Getting Lost is the diary kept by Annie Ernaux during the year and a half she had a secret love affair with a younger, married man, an attache to the Soviet embassy in Paris. Her novel, Simple Passion, was based on this affair, but here her writing is immediate and unfiltered. In these diaries it is 1989 and Annie is divorced with two grown sons, living in the suburbs of Paris and nearing fifty. Her lover escapes the city to see her there and Ernaux seems to survive only in expectation of these encounters. She cannot write, she trudges distractedly through her various other commitments in the world, she awaits his next call; she lives merely to feel desire and for the next rendezvous. When he is gone and the moment of desire has faded, she feels that she is a step closer to death. Lauded for her spare prose, Ernaux here removes all artifice, her writing pared down to its most naked and vulnerable. Translated brilliantly for the first time by Alison L. Strayer, Getting Lost is a haunting record of a woman in the grips of love, desire and despair.
In her spare, stark style, Annie Ernaux documents the desires and indignities of a human heart ensnared in an all-consuming passion. Blurring the line between fact and fiction, she attempts to plot the emotional and physical course of her two-year relationship with a married man where every word, event, and person either provides a connection with her beloved or is subject to her cold indifference. With courage and exactitude, Ernaux seeks the truth behind an existence lived, for a time, entirely for someone else.
In 1963, Annie Ernaux, 23 and unattached, realizes she is pregnant. Shame arises in her like a plague: understanding that her pregnancy will mark her and her family as social failures, she knows she cannot keep that child. This is the story, written forty years later, of a trauma Ernaux never overcame. In a France where abortion was illegal, she attempted, in vain, to self-administer the abortion with a knitting needle. Fearful and desperate, she finally located an abortionist, and ends up in a hospital emergency ward where she nearly dies. In Happening, Ernaux sifts through her memories and her journal entries dating from those days. Clearly, cleanly, she gleans the meanings of her experience.
Annie Ernaux’s father died exactly two months after she passed her exams for a teaching certificate. Barely educated and valued since childhood strictly for his labour, 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 in A Man’s Place 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.