SIMPLE PASSION by Annie Ernaux


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 In her inimitable spare prose, Ernaux (A Man's Place, 1992, etc.)--like a medieval anatomist bent on finding the soul--dissects a love affair to discover the point of passion. Divorced, with two grown-up sons, the nameless narrator--who, like Ernaux, is also writing her story--describes her year of passion, with the intention of translating into words ``the way in which his existence has affected my life.'' Her lover, also nameless, is a middle-aged businessman, married and posted temporarily to Paris from East Europe: ``From September last year,'' she writes, ``I did nothing else but wait for a man: for him to call me and come round to my place. I behaved in an artificial manner. The only actions involving willpower were all related to this man.'' She then goes on to detail her passion for this lover, who, resembling film star Alain Delon, took over her life. She reads newspaper articles about his country, chooses clothes that will please him, buys ``fruit and various delicacies'' for their evenings together. And, like others similarly in thrall, she admits to having ``no future other than the telephone call fixing our next appointment.'' Meanwhile, she continues to list the signs of passion as if that will help her grasp its reality. As the summer nears, she reluctantly takes a holiday in Florence, where in museums she sees only statues of naked men and works representing love. The affair ends when her lover is recalled to his own country, and the narrator details her responses--including avoidance of TV or magazines for ``they all show the same thing: a woman waiting for a man.'' Finally, an unexpected visit gives passion its true meaning--which ``is precisely to be meaningless,'' to teach us the luxury of ``being able to live out a passion for a man or a woman.'' A stunning story, despite its detachment and the careful exclusions of any excess, that pulsates with the very passion Ernaux so truthfully describes. Small, but abundantly wise.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56858-003-7
Page count: 72pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993


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NonfictionSHAME by Annie Ernaux
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NonfictionEXTERIORS by Annie Ernaux
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