The Years

Seven Stories. 2017. 240p. tr. from French by Alison L. Strayer. ISBN 9781609807870.pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781609807887. LIT
OrangeReviewStarWhen this work appeared in 2008, it was an immediate best seller. This translation by Strayer allows this mesmeric work to be appreciated by a larger reading audience who may not be aware of Ernaux's writings. Born in Normandy to working-class parents, Ernaux often uses her background as subjects for her books such as A Woman's Story and A Man's Place. This personal narrative spans 66 years (1940–2006), from the author's infancy to late middle age. Ernaux demarcates specific moments in time by describing a photo or particular family meals that change composition based on births, deaths, and marriages. Current events (Algerian War, May 1968; François Mitterrand's election; 9/11) and cultural phenomena (Beatlemania, milk in cartons, Rubik's Cubes, mobile phones) are juxtaposed with the author's own experiences (motherhood, divorce, retirement) during those moments. Although presenting a firsthand account, the author avoids using the word "I"—a technique the translator succeeds in conserving. Strayer also includes footnotes and preserves the distinctive spacing of the original work.
VERDICT A memoir that captures nostalgia's twinge while also documenting the many societal changes that shaped postwar France. Of appeal to readers interested in contemporary French studies.
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