Mes Années

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You probably can guess from the title (hint: My History of Eternity) that this is a riff on a well-respected literary accomplishment, this time of a French author, rather than of Jorge Luis Borges.

I had not heard of Annie Ernaux until Friday October 7, 2022 when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature:

for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.

I downloaded the English translation, The Years, from Barnes and Noble, as the physical copy I had ordered a few days earlier, through Amazon, was cancelled, without explanation. (It amused me though, as cancellation is an important feature of our Omni-channel paper that I have discussed in God: Omni-Channel Retailer).

Simply put, she writes about herself (far less romantically than Walt Whitman who I spoofed in Leaves on Grass) in the third person (in this book), placing her experiences and events and thoughts in the context of the culture and society and world in which she exists, as a representation of “a typical person of her ilk” allowing her to situate her one life, as a collective experience (from 1940 when she was born to 2007 when this book was published), through memories (some through photographs), and via a meditation of memories (a worthy successor to Proust, who you know I like so much, having paid homage to him in When I was Young, and again in À la recherche de moins de temps):

Memory was transmitted not only through the stories but through the ways of walking, sitting, talking, laughing, eating…

She would like to assemble these multiple images of herself, separate and discordant, thread them together with the story of her existence, starting with her birth during World War II until present day. Therefore, an existence that is singular but also merged with the movements of a generation.

There is no “I” in what she views as her impersonal autobiography. There is only “one” and “we,” as if now it were her turn to tell the story of the time-before.

I read The Years in one sitting.

We lived in a scarcity of everything, of objects, diversions, explanation of self and the world, whose sources were confined to catechism…The background was silence and the bicycle measured the speed of life. We lived in close proximity to shit. It made us laugh.

It is exactly what I thought it would be:

 The “non-ample” life.😏

Much of the book is about life in France, no surprise, and about going through life being a woman. But, there are topics that overlap with someone like me, who I suppose could not be more different than her, having grown up under very different circumstances, in a different part of the world, but as we shared several common decades, there had to be an overlap of events that affected us both, notably:

America and September 11.

She writes (differently, of course, from my post, A Sketch of the Past, that was also my tribute to Virginia Woolf):

September 11 suppressed all the dates that had stayed with us until then. As they had one said “after Auschwitz” people said “after September 11,” a unique day. There began what we didn’t know what. Time too was becoming globalized.

Appropriating what Arthur Miller said about beauty (in writing), my view of Annie Ernaux‘s books is:

She has taken her agony home and taught it to sing.

A short list of some of my literary riffs (and irreverent salutes) are listed in the picture above. Most important is, of course, Michel du Montaigne, who kicked off this type of intellectual introspection based on one’s own life and created the essay form (allowing me to post short reminiscences of My Years) and who I extolled using Voltaire and Virginia Woolf, in A Garden of One’s Own.

The same afternoon, I drove to Barnes and Noble, in Cranberry, to see if they had any other of her books in stock, and found one, Happening. Tough read, on a delicate and controversial subject, and the book has been adapted into a film of the same name. The film had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival where it received the top prize, the Golden Lion.

Last evening was the Pittsburgh premiere of the documentary, Virulent: The Vaccine War, also on a delicate and controversial topic, that I am an executive producer of, at the Carnegie Science Center, screened at the Rongos (IMAX) Theater (the last time I was there, professionally, was about 15 years ago after I was awarded the Carnegie Science Center Innovator of the Year Award, for SmartOps), where, I was introduced (by Laura Davis)– and what surprised me was not that OrganJet was mentioned but that MyAmpleLife was!:




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