A Girl's Story

Annie Ernaux

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Annie Ernaux is one of France's most original literary voices, and a favourite contemporary writer of mine. With all of her books, her project has been to take seriously the figure, and the formation, of the girl  to spend time looking at what goes into the making of her mind, her memory, her desire. And then to write towards this girl who is both "I" and "she." (In A Girl's Story, Ernaux refers to her as "the girl of '58.") In Ernaux's writing, autobiography is constantly being disrupted and deconstructed by socio-cultural factors, because Ernaux is most interested in how history and class coincide to form the "her." These pages hold a writerly gaze that is blurred at once by distance and proximity. It's a (re)vision of memory, like a forgotten photograph that is not seen, but read. CF

 In A Girl’s Story, Annie Ernaux revisits the season fifty years earlier when she found herself overpowered by another’s will and desire. In the summer of 1958, eighteen-year-old Ernaux submits her will to a man’s, and then he moves on, leaving her without a “master,” bereft. Now, fifty years later, she realizes she can obliterate the intervening years and return to consider this young woman that she wanted to forget completely. And to discover that here, submerged in shame, humiliation, and betrayal, but also in self-discovery and self-reliance, lies the origin of her writing life.