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A Man's Place Reviews

A Man's Place by Annie Ernaux, Tanya Leslie

A Man's Place

Annie Ernaux, Tanya Leslie

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1 review

Imprint: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publication date: 28 Oct 2020
ISBN: 9781913097363

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.

4 stars out of 5
Frances Wilson
15 Nov 2020

"French writer Annie Ernaux elevated herself to the bourgeoisie but alienated her working-class father in the process"

But at the same time as presenting herself as a pawn on the board of history rather than an individual ego, Ernaux’s voice is striated with personal guilt and grief.  “I experience no joy in writing this book,” she says on page 33, and there is little joy for the reader in a memoir that refuses to indulge in the genre’s love of nostalgia, self-pity or  sentiment. A child, as the peasant adage goes, should never be better educated than her parents and the book’s epigraph, from Yūko Tsushima, makes plain Ernaux’s understanding of her treachery: “May I venture an explanation: writing is the ultimate recourse for those who have betrayed”. Ernaux is the betrayer and her father the betrayed: this is the narrative undertow that makes A Man’s Place so lacerating.