Monday, June 27, 2011


I had the feeling that I was supposed to remember that French book I read some time ago when I wrote my last post. Today, a couple of friends came over and we made an apple pie. One girl told us about how her grandmother had been somewhat ahead of her time when she was young, being already engaged to another man when she met her husband and all, and therefore naturally considered a somewhat loose woman. My friend exclaimed "I wish someone would think of me as a hussy" (makes complete sense in our little group, and in this country), and I all of a sudden remembered what book it was. In the book, the main character is afraid of being perceived as a slut if she has more than one boyfriend. The story probably takes place around the same time as when my friend's mother was young, not as far back as her grandmother.

I really can't believe I actually forgot I read this book, since the author is one of my favorites.


Anyway, this book is just as good as all the other Ernaux books I have read. I could have underlined half of it to use as quotes. It's really a quite sad story. The narrator tells the story of her life, of how she started out as an ambitious little girl who did very well in school and who had great hopes for the future. She came from an unusual family where the mother worked in a café and the father did all the cooking at home, so she never learned how to be a good wife. Then as she grows older, her prospects grow poorer and poorer, and all of a sudden she has a husband, who at first supports her a great deal and seems to be very much in favor of the liberation of women. But then he becomes more and more important, and she has to step down. She is but a woman, after all. All of a sudden there's a baby, and the narrator has no life anymore. All she sees of the town she lives in is the sidewalks where she pushes the baby's trolley. She lives, briefly, when the child is asleep. And when he comes home, he is tired from work, and needs other distractions outside of the home (perhaps just once a week, at first, then more and more often). He cannot be expected to take care of the baby then, so she is stuck with it. More or less, this is the story of how joy and thirst for life are slowly quenched by traditional family life, and how the narrator ends up being one of many frozen women.

I love quotes, so naturally, I'm going to fill this post with a couple of them. How many cannot recognize this one, for example? Puis l'enthousiasme s'effiloche, je n'ai pas de vocation, découverte consternante. You know how everything seemed so simple when you were a kid, how you were so certain that when you grew up you would just magically end up having a job that you liked? How you would just magically know what to do with your life? Mmm. Right.

A lot of the book is about how she feels unjustly treated by society. How she can't feel that there is something different between herself and the boys that would somehow make them superior.

Ne pas vexer les garçons, tu ne sais donc pas ? Ce que je ne sais pas, c'est cacher à un garçon qu'il me plaît. Les hommes aiment choisir, ma vieille. Que m'importe, moi aussi j'aime choisir, je ne comprends toujours pas la différence. La bourde, l'inversion des rôles, tout de suite taxée des fille facile, dans la poche. Il n'existe pas de garçon facile.

And this I absolutely love. Même silence en histoire, aucune voix mâle, de celles qui braillent dans le couloir, n'interrompt le soliloque triomphant de Froinu, ça ne les gêne pas plus que les filles d'être traités en demeurés par le prof. A moins qu'ils n'aient peur de se faire remarquer, examen first. Pour le conformisme et la passivité, l'égalité des sexes était parfaite à la fac. Mais je découvrais qu'il existe des études pour femmes et des études pour hommes, « la littérature, les langues, rien que des nanas », j'entends ce mot pour la première fois aussi. « pour un homme il vaut mieux faire des sciences », c'est une fille qui me l'assure. Je ne voyais pas pourquoi, toujours le même mal fou à admettre les différences que je ne sentais pas. J'en entendais des phrases étonnantes, « la création littéraire ressemble à une éjaculation », prof de lettres, cours sur Péguy, « tous les critiques sont des impuissants », assistant de philo, l'écriture cent fois ramenée à l'activité du pénis, mais je n'y attachais pas d'importance, je traduisais, ou plutôt ça m'arrivait tout traduit, la création littéraire était orgasme sans distinction mâle ou femelle et quand je lisais Éluard, « moi je vais vers la vie, j'ai l'apparence d'homme » c'est à moi que je pensais.

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