Everyone talks about how inspiration and perspiration are the only keys to success in life. Never underestimate circumstances and its ability to impede, interrupt and interfere. Circumstance will always win out. Circumstance dictates the recipe and ingredients to what you need. Be prepared to make sacrifices. Thankfully circumstances can be changed. Do not bind your time or waste it, if no opportunities present themselves, then you must seek them or create them.
The Birdcage Archives
Sunday, 30 October 2022
Thursday, 27 October 2022
Hello Gentle Reader
Margaret MacMillan is a renowned and decorated historian, whose accomplishments and CV are decorated with titles such as former provost of Trinity College Toronto, history professor University of Toronto, former history professor at Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) and current professor of history at Oxford. In addition to her blazing and stunning academic career, Margaret MacMillan is also an accomplished published author on her expertise of historical international relations, and their continuing influence on modern day political life and discourse. MacMillan has also delivered both the Massey Lectures in Canada, Histories People: Personalities and the Past (2015) and the Reith Lectures, The Mark of Cain (2018) in the United Kingdom. Having had the pleasure of listening to the recordings of MacMillan’s five-part Massey lectures, I was struck not only by Margaret MacMillan’s use of irony, but also her incisive ability to prove that history can be quite enjoyable when not reduced to just dates, facts and figures; but by the people, personalities, and stories that create the often incomplete, but fascinating and entertaining window into the past. Margaret MacMillan reminds listeners, however, that when discussing history, we are not merely discussing or looking into the past, but entirely different worlds that are alien and foreign to our contemporary perspectives, tastes, and biases. Yet, they provide the foundation and groundwork for the modern world, which in turn makes up the next layer for the foundation of the future. Margaret MacMillan makes it very clear that the work of the historian is very different than that of the novelist. As MacMillan vaguely recalled a historical novel, where the writer transplanted some thought and reaction into the mind of Marie Antoinette as she rode in a carriage from Palace Versailles, where she gazes out the window and thinks of a forthcoming revolution and a tear rolls down her cheek. Historians cannot take such indulgent liberties with such sentimental revisionism; they strictly adhere to the facts and figures as they are recorded. Thankfully what is designated in a record from a historian’s perspective is a broad pallet of spice. Historians understand that the most mundane elements can be the most enlightening. To this point, MacMillan points out marketing advertisements from British-India heralding hat styles to block or limit sun exposure and reduce tanning. Historians also read through intimate correspondence, including letters and diaries to gain a fuller understanding of the times. What is considered impolite by general standards of the time are dutifully absolved by time, death, and curiosity. Margaret MacMillan is generous in her assessment of these types of records. The intimacy and unfiltered observations of personal correspondence and diaries give an unfiltered lens of the realities of the time. Newspaper articles, advertisements, accounting ledgers, memos and government records are the bread and butter of understanding what values society held at the time. But the personal letters and dairies give an unfiltered look at out these values were put into practice.
A fascinating example of this would be the diaries of the German scholar Victor Klemperer, whose diaries explored the daily realities of life during the Third Reich of Nazi Germany. The banality of evil and its bureaucratic application, with an almost frightening Kafkaesque flare. Despite viewing himself in the contexts of German and converting to Protestantism, Victor Klemperer was designated a Jew by the Nazi’s prescriptive classification system. In a twist of bizarre administrative policy, Klemperer was spared the fate of others who had been designated Jews—the concentration camp—because he was married to a woman who was considered fittingly Aryan. This, however, does not mean Klemperer is spared discrimination or absurd policies. Margaret MacMillan recounts one such entry where Victor Klemperer laments the worst birthday he has ever had, where at the university library he was denied borrowing books because he was Jew as explained by a tearful librarian. In a fashion similar to the diary of Anne Frank, Victor Klemperer’s dairies gave an unprecedented vantage point and commentary on life under Nazi occupation, which provided an extensive context and understanding of ordinary life in conjunction with the government records of the detailed plans and information architecture of the Holocaust itself, and all the testimonials and witness accounts, video, photographs, and logs which were recovered from the camps detailing the depravity and inhumanity that transpired there. Personal records are a privilege for the historian—at least that’s the impression Margaret MacMillan provides. MacMillian secures the point by detailing the insight gained from the letters of Madame de Sévigné to her daughter, which had literary merit for their wit and vividness, but provided a wonderful perspective of court life during the Louis XIV’s reign. These otherwise personal letters provide the necessary context and colour outside of the historical register.
Annie Ernaux maintains a firm assertion she is not a historian; intrapersonal ethnographer or personable sociologist are the more accurate descriptions of Ernaux. Yet, her work maybe of some interest to future historians. “Exteriors,” in this case takes the form of a fragmented diary over the 1980’s and early 1990’s. This slim volume of prose, fragments, and observations grapple with the disjointed complexity of life and existence. It traces the extradentary mundane realities of life the expansive and strange realm of a new town (villes nouvelles), which lacks the medieval roots and historical resonance of Paris or other such established cities, having instead gestated from conscription, planning, and design. these places are often viewed with disdain. Lifeless and characterless. By products of urban studies that otherwise hodgepodge discipline of environmental studies, geography, and political theory. These orchestrated communities are criticized for lacking a sense of place (by which all critics mean history that is not manufactured). These communities are developed to with a utilitarian perspective, deprived of cultural components which are gained through a sense of historical resonance found elsewhere. Paris trots its streets with a parade of cultural landmarks and its cemeteries are populated with a plethora of famous residents, the literary of special notice. These new towns—mere suburbs—do not have such luxuries or legacies. They are the towns of the reality where the needs of daily life need to be met. Where supermarkets exist; hair salons sprout up with an air of ordinariness; and the apocalyptic emptiness of its residential streets are mere facts. Yet in time, these new urban districts attract the required residents who are more concerned with the business of daily life, including all the practical considerations required to set up shop or set down roots. For all its luxurious reputation, the lights and the glamour, Paris is excessively expensive, to the point of financial asphyxiation. The satellite communities; the fringe of suburbia; those otherwise backwater polyps, can prove to be a financially feasible for the families who can provide a functioning kitchen for the many mouths to feed, a yard for running and playing, while accommodating the necessary amenities such as supermarkets, schools, and miscellaneous recreation facilities and services, while still being in proximity to the marvelous metropolitan city centre, where everyone is bound to be employed. It is there in once such commune that Annie Ernaux settled in 1975: “in the midst’s of lives started elsewhere.” This commune gradually becomes a socially diverse and complex ecosystem. It is here on October 6th that Annie Ernaux made her way up to the front gate of her hidden home in the town of Cergy, where the 82-year-old Ernaux cloaked in a stylish black dress coat and brilliant scarlet scarf quickly met with journalists. She didn’t take questions from the assembled reporters, but was gracious, warm, and kind in her interactions.
Annie Ernaux maintains that the town of Cergy cannot be summarized as a lifeless place, but even she must concede it exists on the peripheral of life and events. Perhaps from this vantage point is exactly how Ernaux is able to craft her works. Away from the trappings and illusions of Parisian literary life, established now for centuries; Ernaux is able to observe and write about life with refreshing accuracy, completely away from the echo chamber of self-congratulatory praise taking place within the self-assured Parisian literary saloons. It is here Ernaux can trace, sketch, and experience the discombobulating upheaval of daily life:
“Memories as I am driving past the black 3M Minnesota office building with all its glass windows lit: when I first moved to the New Town, I would invariably lose my way but would go on driving, too panicked to stop. In the shopping mall, I would make sure I knew exactly through which door I had entered – A, B, C or D – so that I could locate the same exit later on. I would also try not to forget in which row of the parking lot I had left my car. I was afraid of having to wander under the concrete slab until nightfall without ever finding it. So many children got lost in the supermarket.”
Many of us have been in the same position as Ernaux, devoted to remembering which entrance of the mall we are entering, and which section of the parking lot we have parked at. The dislocation and expansiveness of everything, affirms our own minuscule positioning within the exterior world. Or perhaps in turn the sheer gluttonous consumption consumerism has come to embody in a purely physical and spacious form, shadowing our own insignificance in the process.
“Exteriors,” also provides insight into the other more empathetic moments, where despite geographical and linguistic differences existing, the common experience both lived and recorded, and then read and experienced via second-hand, can sense and understand the forming atmosphere and the moment as it is relayed. As if we can grasp onto the discomfort and embarrassment bristling unspoken amongst those anonymously gathered:
“We were waiting at the dentist’s, reading magazines laid out on a coffee table. Three patients who had never met. The sound of a motorbike close by reached us through the window of the waiting room (situated on the ground floor). A young male voice rang out, addressing someone from a distance: ‘So see you on Sunday, okay?’ The reply, coming from a boy or a girl, was impossible to catch. ‘Don’t be late, eh?’ the voice continued. Then, much louder: ‘And good fuck with the principal!’ No doubt said in jest, in lieu of ‘good luck’. An embarrassed silence descended upon the waiting room, because of these words and the situation we were in – complete strangers unwittingly caught in the act of eavesdropping. Had we been alone, the incident might have amused or intrigued us. In the company of others, it became obscene.”
Through observation, eavesdropping, and reading graffiti, Annie Ernaux traces herself within the flotsam and jetsam of the daily life on the peripheral, watching the comings and goings; the changing landscape; the neighbours who herald from distant lands, be it Vietnam, Côte d’Ivoire, Maghreb – or in the case of Annie Ernaux, Normandy. Each of them, however, finds a home within this specifically engineered and envisioned town, and it is here Ernaux is able to grasp at the driftwood of life, free from the ostentatious falsities which inevitably would be imposed on her writing if she were writing and working in Paris, where readers would approach her work with an otherwise established orientation and deep seeded expectations. Perhaps in the future, historians will read the work of Annie Ernaux both for their literary analysis, but also for their ability to record with palpable acuity the changing social dynamics and realties of the 20th Century; in a fashion reminiscent of the famous letters of Madame de Sévigné. Strikingly, however, Annie Eranux has mastered the ability to survey and encapsulate the sensation of the passing of time with a graceful and seamless transition. Annie Ernaux receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature is not surprising, her sociological narratives, memory exploring cartography, and interpersonal survey of the changing social dynamics and realities are wonderful. Her prose maybe pinpoint sharp and blanched to the point of being bleached; yet they remain startling and sparkling in their clarity, which can be unflinching and uncomfortable in their impersonal examinations, but also revelatory and necessary in their unsentimental accuracy for getting to the point of the manner without being slathered in sentimentality or tabloid sensationalism.
And As Always
Stay Well Read
Tuesday, 18 October 2022
The Booker Prize Winner 2022
And As Always
Stay Well Read
Sunday, 9 October 2022
Post-Nobel Prize in Literature 2022 Thoughts
Hello Gentle Reader,
This years Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to the French writer, Annie Ernaux, who the Swedish Academy praised:
“for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”
Subsequently, Ernaux is the first female French writer to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature and is also the 17th women to receive the Literature Prize since it was originally awarded in 1901.
Once again, this year’s announcement followed the same formula that has been in place since the announcement in 2019 for the 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize(s) for Literature. First, at the chiming bell of 1:00 ‘O’clock (CET), those white and gold accent doors of the Swedish Academy open into a beautiful ballroom—where at long last—a full house of journalists wait for the announcement. With the chime, out comes the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Mats Malm, who stands behind his barricade, rattles off the standard welcome before announcing this years Nobel Laureate. Unlike last year, when Mats Malm announced the laureate as Abdulrazak Gurnah in mumbled and hushed tones, which made it difficult to make out; this year’s enunciation was clear and concise, Annie Ernaux could be easily understood in Swedish, while waiting for the citation details in English. After the quick announcement, once again, Mats Malm bowed out, while Anders Olsson and Ellen Mattson, Chairman and member of the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Committee, came through the doors, to once again deliver a dry sermon and brief overview of Annie Ernaux’s life and work, and take questions from the assembled journalists, while Mats Malm lurked in background.
I am not entirely sure what role the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy holds now, or what function it performs. Obviously in previous years and decades, the Permanent Secretary announced the years Laureate along with their citation, afterwards answering questions from journalists. The current format has divided these functions between the Permanent Secretary and the Chairman of the Swedish Academy’s internal Nobel Committee. At risk of sounding like a broken record: this current format doesn’t work very well. It convolutes matters; its tightly orchestrated, controlled, and scripted; in addition to being rather unceremonious—even boring. If the Permanent Secretary’s role is to fulfill the public relations role of the Swedish Academy, among other administrative tasks (I presume), then the role should be provided the agency to fulfill those obligations. Dividing functions to other members of the academy, specifically one in this repeated instance, muddies the waters continually. I don’t find either Mats Malm or Anders Olsson particularly warm or ‘cozy,’ individuals (and there is nothing wrong with that), however, the current fashion in which the news is being delivered does take the excitement out of the atmosphere. All the anticipation, all the eagerness, deflates when the award announcement becomes increasingly formal, orchestrated, scripted, and controlled in scope. There is no cheering or applause, just silence. The changing of the guard, however, between Mats Malm and Anders Olsson I find in particular, the most frustrating component. Pick a lane. Pick a role. Pick a function, and just do it. I wonder if Mats Malm’s fumbling as the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, truly comes down to Anders Olsson seeking to retain and maintain his grasp on the role he held in a temporary fashion, which ultimately leads him to eclipse Mats Malm, reducing Malm’s exposure and ability to conduct the very public component of his position. Even with Ellen Mattson joining Anders Olsson this year as he read out his usual script, and then decided to answer some questions, which once again, Anders Olsson truly takes up the air and maintains himself as the focal point. Poor Ellen Mattson needed to exert herself in order to be able to participate, while Mats Malm lurked in the background.
The heightened role of the Nobel Committee, an otherwise internal structure within the academy whose main focus is to assist in the development of the first semi-shortlist of nominated candidates for the Nobel Prize for Literature for the year, which is the presented to the academy at large. This takes place in the spring, where I am sure discussions and appraisals take place between the academy at large for the Nobel Committee to present a shortlist, with the Swedish Academy’s approval to begin the good work throughout the remainder of the spring and summer, that by the time September rolls around the hard work begins, when the academy deliberates, debates, and eventually decides on a laureate. At least this is my understanding based off of the Nobel Prize website. Unless I am mistaken and instead, the Nobel Committee is charged with crafting the entire shortlist with each committee member pushing a favoured candidate, and the greater Swedish Academy accepts the writers presented and reads their work and then deliberates.
Personally, I find it concerning (in the event that) the Nobel Committee and its members hold that much influence and sway within the Swedish Academy. I am sure, the work itself is laborious, difficult and even tiring, truly, but to invest in the thought that five members of an already relatively small academy of just 18 members in total, can weight, measure and adjudicate the expansive, diverse, and breathtaking reality of world literature, seems unplausible to me. In fact, if that’s the case that five members of the Swedish Academy, direct and steer the direction of the Nobel Prize for Literature for the year, I would think the credibility of the Swedish Academy’s ability to truly preside and hold the role of defacto international literary connoisseurs and experts, would fall into disrepute. This position is already weakened and hangs perilously by a few frayed threads. Regardless, in my humblest of opinions, Anders Olsson needs to step back and relinquish this persistent public relations involvement, while in turn, allow Mats Malm to do his job, however, good or bad it may be; but the continued muddying of the waters with the announcement is not appreciated. I hope and even think, given the opportunity, Mats Malm would may even thrive in the role of Permanent Secretary without being routinely managed or ducking out for Anders Olsson to upstage, and then only to read out a long tedious dry discounted sermon. If I am interested in the information I will read it on the Nobel Prize website, I’m not interested in having it dispassionately disseminated to me. I am far more interested in someone who is excited and is interested in engaging with the assembled journalists to have an interview and just tell us what they think about this year’s laureate, be it Horace Engdahl commenting on Doris Lessing’s autobiographies as a second wind in her sails, but also pointing out her talent with the short story form; or Peter Englund referencing and emphasizing Herta Müller’s remarkable literary language; or Sara Danius’s marvelous recipe allegory describing Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing, as a combination of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, with a pinch of Marcel Proust, with a slight stir—but not to much(!); oh, I do miss Sara Danius. In turn, once again for another year, this current forum proves to be dispassionate and uninspired, which in turn, leaves those viewing the proceeding with equal lukewarm reactions.
As for Annie Ernaux, I think she is a welcomed and worthy laureate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, though admittedly, I was expecting her to be last years Literature Laureate, which may explain my lack of surprise that she won this year. I think Annie Ernaux is a deserving Nobel Laureate, who fits with equally good company with previous Nobel Laurates. As a writer, Annie Ernaux does take a different approach to literature in form, rather then the conventional forms of: poetry, prose (novel, short story), and dramatic writings; Ernaux instead writes in a chimeric fashion, incorporating elements of fiction, memoir, and social criticism, to craft her alchemical work that remains both intensely personal in its ethnographic excavation and examination, but feathers out to encompass a much broader purview beyond the insularity of the exclusively intrapersonal.
Annie Ernaux’s masterpiece: “The Years,” was my first introduction to Ernaux, both her writing style and literary proclivities. “The Years,” is a masterful work of a generation or collective biography, as it traces the anonymous ‘She,’ and ‘We,’ (though its safe to presume its Ernaux), through the end of the Second World War, into the first decade of the 21st Century. The social progress through the decades and generation were exemplary in their palpability, providing a cartograph of the social evolution and changing dynamics of society after the Second World War. Education, in particular, proved to be both the scales in which one could ascend to a higher social elevation, or be routed in a respectable but less prestigious direction. The clinical analysis of the indignity that is learned early on via the cruelty of how ones ‘capability,’ is assessed, in this instance that of a student’s academic acumen, is reminiscent livestock being assessed either for market or those spared the butcher’s block. In the politics and political events—beyond the May ‘68 student protests—discussed within the book often went over my head. I am not informed nor am I well versed in any capacity into the finer nuances of French political science or governance infrastructure. Yet, when the niche elements fade away, universal elements, tropes and realities become more apparent. In an increasingly small and globalized world, the rise of capitalism and consumerism, inevitably means everyone within the developed western world will be accustom to advertisements; the rise of supermarkets; changing social orders, which both dissolved old ingrained social views on class differences, while instituting new ones in turn. The whiplash inducing rapid development of the later half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century, truly flies by and encompasses not just the Cold War or the advent of the morning after pill, but the disenchantment and bitterness of those now castaway and lost within a world that revels in the novelty of the new, but is so lacking in soul, character, or virtue. To quote the remarkable German poet Durs Grünbein “The Years,” is truly a “sociological epic,” piece of writing.
The use of the term sociological is not an uncharacteristic term to use to describe Annie Ernaux or her writing in general terms. The Swedish Academy, followed more in line with Ernaux’s own description of her work, which she referrers to as a personal ethnography. Both descriptions can be used to describe Ernaux’s literary work with equal application, yet both represent two very different components of her work. The intrapersonal ethnographic excavation and examination of personal history, private life, and subsequent consequences, are the foundational base of all of Ernaux’s work. Personal experience and memory are the pools of genesis which spawn her literary works. It is here, Ernaux can combine both autobiography and fictional elements to study with laser intensity the elements of a major event or foundational altering experience. For Ernaux this has often be attributed to a couple of events, the first being her devasting illegal abortion at the age of 23, which almost killed her as she ends up in the hospital. This event is a catalyst which explodes and ricochets leading into further explorations into topics of socially instituted shame; societal perspectives on pre-marital sex and sex in general; the subjugation of the woman’s body through a social and political context, which in itself has influenced, caricaturized, even mythologized a woman’s body through a variety of different lens, including biblical, political, and aesthetically; then there is the nature of sex, infatuation, and desire, a dissertation on the natures of desire and infatuation, the intoxicating loss of oneself in the thralls of physical and emotional obsession. Ernaux’s personal experience is the first excavation site from which with nova intensity her narratives and books begin the change to examine, in a greater context the social and societal implication of the collective’s governance and influence over the individual. In another book, Ernaux traces her first sexual experience and awakening into the realms of the physical pleasures and the carnal consequences. As gossip circulates about the teenaged Annie Ernaux, the social ramifications are immediately presented and felt. She is categorized as that kind of girl; then there are the slurs; then comes the social ostracization. Ernaux viciously vivisects the scenario with a clinical coldness, avoiding the pitfalls of melodramatic sentimentality and tabloid sensationalism, Ernaux instead employee’s sterile scrutiny to provide a nuanced portrait of reality, which ensures her social criticism maintains a scienced and scholarly approach and casting off the unnecessary histrionics.
Annie Ernaux’s break through, which Anders Olsson recommends and points out in his sermon, is her condescended social examination of her father’s life. It should be noted, Annie Ernaux’s upbring was provincial and working class. Her parents in particular were hardworking individuals, who came from extraordinary working-class background themselves, and though they forged a decent life, by owning and operating a grocer and café, all the while escaping the proletariat realities of working in a factory as basic labour, they maintain bourgeois ambitions (or so I read) and prepare the ground for their daughter, Annie to fashion and even better life for herself. In her book “A Man’s Place,” Annie Ernaux sketches and condenses her father’s life with both impressionistic shadowing and colour, along with exacting accuracy, providing the personal details required to understand her fathers desire for a different life; a more refined life, which within the context of the early 20th Century carried the airs of respectability and genteel virtue, from his otherwise humble working-class background. These virtues are the undercurrents of Ernaux’s childhood, the invisible driving force propelling her father from continuing the legacy of the proletariat and in turn be able to run a grocery store and café within a small northern France community. Through stoic and uncompromising observation, Annie Ernaux becomes an exacting sociological examiner, dissecting the life and social pursuits of her father. The examination of her father, evolves into a critical social analysis of the social trends of French society, the changing airs, the changing guard, the progressing realities, as the lower and working classes began their climb for material comfort and social understanding. This would be a life completely different from the one their parents had experienced or enjoyed, and even more alien than the ones their grandparents had endured.
Annie Ernaux’s greatest success and even talent is her ability to fixate with microscopic intensity on the intrapersonal and otherwise immediately private experience of herself or observations conducted exclusively as her own. With a swift and graceful touch, Ernaux moves beyond the confines of exclusive solipsism and take on a greater more breathtaking social panoramic view of the greater social issues and complications of the era and perspectives. How the criminality of an abortion not only almost killed her, but what of all the others who did not make it? Why must sex be attributed to shame? Furthermore, why does the man or boy get absolution—borderline praised—whereby they can walk away with the prideful airs of conquest and sated appetite; while the woman or girl is nothing more than a tramp, a mongrel, a trollop? It’s this analysis and critique within the sociological realm, and the clinical acuity (to quote the Nobel citation) which makes Annie Ernaux such a striking and worthy Nobel Laureate. Ernaux’s ability to include the personal and private in relation to the public and external. Personally, I think Ernaux is by far more successful when surveying and analyzing the social changes from the anchored point of view of the personal, which is why perhaps I enjoyed “The Years,” is its veiled anonymous intimacy with the impersonal narrator, who provides a personal guided tour of the progress and rapidly changing world of the 20th Century French society. When the book opens, the shadow of the Second World War still lingers even though celebrations are had. Memories of fighting, resistance, rationing, are all discussed around the dinner table. After the war there is another societal shift: the prominent role of education. Children are no longer excused from school to assist their rural agricultural working families with the harvest or other chores. They stay and they study. Despite its readily availability and mandated requirement for attendance with no exceptions, the distribution of education is meager. As aforementioned, students who have been found academically incapable are rerouted to alternative directions in which to make of their life. This creates a new notion of social systems, a replica hierarchy of previous established social principles. It is always Annie Ernaux’s ability to encompass the competing realities and perspectives of the individual and the collective, examining with uncompromising and stoic firmness the often, bitter truths and consequences that exist behind them.
As a Nobel Laureate, Annie Ernaux will be reviewed in a multifaceted context be it literary, political and sociological in nature. Where Svetlana Alexievich became the cartographer of the Soviet and Post-Soviet heart and soul through interviews and collecting the oral history of the Soviet and Post-Soviet landscape and individual; Ernaux has exercised a more intrapersonal review of French society’s evolution after the Second World War, turning herself into the canary entering the mine, rather then interviewing the miners themselves. Herta Müller pulled extensively from her own experiences and those within her immediate orbit, to write about the landscape of the disposed within Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Romania, depicting it as a land of cruel absurdity, of grey shadows and rampant corruption; yet Müller’s greatest renown is her style of ‘living in details,’ thriving within the acute metaphors and Kafkaesque world of distrustful language; Ernaux in turn, built the foundations of her literary career from both personal and interpersonal relationships, but her language is by far more clinical and blanched in style. Doris Lessing is often described as the great social critic and epicist of the 20th Century, whose literary work, opinions, and personal life ebbed and flowed with a variety of political and social causes, which are equally reflected and refracted within her monumental novels. Her famous novel “The Golden Notebook,” is a psychological exploration of the fragmented realities and facets of a woman, both her political life, emotional life, creative outlet, and personal life. Annie Ernaux in turn exhumes and explores the complexities of memory, emotional realities, sexual awakenings and yearnings with equal frankness. Of course, who can forget the controversial and unapologetic Elfriede Jelinek, whose work are psychosexual and politically vitriolic, exploring the subjugation of women within a capitalist society commodifying them further in part and parcel with consumerist tendencies. Yet, Jelinek is renowned for her strictly gallows humour and linguistic acrobatics; Ernaux in similar fashion will encompass the realms of political discourse and discussion, which the author herself has recognized, and even the Swedish Academy has commented on, referencing the inherent political dimensions of her work as they explore matters of social inequality. In a fashion similar to Louise Glück, who turned the personal into the universal by writing her intensely austere poetry through a diverse colour spectrum of voices and motifs; Ernaux carves out the personal within the collective, and in this juxtaposition between these facets provides commentary on the universal experience of the human condition, which become accessible and available for others through exposure and empathy.
In reference to the political discourse of Annie Ernaux, there is a curiosity of whether or not the Swedish Academy has decided to engage in political message with this years award. Ernaux’s win comes during the shifting social context of women’s rights in various parts of the world, with the Supreme Court of the United States of America, overturning ‘Roe v. Wade,’ and the recent suspicious death of Mahsa Amini who was being detained by the Iranian morality police on grounds her hijab was being worn too loosely. What has resulted is an extensive and persistent protest against Iran’s clerical theocratic oppression. Even though, Ernaux’s work aligns itself within the context of feminism (which Ernaux has vocally confirmed support for), it is important to limit the conjecture of an explicit political decision regarding Annie Ernaux’s Nobel within the mercurial and shifting realities of the political context. There is certainly a political dimension to Annie Ernaux’s Nobel, but it is not the inspiration for the award. The Swedish Academy did not base its decision on the United States of America’s repeal of ‘Roe v. Wade,’ or the current protests within Iran. Then again, for the sake of contrary perspective, Annie Ernaux herself (from what I am reading and gathering) views writing as a act of great responsibility, be that responsibility is social in nature or political. Though if the award is to be framed within the context of the political as in the case of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the literary quality in itself must surely exceed the political dimensions.
Congratulations are in order for Annie Ernaux, a truly deserving and remarkable writer!
And As Always
Stay Well Read
Thursday, 6 October 2022
Nobel Prize in Literature 2022
Hello Gentle Reader,
The Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded to the French author: Annie Ernaux.
"for the courage and clinical acuity with the which she uncover the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory."
Congratulations are in order Annie Ernaux!
Thank-you for Reading Gentle Reader
And As Always
Stay Well Read