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A Man's Place (1983)

by Annie Ernaux

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3571752,094 (3.67)25
A fragmented and largely retrospective description of a daughter's relationship with her father, "La Place" deals with issues of sexuality, social sta nding and alienation. This will be an accessible and exciting addition to French studies courses.

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English (9)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (17)
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Una figlia scrittrice narra la vita di suo padre, affiancata dallo scorrere della sua stessa vita, di cui descrive l'evoluzione sociale e culturale. Semplicità ed intensità quasi assolute.
( )
  carben | Mar 24, 2020 |
After the death of her father Ernaux decides to write his biography and looks back on her relationship with him. And while the biography itself is interesting enough, it is the class lens through which Ernaux filters everything that makes this book so good: her parents are decidedly and proudly working class (farming stock, but they operate a café and a small grocery store), while she herself has gone on to enter middle class. That filter adds a layer of melancholy as the class distinction precludes full understanding -- neither her father nor Ernaux herself would want to walk in the other’s shoes -- and I thought it really elevated the book into Proper Literature. Good stuff. ( )
1 vote Petroglyph | Jun 28, 2019 |
In many ways this is a simple story, told in the first person as a sort of autobiography of the authors early life. She starts when she has recently passed her practical examination to become a Professor and she writes home to her parents with the good news. Her mother replies that her father is ill. This causes Annie to think about her parents lives and in particular about her father. He came from a very poor family and had to leave school at 14 years to become a cowherd on a local farm. He was too young to fight in the first world war, but the lack of men enabled him to get a job in a factory. He was a good worker and saved hard until he could afford to get married and eventually to buy a small grocer’s shop with a cafe attached. Annie was the only child that survived and she remembers her early life helping out sometimes in the cafe. Annie studied hard at school passing examinations and getting a scholarship so that she left her parents far behind. She has become part of the bourgeoise while her parents have remained firmly working class. The difference in life styles and in expectations gets progressively bigger as Annie grows up and then away from home.

Annie is married with a child of her own, her husband cannot stand visiting her parents, the banality of their existence upsets him and Annie realises that the gap cannot be breached. She can and does return to her parents during her fathers final illness and does what she can to help, but she now comes from a different world. The strength of this short novel (113 pages) comes from the way that Ernaux uses the words and phrases that her parents would have used and in the closely observed situations that she describes. The paragraphs are short and seem to float freely and she manages to say an awful lot without using too many words. One gets the feeling that every word in this novel has been thought through and weighed carefully for its effect. It goes without saying that the world created/remebered of a small town in Normandy (France) feels absolutely right. This short novel may be slight, but it is beautifully formed and so four stars. ( )
  baswood | Feb 28, 2018 |
A short, beautifully clear and (superficially) simple analysis by a daughter of the way she perceives and perceived her father's life, across the generation- and class- gap that divides them.

The father was a Normandy peasant boy, born before the First World War, who has managed to work his way up to become the proud owner of a small café-grocery; the daughter has grown up in the forties and fifties to go to university and become a teacher of literature, and thus automatically middle-class, with quite different tastes and values from her working-class parents. Her obvious admiration for her father's toughness and determination is mixed up with her guilt about the patronising element that comes into her view of his attitudes and aspirations. And of course it's all complicated by her memory of the affectionate moments they shared in her childhood, and her sadness at witnessing his illness and death. Superb writing, and a topic I found very interesting because there are so many echoes there of the way people of my parents' generation related to their working-class parents. ( )
  thorold | Apr 20, 2017 |

This story rings so true for me, and though it may actually be false, and a complete fiction, it feels honorable, and is a fitting tribute written to give birth again to the spirit of Annie Ernaux’s dead dad. Let’s clear the air and admit there are negative traits aplenty, our own included. But how can you paint a picture of a man (or woman) without them? It is impossible without the appearance of pretense or deceit. This book is far too authentic and well-written for that to happen.

I believe this story is most likely best appreciated by those of us who have been, or at least have experienced first-hand, life on both sides of the railroad tracks. Being aware that one faction of your birth parents had suffered the ignominy of poverty helps as you are being drawn to a life of literature, art, and culture they had no way of knowing for themselves. A Man’s Place parallels in ways my own history of being a grandson of a courageous Finnish immigrant who came as a young man on his own to the United States in search of opportunity. I am privy to the sad details my father has shared of his growing up on a farm cut out of sand hills and scrub forest in a community in northern Michigan called Alabaster. The hard and cruel life his father had to endure, due to his broken English and foreign ways, as he labored for wages as a gypsum miner in the local quarries. My paternal family was even said by certain locals to have come from the wrong side of the tracks, but I appreciate my paternal family to no end, though it pains me to consider the ridicules a hard life of poverty endures.

Annie Ernaux presents in good taste the spirit, both broken and soaring, of her father and how important it was to him that his daughter have and enjoy a better life than he. Though he would never truly understand or know for himself exactly what was involved in her acquiring this higher learning and class, he was glad for her but hid his pride from the other townsfolk lest it showed himself in less than humble good light. The difficulties of her father’s life Ernaux aptly portrayed, and it seems fair to me how she revisited her memory of that time and what it might have meant to specifically herself and her father.

The opening of the book centers on the death of her father and how she and her mother prepared his dead body for public viewing and the funeral service and burial to follow. It was a touching portrait of a daughter’s love for a man she had not much to say to in the end, but who lived as if all of life mattered. Regarding negative claims or questions made against the all-too-personal Ernaux, from what I have gathered from reading some of her other books, Annie saves her most revealing and shameful portraits to be focussed primarily on herself. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Ik opper de volgende verklaring: schrijven is het laatste redmiddel, wanneer je verraad hebt gepleegd.

Jean Genet
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J'ai passé les épreuves pratiques du Capes dans un lycée de Lyon, à la Croix-Rousse. Un lycée neuf, avec des plantes vertes dans la partie réservée à l'administration et au corps enseignant, une bibliothèque au sol en moquette sable. J'ai attendu qu'on vienne me chercher pour faire mon cours, objet de l'épreuve, devant l'inspecteur et deux assesseurs, des profs de lettres, très confirmés. Une femme corrigeait des copies avec hauteur, sans hésiter. Il suffisait de franchir correctement l'heure suivante pour être autorisée à faire comme elle toute ma vie.
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A fragmented and largely retrospective description of a daughter's relationship with her father, "La Place" deals with issues of sexuality, social sta nding and alienation. This will be an accessible and exciting addition to French studies courses.

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Seven Stories Press

2 editions of this book were published by Seven Stories Press.

Editions: 1609804031, 1609802551

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