WINNER OF THE 2022 NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE
"My father tried to kill my mother one Sunday in June, in the early afternoon," begins Shame, the probing story of the twelve-year-old girl who will become the author herself, and the single traumatic memory that will echo and resonate throughout her life.
With the emotionally rich voice of great fiction and the diamond-sharp analytical eye of a scientist, Annie Ernaux provides a powerful reflection on experience and the power of violent memory to endure through time, to determine the course of a life.
"My father tried to kill my mother one Sunday in June, in the early afternoon." You'd expect a book that begins with these words to be a raw, anguished account of childhood trauma, but prize-winning French author Ernaux disdains such American-style obviousness. In order to explain why "that Sunday was like a veil that came between me and everything I did," Ernaux focuses not on individual psychology, but on "the codes and conventions of the circles in which I lived, [which determined] the vision I had of myself and the outside world." In a town where a street address reveals social class, where "showing off" is a mortal sin, where even the proper choice of words to describe feelings is rigidly circumscribed, 12-year-old Ernaux was devastated by her father's attack because "I had seen the unseeable ... we had stopped being decent people." To petit-bourgeois shopkeepers like her parents, for whom appearances were everything, such an incident was literally unspeakable--the family never discussed it. Ernaux fills that void with a pitiless portrait of provincial France circa 1952, nailing everything from its penny-pinching economies to its mean-spirited gossip and casual hypocrisies, all governed by the all-important question, "What would people think?" This is a memoir in the classic Gallic tradition: lucid, spare, impeccably reasoned and written, completely devoid of self-pity. There's not an excess word or a facile emotion anywhere in her elegant text, which compels readers' sympathy all the more forcefully by never asking for it. --Wendy Smith
--This text refers to the hardcover