In her latest work, Annie Ernaux recounts a relationship with a student thirty years her junior – an experience that transforms her, briefly, back into the ‘scandalous girl’ of her youth. When she is with him, she replays scenes she has already lived through, feeling both ageless and closer to death. Laid like a palimpsest on the present, the past’s immediacy pushes her to take a decisive step in her writing – producing, in turn, the need to expunge her lover. At once stark and tender, The Young Man is a taut encapsulation of Ernaux’s relationship to time, memory and writing.
‘Reading her is like getting to know a friend, the way they tell you about themselves over long conversations that sometimes take years, revealing things slowly, looping back to some parts of their life over and over, hardly mentioning others.’
— Joanna Biggs, London Review of Books
‘Annie Ernaux is one of my favourite contemporary writers, original and true. Always after reading one of her books, I walk around in her world for months.’
— Sheila Heti, author of Pure Colour
‘I find her work extraordinary.’
— Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
‘But the brevity has a function. Ernaux’s works aren’t coy or glancing; they’ve been sharpened to a point. Though she seems like a writer of details, each book is a vital mission, carried out with thrusting force.’