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894253,815 (3.39)4
Taking the form of random journal entries over seven years, Exteriors captures the feeling of contemporary living on the outskirts of Paris. Poignantly lyrical, chaotic, and strangely alive.
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Exteriors by Annie Ernaux


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English (3)  French (1)  All languages (4)
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Fragments of writing, like the ones in this book, arouse in me a feeling of frustration. Or contemplation, analysis, deconstruction, reverie, recognition.
Reading this short collection/selection of (mainly) impersonal journal entries, I am reminded of Joan Didion’s famous quote “We tell ourselves stories in order to live...We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

In reading these entries by Ernaux, seemingly objective and observational, I cannot help but extrapolate narratives. But also, reading this in 2022, I marvel at how the mundanity of the incidents recorded makes me recall similar incidents experienced when visiting London and other large cities in the past.
Occasionally the entries are personal, although we cannot be certain that the “I” is Ernaux, and whether the subjective opinions are fact or fiction.
But that doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the overall observational impersonality. ( )
  CarltonC | Mar 28, 2022 |
In contrast to the other books by Ernaux I've read so far, which all seem to be essentially memoirs focussing on one particular aspect of her life, this book is a loose collection of very short prose pieces describing things she's seen or overheard in her daily life, things which don't fit into any particular extended narrative but somehow struck her as important at the time.

People she notices in the train on her daily commute, the conversation in the butcher's shop, the man who collects the trolleys in the supermarket car park, the patter of beggars, conversations between hairdressers or supermarket cashiers, things mothers say to small children, graffiti on the walls of the university, etc. All superficially extremely ordinary, but promoted to significance by being included here. She usually doesn't need more than a word or two of explanation (if that) to make us realise why she noticed these things, and how they add to our understanding of what a strange and complicated thing it is to be a human being and live in a modern (sub-)urban society.

Wonderfully sharp, economical observation - exactly what we would expect from Ernaux. Not a book to take on a long holiday, but would be a great choice as a present for someone who reads slowly and appreciates really excellent writing. ( )
1 vote thorold | Oct 23, 2017 |
She is obviously not indifferent or oblivious to people she sees on her daily commute, in the train, on the platform, in the supermarket, or browsing the lingerie store. And she recognizes these souls as participants in her life just as she is present in theirs. I do like the smart and courageous writing of Annie Ernaux, but I could have taken a pass from reading these snippets taken from her journal and never felt anything missing from my life. It was just one, of many, pleasant walks taken in something resembling an Olmstead designed park. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Taking the form of random journal entries over seven years, Exteriors captures the feeling of contemporary living on the outskirts of Paris. Poignantly lyrical, chaotic, and strangely alive.

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