“Annie Ernaux, the writings of the social and the intimate”

La Croix: How do you welcome the announcement of this Nobel Prize?

Bruno Blanckeman: It is both a feeling of great happiness and also the observation of a fair choice. Which was long awaited and which, at the same time, does justice to a work that unifies the plan of lived realities, whether material, romantic, family, social…

What are the strengths and beauties of this singular work?

BB: There is in Annie Ernaux a genius for the reconstitution and analysis of the elementary cultural data of an era, of a social life and of a society. It is really a first axis of her work as a writer to restore what is at stake in terms of human and cultural relations, of daily life, in shared places such as the metro, the hypermarket, the streets, Paris or in other cities.

The second axis, in balance with the first, is a very strong insistence on the representation of the intimate: what is the love relationship? What do we call sexuality? How to represent it in literature in a way that is both faithful and analytical? Etc.

How are these two planes of his writing united?

BB: It is in her very existence, by recounting it, that Annie Ernaux makes the link between the cultural, social and collective level, and the intimate level. For example, by evoking the evolution of the old-fashioned, traditional family, which she knew as a child, towards another form of family structure in the second half of the twentiethe century. The joy of loving, the feeling of distress, of abandonment are expressed in his work… All these realities converge in his writings.

You speak of scriptures in the plural…

BB: Annie Ernaux is a major writer because she proposes plural forms. The writing of The placewhile descriptive and analytical sobriety, has little to do with that of Yearswhich is a writing of the flow, which restores the course of time in its violence, in its enjoyment.

Moreover, what makes the strength of Annie Ernaux’s books is her refusal of any form of obscurity: she works the language, that is to say our common heritage, without affection, far from a style which would be excluding for some readers.

This attention to exclusion and sociological assignment is also at the heart of his themes…

BB: Yes, and even her interest in common places, in the literal sense: supermarkets, streets, towns, districts, and certain countryside, such as Normandy, which she talks about in her first texts. She questions the man and the woman of his successive eras, but without dissociating them from what makes sense in them and around them.

Annie Ernaux never locks herself into a socio-cultural reconstruction of current living environments, just as she never locks herself into a purely psychological reconstruction of moods and moods. What makes her a great writer is her genius for finding the forms that suit the expression of cultural and intimate realities in progress, in transformation. That’s why, I think, it touches all audiences, it’s the essence of a major writer.

Can we say that she is a feminist?

BB: Annie Ernaux’s feminism is not vindictive or demanding, but open to social and societal issues. She expressed a certain number of characteristics of the lives of women, from France or elsewhere, encountered in the supermarket, in the RER, or in her family, like her mother.

She has an acumen and an empathy with regard to these female destinies, in a political approach to current and past society. And we must retain its responsiveness to everything concerning the destiny and struggle of women, with radicalism and activism assumed in its public positions (demonstrations, petitions, etc.)

Is Annie Ernaux a writer of memory and time?

BB: She is a great writer of active memory, in situation, like Proust or Claude Simon could have been, and not in the sense that Simone de Beauvoir was more of a memoirist. The very fact that she records everyday life experiences in her journals means that she acts “for memory” of the common destinies of beings.

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