A MAN'S PLACE by Annie Ernaux
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An austere but poignant account from acclaimed French writer Ernaux of those ties that bind as well as separate fathers from daughters, in this companion volume to last year's A Woman's Story. Ernaux expands on personal experience to reflect universal themes of generational and class alienation, of grief at a parent's loss, and of the evanescence of memory, in what she has called an ""autobiographical narrative."" As she describes her father's life, she comes to accept his recent death and his ""legacy with which I had to part when I entered the educated, bourgeois world."" Her father, son of Normandy farmhands, managed to struggle up from cowherd--the lowest rung in society--to become a tenuous member of the working class. With his wife he ran a small cafe and grocery store, an increasingly marginal business as supermarkets moved in but viable enough to send his only daughter to a private school. It was a life permeated from the beginning with fear of poverty and shaped by stark prescriptions: ""The only way to escape one's parents' poverty was not to impregnate a woman""; ""You don't have ideas when you are in trade""; ""never lay oneself open to criticism--for what are people going to say?' Her father is a man who's remembered for childhood outings to the circus and beach, but also a figure, a country man at heart, from whom she grew irrevocably away. ""Books and music are all right for you. I don't need them to live,"" he told her--yet at the end his ""greatest satisfaction, possibly even the raison d'etre of his existence, was the fact that I belonged to the world which had scorned him."" An unsentimental portrait of a man loved as a parent, admired as an individual but, because of habits and education, heartbreakingly apart. Moving and memorable.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1992
Page count: 99pp
Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows