A Month of French Authors/ Un Mois d’Auteurs Français

Today for the letter E the French authors Jean Echenoz and Annie Ernaux

Something strange happens when you leave your native land as an adult. Your education is completed and you’ve already started a career. You’ve also most likely discovered your favorite authors. Then you move thousands miles away and you must master another language and culture. Quickly you find out that books are your best allies to learn your new country. And slowly but ineluctably you start to read more and more in your acquired new language. Meanwhile life goes on in the old land and the authors you loved keep writing and publishing. But you’ve lost track and one day you forget about them. Until someone mentions one name, one title, one book, which happened when my partner for this challenge suggested Jean Echenoz. Then more names, more titles and more books rushed back to my memory’s shores.

This is a little unsettling to write about authors who were at some point as familiar as my country.

Today as I introduce Jean Echenoz and Annie Ernaux I feel the unstoppable journey of time.

I had just started to work in a publishing company in Paris when I read Echenoz. One of the perks of my job was to have access to any published book in any house at a discounted price. I built quite a collection over ten years.

 

California Poppies

Jean Echenoz was born on December 1947 in Orange (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France) and moved to Paris for his studies in sociology.

His first novel “Le Méridien de Greenwich” was published in 1979, while I was still in school so I only read it years later.

I was hooked and read each of his following books until I left France. Echenoz is the product of the Nouveau Roman and … Echenoz. His novels are strange, populated with even stranger people and the result would be a disaster for most writers. But Echenoz writes with unique skills and somehow builds novels that not only stand on their own but among others.

Influenced by jazz music (important component in Cherokee), thrillers, films, and using irony and playfulness Echenoz plants his characters in surprising or even weird situations. Beyond the strangeness of his novels I’ve always read someone who writes about modern human angst.

Echenoz is known for maintaining strong relationships with his most faithful readers and honoring them in his novels.

Being one of the most influencial French authors, his novels are translated in many languages, including in English of course.

Here is again the link that can allow you to find French authors translated in English.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Jean Echenoz est né à Orange et a passé son enfance dans l’Aveyron avant de s’installer à Paris pour y poursuivre des études de sociologie. Il est un grand, voire un très grand, parmi les auteurs français. Sa biographie et bibliographies sont disponibles sur la page de la Bibliothèque nationale de France ainsi que sur le site des Editions de Minuit, l’un de ses éditeurs. A partir des Editions de Minuit il est aussi possible de lire un court topo sur chacun des romans de Echenoz, ce que j’ai trouvé particulièrement intéressant puisque j’avais oublié certains de ses écrits.

Ce fut “Le Méridien de Greewich” qui me fit découvrir Echenoz. Et puis ce fut “Cherokee” et “L’Equipée malaise,” suivis de “L’Occupation des sols” et de “Lac.”

Si vous ne le connaissez pas, lisez au moins l’un de ses romans. Il est difficilement comparable à d’autres auteurs puisqu’il ajoute à la tradition du roman moderne sa signature complètement unique.

Extrait du roman “Des éclairs:”

“Il apparaît d’abord qu’il aime mieux être seul et vivre seul en général, et se considérer dans les miroirs plutôt que regarder les autres, et se passer des femmes bien qu’il leur plaise beaucoup car il est fort beau, fort grand, brillant et beau parleur, il n’a pas quarante ans, il est à prendre. S’il n’est certes pas indifférent, n’aimant pas mieux les hommes, à ce que les dames se pressent discrètement autour de sa personne, il semble jusqu’ici qu’il désire peu qu’elles se rapprochent au-delà d’un seuil précis.”

Extrait du roman “Le méridien de Greenwich:”

“Il devait être à la campagne. Il reconnaissait le fond sonore ininterrompu de la campagne, où les babils d’oiseaux, les frissons des feuillages et l’entrechoc des branches se croisaient aux cris d’animaux domestiques et aux bourdons d’insectes pour tisser une trame de bruits, légère et tenace à la fois, trouée de temps en temps par un silence qui, dans un tel contexte prenait une allure de bruit. Ces silences ruraux étaient tous différents, qui déterminaient la durée de ce silence, mais, plus encore, sa saveur particulière, sa densité, son style.”

Extrait “Je m’en vais:”

“Si l’anatomie de Delahaye, si son comportement, son élocution confuse évoquent ainsi de la mauvaise herbe rétive, l’amie qui l’accompagne relève d’un autre style végétal. Prénommée Victoire et belle plante silencieuse à première vue, elle paraît plus sauvage qu’ornementale ou d’agrément, datura plutôt que mimosa, moins épanouie qu’épineuse, bref d’apparence pas très commode.”

Gardenia Flower from Charleston, South Carolina

Annie Ernaux est née à Yvetot en Seine Maritime le 1er septembre 1940. Sa biographie et bibliographie sont disponibles sur le site Babelio.

Lire Ernaux s’est plonger dans la classe ouvrière normande dont je suis également issue, c’est se reconnaitre ou reconnaitre ses parents, leurs voisins, leurs commerçants. Plus de vingt ans me séparent de l’auteure, et pourtant les portraits simples mais précis qu’elle taille me sont familiers. Il en est de même pour ses écrits sur l’évolution de fille à femme. Bien sûr les temps ont changé, mais on peut encore lire Ernaux maintenant pour comprendre la France des années de son enfance, de sa jeunesse et au-delà. Son écriture est dépouillée ce qui la rend facile à lire, du moins en apparence.

Extrait du livre “La place:”

“Il me conduisait de la maison à l’école sur son vélo. Passeur entre deux rives, sous la pluie et le soleil. Peut-être sa plus grande fierté, ou même la justification de son existence : que j’appartienne au monde qui l’avait dédaigné.”

Extrait du livre “Les années:”

“L’arrivée de plus en plus rapide des choses faisaient reculer le passé. Les gens ne s’intéressaient pas sur leur utilité, ils avaient simplement envie de les avoir et souffraient de ne pas gagner assez d’argent pour se les payer immédiatement…

La profusion des choses cachait la rareté des idées et l’usure des croyances.”

Extrait du livre “L’autre fille:”

“Les parents d’un enfant mort ne savent pas ce que leur douleur fait à celui qui est vivant.”

Extrait du livre “La femme gelée:”

“J’ai vécu jour après jour la différence entre lui et moi, coulé dans un univers rétréci, bourrée jusqu’à la gueule de minuscules soucis. De solitude. Je suis devenue la gardienne du foyer, la préposée à la subsistance des êtres et à l’entretien des choses.”

Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park

Annie Ernaux was born in Yvetot, Normandy, in 1940. After completing her studies at the university and starting a career in the academics, teaching modern French literature, she quickly focused her writing around autobiographical material from her childhood and youth. Ernaux is an author who cannot leave me indifferent. Like me she was born in Normandy in a working class family where she would be the first one to go to college. Her writing about her father, her mother, the place where she grew up is deliberately simple, almost raw, to better depict her upbringing. This choice left me sometimes uncomfortable. I strongly respect everyone’s origins, since children are neither responsible for their parents nor for their place of birth. I also support the desire to leave one social class for another. But I also believe that we should not be ashamed of the people and the place we are coming from, whether our parents were rich or poor, educated or not. Sometimes when I read Annie Ernaux I feel as if her family’s modest origins and lack of education shamed her. But I also find love in her books, especially when she writes about her father. In addition, reading her work opens an interesting window on French society and particularly the limited roles traditionally assigned to girls and women in the 1960s. A plus for Americans willing to understand the complex country that France is.

Annie Ernaux is widely translated in English and her books are available on Amazon.

Lily Pad in Maine

See you tomorrow with letter F!

A demain pour la lettre F!

Thank you for reading!

Merci de nous lire!

Good luck if you participate to the A to Z Challenge!

Bonne chance si vous participez au Challenge de A à Z!

Comments

  1. Everyday I am presenting a restaurant (or two) Evelyne and I recently visited.

    El Cholo Café (Pasadena, Ca): this family Mexican restaurant is in fact a Socal chain, started in LA in 1923. We discovered this place while visiting our son when he went to college nearby. Ordering the tableside guacamole is a must.

    Elbow Room (Fresno, Ca): we had a few meals there when we lived in the Yosemite foothills; lively place for burgers, ribs or salads and drinks; the owner would always stop at our table as he did with all his other patrons. I always like this kind of attention. Should I admit I was on a first name basis with the bartenders?

    — Evelyne’s husband.

  2. “His novels are strange, populated with even stranger people…” Sounds like my kind of a book, Evelyne. Also, I am enjoying your flowers. –Curt

    • You would love his books, I’m pretty sure. Different and smart.
      It’s hard to post anything French without consent, so I figured that flowers were safe and also would make everyone happy.
      Have you seen that my husband responded to your comment about books and restaurants? He’s now adding two restaurants per day for each letter of the alphabet. Believe it or not he has found at least one name for each letter. And the criteria was a place where we have been together!
      Still wonder why I didn’t pick that challenge rather than mine 🙂

      • Darn, I haven’t reached your husband’s comment yet, Evelyne. I’ll be sure to respond. Not sure whether I would find books or restaurants easier. Probably books, since the majority of my favorites are still hanging around in our library… –Curt

      • It’s easier to find the restaurants:)
        My husband has already compiled his alphabetical list while I’m still plowing my way ahead!
        In any case you triggered the idea:)
        We also keep our favorite authors on our shelves.

      • The alphabet game is fun, and it definitely provides focus. Now the question is whether you have enough French authors on your shelves. 🙂 –Curt

      • More than enough, believe me. In fact, we have some shelves that are exclusively French while others hold American and British writers. Then, it got a little complicated and we mixed and matched. Cohabitation at its best.

      • Mine are all in English, sigh. I’m jealous of your facility with language. 🙂 –Curt

  3. This is a very good series Evelyne. When I read “One of the perks of my job was to have access to any published book in any house at a discounted price.” I thought that I wouldn’t take home enough money to pay the rent.

    • Believe it or not but most of my first paycheck was gone this way! I had to be careful! But it was a great perk. Besides I also knew right away when new books would be published so I was always aware of what was going on. Thank you so much for reading, Dan. These are much longer posts than my usual and I appreciate it when people stop by and read. I have been so busy with planning these posts and sending new stories out that I have been a bad blog reader these last weeks. Wish you and your family the best.

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