The Books Briefing: Annie Ernaux

The Books Briefing: Annie Ernaux


That is an version of the revamped Books Briefing, our editors’ weekly information to the very best in books. Join it right here.

When the French writer Annie Ernaux received the Nobel Prize final fall, it was for her extremely private books—autobiographical narratives by which she locations herself on an working desk and likewise acts because the surgeon, splaying out her ideas and anxieties and wishes in meticulous, susceptible element. However little did the English-reading public know that she was additionally fascinated about … supermarkets.

First, listed below are 4 new tales from The Atlantic’s e book part:

I noticed Annie Ernaux in New York Metropolis within the days after her Nobel win. She had been scheduled to talk at a French bookstore on the Higher East Aspect; the organizers instructed me that only some dozen folks had signed up for the occasion earlier than the prize was introduced. Once I received there, the road was across the nook. Ernaux regarded just a little shocked all night. However her whole self-possession was additionally evident. That is an writer whose bravery extends to sometimes publishing what are literally simply her diaries. She wrote what we now name “autofiction” earlier than it was a factor. On the subway journey house, I began and completed L’Événement (“Occurring”), the story of an unlawful abortion she had within the early Nineteen Sixties—the specifics are insufferable, however she doesn’t flinch. “Each time I write, I really feel like there was no e book like this earlier than,” she instructed that viewers final October. And listening to her, you possibly can imagine it.

This originality actually applies to Take a look at the Lights, My Love, her most up-to-date e book to be translated into English, out final month (it was printed in French in 2014). J. Howard Rosier wrote about it for us this week. Ernaux right here turns outward, scrutinizing the seemingly trivial big-box retailer—particularly her native Auchan, a mixed grocery store and division retailer—and recording every of her visits over the course of almost a 12 months. It’s a piece of homespun sociology that, as Rosier places it, turns into an “indictment of contemporary consumerism and the way in which it robs the person of their autonomy.” The large-box retailer, Ernaux observes, packing containers you in: You simply need to choose up some cheese or some cereal, but it surely stratifies you by class, reduces you to the objects in your procuring listing, robs you of freedom.

At first look, it appears an uncommon e book for Ernaux—for one factor, not like in a lot of her work, there’s no intercourse, not that heightened “intimacy” that the novelist Nellie Herman described in an essay for us about her 12 months of obsessive Ernaux studying. However as in all the things she writes, Ernaux is utilizing herself as a check case for analyzing bigger societal forces, making herself completely open within the course of. Right here, the openness is about the way it feels for her and others to push a cart down a brightly lit aisle of cured meat, conscious of what you possibly can or can’t afford to purchase, of what sits in different folks’s carts. That very same rawness and receptivity is at all times there.

Supermarket shelves
Brian Ulrich / Robert Koch Gallery

The Indignity of Grocery Purchasing

What to Learn
A Home for Mr. Biswas, by V. S. Naipaul

This epic novel by Naipaul, a Nobel laureate, revolves round one man’s lifelong seek for a home to name his personal. Mohun Biswas, born to a Hindu Indian household in Twentieth-century Trinidad, grows up relocating from one relative’s place to a different. After marrying a girl he by no means meant to suggest to, he strikes into a big, communal fortress owned by his new, overbearing in-laws. The e book’s pages are full of contentious household drama, however the objects he and his spouse accumulate—the “hatrack with the futile glass and damaged hooks” and their beloved picket secure that “had been awkward to varnish”—are handled lovingly, regardless of their flaws. The irony continues even after Mr. Biswas accomplishes his dream of proudly owning a home, which has been on his thoughts for the reason that very starting of the e book; Naipaul writes that the builder “appeared to have forgotten the necessity for a staircase to hyperlink each flooring, and what he had offered had the looks of an afterthought.” However the identical tenderness applies to the home as to Mr. Biswas’s furnishings: His home will not be excellent, but it surely’s at the very least his.  — Yurina Yoshikawa

From our listing: Seven books about how houses form our lives

Out This Week

📚 August Blue, by Deborah Levy

📚 Nations of Origin, by Javier Fuentes

Your Weekend Learn
An illustration of a woman
Illustration By Erik Carter / The Atlantic. Supply: Getty.

The Defining Emotion of Fashionable Life

Through the pandemic, New York misplaced infinitely greater than ordinary: companies, sure, beloved mainstays of metropolis life, but additionally so many individuals. Loss was omnipresent. You may sense it within the sounds of the town: Ambulance sirens had been such an everyday characteristic that the mockingbirds in my previous neighborhood began imitating their whine. Virtually as unnerving was the large quantity of people that merely disappeared in a single day—a Rapture-like occasion that affected everybody with entry to homes upstate. Straub didn’t suppose she was writing a pandemic novel. However when she held the completed e book in her arms, she might see extra clearly what her unconscious had been doing. This Time Tomorrow is a doc of the totally different textures of our widespread grief.

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