The individual and the social in Annie Ernaux's autobiographical writing

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Abstract


This article examines the ideological and aesthetic peculiarities of autobiographical writing in “La Place” by Annie Ernaux, a well-known contemporary French writer. We argue that Annie Ernaux 's “flat writing” is close to a sociological or ethnographic study and nearly devoid of any autobiographical subjectivity. Autobiographical writing is approached through the concept of symbolic violence, borrowed from the sociologist P. Bourdieu. Ernaux indeed replaces event history, a feature of autobiography, by the study of socio-historical causes of “class distancing” between father and daughter. The analysis of key concepts of the Ernaux's poetics makes it possible, on the one hand, to grasp the appearance of social and cultural alienation and, on the other hand, to achieve a social criticism of reality.


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Introduction The work of Annie Ernaux holds a special place in the literary landscape of modern France. She is the author of more than 20 books, most of which were published at the prestigious Gallimard Publishing House and translated into various languages of the world, including Russian. In the Dictionary of French-speaking contemporary writers (Jérôme Garcin’s well-known Dictionnaire des écrivains contemporains de langue française), her name appears among 250 writers whose works have become classics of French literature of the twentieth century. She was awarded many prestigious French and international literary prizes. In 1984, on account of the innovative character of her work “A man’s place” (“La Place”), she was awarded the Renaudot Prize, the laureates of which were previously internationally recognized word masters such as L.-F. Celine, A. Aragon, M. Butor, J.-M. Gustave Le Clézio, and G. Perec. In 2019, she was one of the six nominees for the International Booker Prize. The prose of A. Ernaux is studied in French high schools and universities. Due to the variety of topics and approaches to comprehend reality - personal, social, class, historical, gender, - her works are the subject of multilateral analysis not only in foreign literary criticism but also arouse the interest among sociologists, historians, and psychoanalysts. However, in the national science of literature, there is no significant research devoted to her work, though A. Ernaux’s name was mentioned in the context of the study of the autofiction in French literature at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries [1; 2]. A. Ernaux belongs to the generation of French writers of 1980-1990, such as P. Michon, P. Bergougnoux, F. Bon, and others who, without ceasing to deem themselves the heirs of the nouveau roman (new novel), which gave priority to formal research and “suspicion”, to mimetic representation of reality, referentiality and psychologism, do return to the “transitional” literature with its autobiographical dominance. Due to their modest provincial ascent (A. Ernaux was born on the 1st of September 1940 in Lilbonne in a family of small businessmen of peasant origin), they produce a critical reflection on issues familiar to them from childhood but did for a long time remain outside the framework of the great literary realism of provincial France in the second half of the twentieth century. In connection with the crisis state of the modern world, understanding “miserable lives” becomes especially important and, according to the French literary critic D. Viard, an “inevitable political issue” (“des questions nécessairement politiques”) [3. P. 107]. А. Ernaux claims that “literature should be confusing, and associated with something sexual” (“la littérature c’est quelque chose qui doit gêner, c’est lié à quelque chose de sexuel”) [4. P. 42], i.e. is a form of transgression, a violation of prohibitions, detection of the unspoken, as well as a way of exerting influence upon the world. In her books, the writer exposes topics that weren’t openly discussed without aesthetic mitigation: sexual and passion, abortion, disease, the ambiguous position of women in bourgeois families, the humiliating conditions of the proletariat, social inequality in the past and present, and the new “outcasts” on the outskirts of metropolitan areas. It is no coincidence if many critics wrote: “She dared to...” [5. P. 93]. Viard classifies A. Ernaux, “endowed with a keen socio-political consciousness”, as one of the creators of the “critical fictions” (la fiction critique), in which the artistic text ceases to be “predictive” (prédicatif), that is, simply representing the state of the world, and “agreeing” (consentant), than is, reconciling with the established order of things and preaching Doxa, but turns instead into a space for reflection and the production of a critical meaning. The task set by the writers is “three times critical” (“triplement critique”) [3. P. 120]. The question is addressed to the world with its past and present, to canonical literary forms and to its style of writing as a way to express reality without ideological and aesthetic distortion. The artistic form of investigation, archiving of traces and objective signs of existence become the most adequate way to comprehend the elusive reality, the transience of time, the changing nature of history. However, in the work of modern French writers, this approach is implemented in various ways. A. Ernaux developed a form of autobiographical writing, strongly influenced by the ideas of sociologist P. Bourdieu, which is far from the canons of both autobiographical and autofictional genres. In her books, the story “about herself” (l’écriture de soi) and her ancestors are combined with a wide range of sociological material and metaliterary reflection, and the themes built around the “I” of the storyteller do not cease to break the horizon of the reader's expectations. Discussion A. Ernaux's fourth book “A man’s place” (“La Place”) (1984), dedicated to the fate of the father, is a turning point not only in the writer's work but also defines a new approach to modern French literature in “writing about yourself”, as it does not fit into the framework of any of the known literary genres, old and new. This is no novel, no autobiography, no biography, no autobiographical fiction, no “autofiction”, no “récit de filiation”, but what she would later call “auto-socio-biography” (auto-socio-biographie). The understanding that the personal is always social, that subjectivity is not conceived outside of history, outside of social determinism, outside of identification with the “other”, leads the writer to the creation of this hybrid form of autobiographical writing, which is “something between literature, sociology, and history” (“quelque chose entre la littérature, la socilogie et l’histoire”) [6. P. 106]. Its aim is not to constitute its identity in the process of writing but, on the contrary, to “lose its self” and dissolve it into a broader reality. A. Ernaux states: “I use my subjectivity to discover and reveal mechanisms and phenomena more general, collective” (“je me sers de ma subjectivité pour retrouver, dévoiler les mécanismes ou les phénomènes plus généraux, collectifs”) [7. P. 148]. According to F. DugastPortes, despite the subjectivity inherent in A. Ernaux's works, they go beyond “simple selfish remembrance”, and their aim is “not to introspect the inner world but to explore oneself as a consciousness inseparable from the conditions of existence” (“la finalité n’est pas l’introspection pour elle-même, mais l’exploration de soi comme conscience inséparable de ce qui la fait exister”) [5. P. 46]. The cover of the book does not indicate the genre of the book. In the metaliterary comments included in the text, the author immediately declares that “a novel is out the question” (“le roman est impossible”) because the desire to tell the story from “a life governed by necessity” (“une vie soumise à la nécessité”) would betray parents and their proletarian environment of origin [8. P. 24]. The new language of the past called “flat writing” (une écriture plate). It is characterized by a simple statement of facts and archiving of objective traces of the existence of workers and peasants: the organization of life and work, behavior, values, tastes, preferences, fears, words, etc. The absence of any stylistic ornamentation and artistic effect at first glance brings “flat writing” closer to the language of sociological or ethnographic research. It is no coincidence that the working version of the book was called “Elements for Family Ethnography” (Éléments pour une ethnographie familiale). In “flat writing” there is no lyricism, no sentimentality, no pathos, no populism, no irony. A. Ernaux explains it this way: “I shall collate my father’s words, tastes and mannerisms, as well as the main events of his life. In short, all the external evidence of his existence, an existence which I too shared. No lyrical reminiscences, no triumphant displays of irony. A flat writing comes to me naturally, it was the same style I used when I wrote home telling my parents the latest news” (“Je rassemblerai les paroles, les gestes, les goûts de mon père, les faits marquants de sa vie, tous les signes objectifs d’une existence que j’ai aussi partagée. Aucune poésie de souvenirs, pas de dérision jubilante. L’écriture plate me vient naturellement, celle-là même que j’utilisais en écrivant autrefois à mes parents pour leur dire les nouvelles essentielles”) [8. P. 24]. In the new approach to “writing about oneself”, the influence of P. Bourdieu's sociological theory is evident, the key concepts of which are “distinction”, “habitus”, “dominants - dominés” and “symbolic violence”. His works were of a great “ontological” importance for A. Ernaux, as they made it possible to understand the “social unconscious” (“le refoulé social”), the hidden mechanisms of reproduction of social inequality in society: “To read in the seventies ‘Heirs’, ‘Reproduction’ and later ‘Distinction’ meant, and continues to mean, for me to experience a strong ontological shock. I intentionally use the term ‘ontological’: the being that was considered our being did not seem to be the same anymore, the established vision of ourselves and others in the society disintegrated, our place, our tastes, nothing was anymore natural, self-evident...” [9]. Thanks to the sociologist's work, this “internal exile” (cet exil intérieur), in the writer's words, ceased to be an isolated case and turned out to be a manifestation of the social patterns from which the masks were removed. In the work “A man’s place” (“La Place”) there is a tendency to generalize, to turn the individual experience into a demonstration of common phenomena. 1. Ernaux tries to escape from the “traps of the individual” (“du piège de l’individuel”) [8. P. 45]. The father's fate, outlined in a series of disparate and heterogeneous fragments separated by graphic spaces and organized around an insignificant everyday detail, a word or a fact of biography, is presented not as something individual, but as an experience representing the way of life of the entire social group. The conflict with the daughter is also not a purely personal event. The lack of names, the predominance of the pronoun “we”, the meaning of which is conveyed in French by the two grammatical forms “nous” and “on”, and the use of capital letters L. and Y. to denote the cities in which the storyteller's family lived, participate in the depersonalization of personal experience. The movement of autobiographical writing in this work becomes more understandable if we consider it through the prism of implementation in the text of “symbolic violence”, a concept borrowed from the sociology of P. Bourdieu. Under the influence of this mechanism of subordination to the established social order between an uneducated father and an educated daughter who occupy a different place in the social space, as the author emphasizes, “class distance” (“une distance de classe”). A. Ernaux pursues two goals: on the one hand, to reveal how this social and cultural alienation arose, and on the other hand, to overcome it by “rehabilitating” his past in the process of writing. According to P. Bourdieu, unlike physical influence, “symbolic violence” is implicit and unconscious. It is established when the “subordinate” begin to see themselves and their conditions of existence through the eyes of the “ruling”, to share with them and consider this process not only legitimate but dictated by the very nature of the scheme of perception and assessment through which they are perceived as a subordinate group [10. P. 87]. “Symbolic violence” is expressed in some gestures of submission, because the objective external structures, social - the activity of the individual and his environment - fit into the body of the subject, structuring his way of thinking, appearance, behavior, body position, etc. 1. Ernaux's victims of symbolic violence are both father and daughter. The author's perception of the rupture with her father as a “betrayal” generates a sense of guilt and a need for “redemption” through the “rehabilitation” of the folk environment and the exposure of social conformism, which allows to ignore or justify the existing class inequality. The book is preceded by an epigraph taken from Jean Genet: “I venture an explanation: writing is the ultimate recourse for those who have betrayed” (“Je hasarde une explication: écrire c’est le dernier recours quand on a trahi”). First of all, A. Ernaux removes the veil from the theme of national life, revealing the “humiliating conditions of our (his) existence” (“les barrières humiliantes de notre condition”) [8. P. 54]. The harsh reality is summarised in a series of keywords organizing the work: “world” (le monde), “place” (la place), “shame” (la honte), “inferior position” (l’infériorité). The social reality of France is divided into two sharply different “worlds”: “dominant and dominated” (dominants - dominés). The world of “dominants” is characterized by material wealth, education and good manners, living in the city center or castle, relaxing on the sea. It is no coincidence that when speaking of his father's time and place of birth, A. Ernaux focuses the reader's attention on the proximity of his home to the sea, which is an unattainable sign of well-being for him: “The story begins a few months before the beginning of the twentieth century in the village of Co, twenty-five kilometers from the coast” (“L’histoire commence quelques mois avant le vingtième siècle, dans un village du pays de Caux, à vingtcinq kilomètres de la mer”) [8. P. 24]. Happiness to escape from the closed peasant milieu of the army is transmitted by comparison. The storyteller's father perceives the regimental barracks to be closer to the castle (“the barracks were bigger than the castle” (“la caserne plus grande qu’un château”)), an important reference point in the spatial and temporal picture of the world of the French peasant. The idea of a bourgeois environment in A. Ernaux is supplemented by an intertextual roll call with R. Barthes and P. Bourdieu. It is a closed “world that rules, dominates, writes” (“le monde qui dirige, domine, écrit dans les journaux”) [8. P. 76], imposing and legitimizing through culture and education the superiority of its language, rules of conduct and lifestyle. Even the memory of a happy childhood spent in a folk environment seems to him to be a “bad taste” (“quelque chose de mauvais goût”) [8. P. 73]. The "ruling" prefer to forget that “the world below” (“le monde d’en bas”) [8. P. 73] exists. They perceive it as a silent “scenery” (“un décor”) [8. P. 96]. Another France, where the storyteller's father lived and grew up, is inhabited by illiterate or under-educated people living in rural areas or working-class neighborhoods who can afford to spend once in their lives “three days by the sea” (“trois jours dans la famille, au bord de la mer”) [8. P. 66]. It is a world where “everything is worthwhile” (“tout coûte cher”) [8. P. 58]. Continuing need, obedience to circumstances, refusal of desires are transmitted in the text through the repetition in different spatial and temporal contexts of the father's life (work on the farm, the first shop in L., years of war, life in Y.) of the vaguely personal construction “il fallait” (“needed”) or the expression “avoir besoin” (“needed something”). The sentences are in italics, which A. Ernaux uses as a graphic way of introducing someone else's speech: “We were happy after all. We had to” (“On était heureux quand même. Il fallait bien”) [8. P. 32]; “...they had to live” (“ils avaient besoin de vivre”) [8. P. 40]; “We had to sell” (“Il va falloir vendre”) [8. P. 41]; “We had to live no matter what” (“Il fallait bien vivre malgré tout”) [8. P. 49]. The external distinction between “dominant ones” and “dominated ones” is objectified by the writer in the collision of two lifestyles, two tastes. “Taste classifies, distributes to the classes of the person who classifies” (“Le goût classe, et classe celui qui classe”) [11. P. 7] in the process of choosing not only the objects of aesthetic consumption but also clothing, home environment, food, leisure forms. The writer lists the common people's habits and tastes of the father. He preferred circus and fairs to visit museums, newspapers to books, beautiful landscapes to works of art, sausages to sauces, knives to forks, gardening to trips to the city, etc. His preferences correspond to the “taste of need” (“le goût de nécessité”), which is opposed to the “taste for freedom and/or luxury” (“le goût de liberté - ou de luxe”) of the privileged class. The difference between the two ways of life is defined in the work by the “antithesis between quality and quantity, fatty food and delicious dishes, content, and form” (“l’anthitèse entre la quantitéet la qualité, la grande bouffe et les petits plats, la substance et la forme”) [11. P. 7]. For the storyteller, the bourgeoisie, whose tastes and way of life differ from her environment, is represented by the “other world” (“un autre monde”) [8. P. 66]. People from the opposite social strata are perceived in both “halves of the world” as “outsiders, foreigners” (“étrangers”). She compares herself to an immigrant, a defector: “I slowly emigrate towards the petty-bourgeois world...” (“J’émigre doucement vers le monde petit-bourgeois”) [8. P. 79]. Betrayal is carried out at the cost of forgetting the “manners, ideas and tastes” of the world. As a result of symbolic violence, the division of the world into two parts is recognized by the father as legitimate, of course: “Le monde entier ligué” [8. P. 75]. In his desires, in his everyday needs, in his understanding of happiness, he, like all ordinary people, is satisfied with small things, as if he had no right to do more. The author outlines the boundaries of the material well-being of the people, quoting the words of parents: “We had everything we needed, that is, we had enough to eat (the proof of which was buying meat four times a week in a butcher shop), in the kitchen and a cafe was warmth, the only rooms where we lived. Two sets of clothes, one for everyday wear, one for Sundays...” (“On avait tout ce qu’il faut, c’est-à-dire qu’on mangeait à notre faim (preuve, l’achat de viande à la boucherie quatre fois par semaine), on avait chaud dans la cuisine et le café, seules pièces où l’on vivait. Deux tenues, l’une pour tous-les-jours, l’autre pour le dimanche…” ) [8. P. 56]. In A. Ernaux's polyphonic discourse, this litany of hidden need does not contradict the bourgeoisie's idea of the legitimacy of the people's modest needs: “The smell of blossoming turquoise at the end of spring, the ringing barking of dogs in November, the distinctly audible noise of the passing train, the sign of cold, yes, undoubtedly, everything that allows the world, which rules, dominates, writes in the newspapers, to say that ‘these people are happy after all’ ”. (“Le parfum des troènes en fleurs à la fin du printemps, les aboiements clairs des chiens en novembre, les trains qu’on entend, signe de froid, oui, sans doute, tout ce qui fait dire au monde qui dirige, domine, écrit dans les journaux, ‘ces gens-là sont tout de même heureux’ ”) [8. P. 76]. The harsh reality of hard work and the material need remains forbidden and is wrapped in silence in the discourse of the “dominant ones”. However, A. Ernaux shows that the reconciliation of ordinary people with the “humiliating conditions of our existence” is linked with the adoption of the label of “inferiority” (l’infériorité), which is established for them as the “dominating one” and manipulates the stereotype of education as the main basis for human dignity. Even the storyteller's father evaluates the individual by applying the criteria of the “dominating” group. Her grandfather's memory invariably began by emphasizing his illiteracy: “Every time he told me about him, it began with ‘he could not read or write’ as if his life and character could not be understood without this initial givenness” (“Chaque fois qu’on m’a parlé de lui, cela commençait par ‘il ne savait ni lire, ni écrire’, comme si sa vie et son caractère ne se comprenaient pas sans cette donnée initiale”) [8. P. 26]. Repeating the “other people's words” dictated by the existing social order, ordinary people are ashamed of their limitations, “not knowing what we would have known if we hadn't been what we were, i.e. people of the lowest class” (“Honte d’ignorer ce qu’on aurait forcément su si nous n’avions pas été ce que nous étions, c’est-à-dire inférieurs”) [8. P. 60]. Lack of education and good manners are perceived as shortcomings that need to be justified: “What do you want, he is from the village”. А. Ernaux insists that the improvement of the standard of living in the postwar period, which manifests itself in the change of the consumer’s basket, in the appearance of television sets, cameras, cars, and amenities inside the house, does not help to overcome the deep discrepancy between the two social classes, as it is based not only and not so much on the material situation but also the access to culture and education, and through them to power. Lack of education humiliates a person and becomes a constant reason for anger and hatred towards oneself and others. “Hatred and slavery. Hate towards one's own slave state” (“Haine et servilité, haine de sa servilité”) [8. P. 75]. Belonging to the class of the “dominated ones” (dominés) is manifested in a series of gestures of submission, which contrast with the natural behavior of the elite. Shyness, seriousness, and subservience are characteristic of ordinary people in contact with the bourgeoisie. In family photos, parents never smile. The author's father is “ready to turn inside out” (“se mettre à quatre pattes”) to please his daughter's lyceum friends who visit them. The change of position of his body in space attracts attention. Does the increasing bending result from hard physical work during his life (work in the field, in a factory, on a construction site, dragging boxes of food for the store) or is it an expression of his obedience to his destiny? The distinction between the two social strata of society is emphasized primarily through the relationship to the word. The world is divided into those who “know how to speak correctly” (“qui parlaient bien”) [8. P. 63] and those who do not “know the art of intelligent conversation” (“une conversation spirituelle”) [8. З. 96]. The “inferior position” (l’infériorité) of workers and peasants is reflected in the fear of the word and the inability to freely express one's thoughts: “The lover of talking in a cafe, in the family, in front of people who spoke correctly, he kept silent or stopped in the middle of the phrase, inserting ‘not so’ or just ‘no’, with a wave of the hand, asking the person to understand it or to continue instead. Speaking with care is always a cautious, invincible fear of an inappropriate word that creates the same bad impression as the accidental release of air” (“Bavard au café, en famille, devant les gens qui parlaient bien il se taisait, ou il s’arrêtait au milieu d’une phrase, disant ‘n’est-ce pas’ ou simplement ‘pas’ avec un geste de la main qui invitait la personne à comprendre ou à poursuivre à sa place”) [8. P. 63]. The storyteller's attempts to express herself at school age in pure and stylistically correct language are compared to a “throw into the abyss” (“j’avais l’impression de me jeter dans le vide”) [8. P. 64]. Language mistakes represent a real danger because they generate contempt and humiliation on the part of teachers and classmates. “A man’s place”, alienation between father and storyteller arises in adolescence as a “class distance” (“une distance de classe”) [8. P. 23], based primarily on the disruption of the communication process: “I write, perhaps, because we had nothing else to say to each other” (“J’écris peut-être parce qu’on n’avait plus rien à se dire”) [8. P. 84]. A. Ernaux shows that thanks to her inclusion in the system of bourgeois education, she begins to speak, think, and behave like her bourgeois environment. For her, the language of the ruling class becomes “natural”, and she rejects the language of her social environment. The distance between her and her father is formed by the “alien” words that are quoted in the text. For example, she calls her parents “glorious people” (“de braves gens”), as her husband will characterize them later. She reads “real” literature, while her father watches “stupid” films. In his only favorite book, “Le Tour de la France par deux enfants” (“Journey through France of two children”), and from bourgeois mentality, there are “strange” phrases about humility, diligence, mercy, determining the way of thinking and life of an ordinary man. The storyteller's father, on the contrary, considered them very “real” [8. P. 30]. Her father's fear of language mistakes and conscience of the insignificance of his memories is conveyed by the verb “dare” (“oser”): “He did not dare to tell me stories from his childhood anymore. I never told him about my studies again” (“Il n’osait plus me raconter des histoires de son enfance”) [8. P. 80]. His daughter's new “place” changes his behavior, and he involuntarily begins to behave with her with the same care with which he previously communicated with people in a higher position in society, namely, “modestly straightening himself up before them without asking any questions” (“il avait une raideur timide, ne posant jamais aucune question”) [8. P. 60]. Angry outbursts give way to humble silence. The storyteller, in turn, enters the bourgeois world by humiliating her memory and forgetting her roots. She has to admit her childhood memories are “insignificant” (“insignificant”), to agree that everything she loved was just a “country bumpkin” (“péquenot”). She “cleared” (“épurer”) the image of the parents of the characteristics inherent in their environment, making it more noble, attuned to bourgeois stereotypes. Over the years, however, the break with his father began to be perceived as a loss, marked by the metaphor of “divorced love” (“un amour séparé”), which expresses the idea of separating the two emotionally close entities by some external force. It can be argued that the concept of “humiliated memory” (“une mémoire humiliée”) created by A. Ernaux in “A man’s place” [8. P. 73] is the driving force behind her autobiographical writing. The oblivion of her origins and the taboo imposed upon the topic of public life in the bourgeois educational and cultural system (“...I was forbidden to describe what I knew” (“si la description de ce que je connaissais ne m’avait pas été interdite”) [8. P. 69] ), is contrasted with “flat writing”, through which it “accepts and bridges the cultural gap, imports into literature something crude, heavy, cruel, related to living conditions, to the language of the world that was entirely its pre-eighteen years old, to the world of workers and peasants” (“J’assume et je dépasse la déchirure culturelle. J’importe dans la littérature quelque chose de dur, de lourd, de violent, lié aux conditions de vie, à la langue du monde qui a été complètement le mien jusqu’à 18 ans, un monde ouvrier et paysan”) [7. P. 56]. In A. Ernaux’s discourse of memory, any reality, even the rudest one, is called by its name, and in the process of memory, any information pushed back to the bottom of memory is restored. The model for “flat writing” is, on the one hand, the language of its provincial environment, in which “they never took one word for another” (“Et l’on n’y prenait jamais un mot pour un autre”) [8. P. 46]. On the other hand, she finds in anonymous passers-by encountered on the train station platform “signs of strength or humiliation” (“des signes de force ou d’humiliation”) [8. P. 101], which characterized her father as a representative of a “dominated” social group. The writer introduces into the literature the harsh and rough realities of people's lives, the pictures of their poverty and humiliation, which cannot but cause concern to the reader, as they continue to exist in the modern world in the provinces and on the periphery of large cities. The images of the parents, recreated in the work in all the nakedness of their wrong speech, poor life, unassuming tastes, are denoted by the biblical metaphor “glorious bodies” (“des corps glorieux”), which refers exclusively to the event of the Resurrection of Christ. Challenging the legitimate discourse, A. Ernaux reveals before the reader's critical and ruthless gaze “the inferior”, i.e. the last degree of aesthetic “rejection, the point of negative reference” according to P. Bourdieu [11. P. 61]. Besides, in her autobiographical project, which crosses the boundaries of what is permitted and discovers collective truth, the challenge to public consciousness is inseparable from the idea of sacrifice, the sacrifice of one's relatives, their entire environment and oneself. Conclusion Thus, the novel “A man’s place” by A. Ernaux's fits both into the modern literary tendency to return to its origins by creating a “roundabout” autobiography, in which the narrator takes a position of a witness, and into the realistic tradition of depicting the conditions of existence of the working class, which originates in Zola's novels but at a different semantic and aesthetic level. In this work, formal experimentation and attention to language are linked to an artistic understanding of topics that are traditionally the prerogative of sociology. The search for causeeffect links between the events of the father's life and his own, which are considered inextricably linked to the conditions of existence, determines the structurallogical and linguistic organization of the work, which is based on the opposition between the two social classes and the ways of life of French society: the world of the bourgeoisie and the world of ordinary people (peasants, workers and small merchants), that is, the “dominant ones and dominated ones” (dominants - dominés), according to P. Bourdieu. Far from a simple return to realism and traditional autobiography, A. Ernaux's auto-socio-biographical writing allows us to raise questions about the existence of ordinary people in the past and present without resorting to storytelling, psychological and social commentary and softening the realities of life with ironic or nostalgic discourse.

About the authors

Yulia A. Kosova

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
Email: uakossova@mail.ru
10 Miklukho-Maklaya St, bldg. 2, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Foreign Languages

Elena B. Ponomarenko

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Email: ponomar_elena@mail.ru
10 Miklukho-Maklaya St, bldg. 2, Moscow, 117198, Russian Federation

PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages

Gérard Siary

Paul Valéry University of Montpellier

Email: gerardsiary@gmail.com
Mende Road, Montpellier, 34199, Cedex 05, French Republic

Doctor of Philology, Professor of General and Comparative Literature of Department of Modern Literature

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