We have a very well known writer in France named Annie Ernaux. She’s big enough to be translated in English, and I suggest you read her : you’ll learn about daily France in the second half of the XXth Century… if you find it interesting! 🙂
They are not novels, but “autobiographical narratives”. She combines stories (her childhood, the story of her parents, who had a café-grocery store. Her books are “poignant social history of a woman and of the evolving society she lived in”.
The pattern I would like to describe here is this one :
Someone describes a childhood and growing into adulthood, with a constant and growing gap between the narrator and the society or family around. One does not FIT.
It seems that we have a literary pattern here. I found it in the last Jacques Drillon‘s book. Instead of having poor parents, he had wealthy ones, but the gap was the same, if not worse : he criticizes his parent’s minds and their… mediocrity. And in fact, he is much more cruel than Ernaux!
One big best-seller book here was Edouard Louis‘s “En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule” (who is translated in English : “The End of Eddy”) – which is… an autobiographical novel about growing up gay in a working-class town in Picardy.
Same (worse) gap : a sensitive boy is pestered for years by idiot uncultivated assholes, then becomes an adult and describes this hell in a… book.
Our Pulitzer prize is called le Prix Goncourt. This year, the Prize was Leurs Enfants Après Eux, a novel about the 1990s in a working class valley in the east of France.
I talked with a bookseller colleague today about this :
She prefers an author who “describes” people with a well-made style (like Annie Ernaux, who is calm and seems to never judge) than like the Goncourt prize, where the author tries to imitate the daily dialogs of people who never read, who drink too much, who watch TV all day long – which sounds vulgar and very… you know, they are our trash TV stuffed rednecks, in these books.
If you feel the same (you’ve been raised by parent you really don’t understand), how would you write about it?
- Would you place yourself in a distance, well writing, describing calmly about the non-sense of your childhood life?
- Would you “re-create” the messy world you lived in, with all dialogs and so on, plunging the reader into your hell?
Where does this lead? What’s the best choice? How do people grow up out of this? Going away? Inner retreating?
Thanks for reading!