disent ou rien. While the narrator in La Femme gelée is a wife and mother when she relates her retrospective account and the narrator in Les Armoires vides has left home to attend university, their counterpart in Ce qu’ils disent ou rien has only recently experienced the events she describes: she has neither the reflective nor the geographical distance to understand, and make explicit, their significance.

It is perhaps Denise’s abortion – the catalyst to her quasi streamof-consciousness narrative – which provides the clearest illustration of the linguistic influences to which she is subject. Her description of abortion can be seen to reflect the language of the text in microcosm, in that it is characterised by an unusually lyrical combination of working- and middle-class elements. Her perception of sexuality as a passport to the bourgeoisie, yet instinctive association of its more negative effects – of which her abortion is the nadir – with her working-class origins results in a hybrid linguistic representation of her suffering.

The taboo status of female sexuality and the social sanctions accompanying its transgression are present from the narrator’s earliest childhood in the form of overheard conversations in her mother’s shop (one of which prefigures the recent situation of the older narrator, ‘“Elle n’a pas vu depuis deux mois”’ [LAV, p. 29]). The sexual conduct of local women is under constant surveillance, as reputations are destroyed in the mini-courtroom of the épicerie with her mother as presiding moral magistrate, a role analogous to that of the priest at confession.

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