Le Jeune Homme by Annie Ernaux
Over the course of her prestigious work, Ernaux managed to capture life in her most elusive of expressions – from love abduction to the shame of origins passing by self-dispossession, jealousy – with a force of evocation, sincerity, and unmatched bravery. The release of the book Les Années marked a turning point in her work. Since, the writer is more concerned in writing about what happened in the past, than describing the present moment.
In Le Jeune Homme, Ernaux goes back to a love story lived by a young man 30 years her junior, as she just started to write Happening (Seven Stories Press, trans by Tanya Leslie) L’événement. Like in Les Années, and Mémoires de Fille, this past is resurrected with no nostalgia, but with all the force of the present moment in her sensuality, her emotional and affectionate charge.
Far from her clichés of the good old days, the author relives a disturbing moment. Not from a moral perspective, but disturbing in the perspective of dynamics it implies. Since this young lover, in which she can’t stop envying the beauty, the youth, the life before him, the writer doesn’t hesitate to dominate, manipulate at all the ascending which is bestowed in her status of a famous writer, her age and her wealth.
But it’s not essential, Le Jeune Homme, unveils to us a change in report with time in writing.
“La principale raison que j’avais de continuer cette histoire, c’est que celle-ci d’une certaine manière, avait déjà eu lieu, que j’en étais le personnage de fiction (). De plus en plus, il me semblait que je pourrais entasser des images, des expériences, des années, sans plus rien ressortir d’autre que la répétition elle-même. J’avais l’impression d’être éternelle et morte à la fois.”
“The main reason that I was continuing this story, it’s that it was written in such a way, that it already happened, and that I was a fictional character. More and more, it seems that I could stack images, experiences, years, left other than repetition itself. I had the impression of being eternal and dead at the same time”
Le Jeune Homme, by Annie Ernaux, Gallimard.
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Staff pick translated by Victor Grandet