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The dues to pay for writing

Posted October. 19, 2022 07:49,   

Updated October. 19, 2022 07:49


“You are not writing about me, are you?” the man said to his girlfriend. His concern was understandable as she was a writer finding inspiration from her personal experiences. Her name is Annie Ernaux, a French writer who won Nobel Prize in Literature in 2022.

His concerns notwithstanding, Ernaux published a book called “Simple Passion” based on her relationship with the man. The male character, a married Russian diplomat 10 years younger than her, is not fictional. Ernaux candidly shares her thoughts and the things she did while in love with him, sometimes quite graphic descriptions. Perhaps, that is how the French writer leaks her own wounds left by the pains and the sense of loss she suffered from the breakup or a Freudian mourning.

The problem is that her mourning is too self-centered. What is the intention behind quoting the man’s warning against writing about him? The novelist says the book is not about him and adds, “His mere presence gave me those words, and I just put them together into sentences.” But the book is already “about him” by revealing the personal stories to be exclusively shared with him. The man was used, and the book was put on a bookshelf as a product to be distributed and consumed. Her argument - the book was not meant to be read by him and he will never read it – does not stand as it does not change the fact that she disrespected loyalty and ethics.

Ernaux is a writer who consumes others, with the rare exception of “Les annees.” Anyone and anything can be her writing material. Her parents are no exceptions, and her ethics goes inevitably missing in the process. This is perhaps her dues to pay for writing. Some might say she uses writing to lay bare the truth: the facts of life revealed by narrating the actual statements verbatim instead of resorting to typical storytelling. And perhaps that is why her books resonate with some people who find the equivalent of their experiences along with a piece of solace.