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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction/memoir

A Man's Place

Annie Ernaux

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A Man's Place

Title: A Man's Place
Author: Annie Ernaux
Genre: Novel
Written: 1983 (Eng. 1992)
Length: 103 pages
Original in: French
Availability: A Man's Place - US
A Man's Place - UK
A Man's Place - Canada
La place - Canada
La place - France
  • French title: La place
  • Originally published in the UK as Positions
  • Translated by Tanya Leslie

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Our Assessment:

A- : an expertly crafted small memoir

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Statesman . 25/11/2020 E.Peirson-Hagger
The NY Times Book Rev. A 10/5/1992 Miranda Seymour
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/1992 Patricia Laurence
San Fran. Chronicle . 12/7/1992 Roz Spafford
The Village Voice . 8/9/1992 .

\  From the Reviews:
  • "Ernaux's bare-boned, fragmented prose style is often harsh on her subject matter. She observes her parents' hard work and dedication to support their family with sympathetic snobbishness. (...) There is a felt distance here, in how Ernaux's father treats her as a girl, and how she writes of him from the vantage point of her own adulthood. But that doesn't make the book cold." - Ellen Peirson-Hagger, New Statesman

  • "Writing cannot, of course, entirely escape artifice, but the rigid control that Ms. Ernaux exercises gives her portrait of an ordinary, unassuming man an air of truth (.....) It is this bleak honesty, this refusal to let herself off the hook of guilt, that gives Ms. Ernaux's two books their uncommon strength. Some critics have compared her to Simone de Beauvoir, but the reasonable, balanced voice I hear echoing behind her is that of Albert Camus." - Miranda Seymour, The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A Woman's Story was Ernaux's reckoning of her mother. In A Man's Place she turns to her father. This elegant little memoir, as much about Ernaux a her parents, is a remarkable document.
       Ernaux's parents were simple folk, running a grocery store and café in the French countryside, sure of their lives and their roles and trying to make something better for their daughter. Their daughter goes on to study and becomes a teacher -- the opening passage is about her passing her teaching certificate exam -- and moves into an intellectual world completely alien to that of her parents. Her parents mean well and do right, but a gulf opens between daughter and parents that cannot be bridged, even by such retrospective considerations as Ernaux repeatedly undertakes in her writing.
       Ernaux's frustration at being unable to bridge this gap lends much of the strength to the book. Her controlled writing, pitch perfect, nevertheless reveals the deep emotional currents raging underneath. Her presentation is exemplary. Her portrait of her father is fascinating and frustrating, more than a simple generation gap.
       The country life Ernaux describes seems both foreign and remote -- even she acknowledges as much. Nevertheless, it is an accurate portrayal of a certain slice of French life, and interesting for that alone.
       Ernaux's brief memoir is a marvelous little book, and we recommend it highly.

       N o t e: this review refers to the French edition of this work. However, a cursory review of Tanya Leslie's translation indicates that it more than adequately captures Ernaux's original.

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A Man's Place: Reviews: Annie Ernaux: Other books by Annie Ernaux under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Annie Ernaux was born in Normandy in 1940. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2022.

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