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Graffiti (against colonial wars for instance) and homeless people often recur, being seen and documented by Annie Ernaux in this slim book. I’ refers to oneself, the reader, and it is inconceivable, or unthinkable, for me to read my own horoscope and behave like some mushy schoolgirl. One can either relate them in detail, exposing their stark, immediate nature, outside of any narrative form, or else save them for future reference, ‘making use’ of them by incorporating them into an ensemble (a novel, for instance). The move to the new town made Ernaux a commuter, so a rich and readymade source for her sharp observations was the Réseau Express Régional, the transit system that served Paris and its suburbs. And so, through car parks, checkout queues, graffiti, the techniques of beggars, and conversations overheard on the RER (train), we are given insight into the particularities of the lives being lived around Ernaux, as well as her quest to analyse and understand life in the round.

I do like the smart and courageous writing of Annie Ernaux, but I could have taken a pass from reading these snippets taken from her journal and never felt anything missing from my life. Overall I really like the writing style of Ernaux and the social perspective that is apparent in her writing. This is a completely different mode of writing than anything else I’ve read by her and is additive to her autofictive depiction across her oeuvre, perhaps essential. A partir de textos curtos, num registo algo diarístico, Ernaux apresenta-no o quotidiano do subúrbio de Paris onde vive faz mais de trinta anos.On a sunny day like today, the seams of buildings lacerate the sky, the glass surfaces radiate light. In some of the books she tries to be almost ruthlessly unemotional, focusing on cold descriptions of events and relationships. Denise, a 20-year-old college student who has just had a back-alley abortion, lies alone in her dorm room and ponders her rejection of her well-meaning parents.

So I got involved, heavily involved, deeply involved, right down to ending up with a tube in my womb, all because of a not-very-clever comment, all because of myself. It's funny how delving into the lives of others, in only a handful of lines, can often prove to be more captivating to read than even the most labored of novels. I don’t think those years have any especial significance once you know when this was first published. Interesting observations from 1985 till 1992 that still capture a lot of relevant themes of the current day.Ernaux does a marvelous job balancing the two and showing that blemishes are a part of life, and should be appreciated as such: “On the walls of the railroad station in Cergy, after the October riots, one could read: ALGERIA I LOVE YOU, with blood-red flowers between ‘Algeria’ and ‘I. At one point in her life, Ernaux moved to a “new town” on the outskirts of Paris, and since it was a place with no history so far, she began keeping a journal to record history in the making. Glimpses, scenes, and pieces of overheard dialogues from Ernaux's life as she commutes from her home on the outskirts of Paris to the capital itself, walks the city, and goes to the supermarket(s). In other words, the feelings and thoughts inspired by places and objects are distinct from their cultural content…a supermarket can provide just as much meaning and human truth as a concert hall. Again, she draws on diary entries she wrote while commuting on the Paris Métro, usually just observing strangers, and seeing how they help her reflect on her own life.

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