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MyFrenchLife™ French Book Club: Annie Ernaux, Journal du dehors – January 2018

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - MyFrenchLife™ book club: French literature challenge 2018 – our top 12 reads

Calling all Francophiles, lovers of literature, and savvy challenge seekers. Have you ever dreamt of joining a French book club? Well, now’s your chance… Welcome to the MyFrenchLife 12-month French Literature Challenge 2018! Every month this year, we challenge you to sit back, relax, and delve into one of in our specially chosen French books!

So, why take part in the MyFrenchLife™ book club?

Each month, we’ll be consulting our French literature expert Contributors to bring you a new and exciting French book review. We promise to dig deep and share our most intimate opinions, interpretations, and perceptions of France’s best literary offerings – and we’d love you to do the same – we’ll follow the reading list together!

Perhaps you can’t resist a challenge.

Maybe you’re still looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution.

Whatever your reason, we challenge you to join us in our 2018 literary crusade – every opinion matters, especially yours.

 MyFrenchLife™ book club: MyFrenchLife™ French Book Club: January literature challenge – Annie Ernaux, Journal du dehorsAnd… we’re starting with the contemporary Classics, but we’re not necessarily staying there, so stay close and keep reading with us.

Here is the 2018 reading list.

This January, we’re getting the challenge underway with one of our favourite contemporary classics – Annie Ernauxs Journal du dehors. So, let’s all pick up our books and let the reading commence!

Join our online book club, join the reading, join the fun and have your voice heard.

Annie Ernauxs Journal du dehors
Buy here: en français. 

Annie Ernaux: a brief synopsis

Annie Ernaux’s ‘Journal du dehorsis an incredible short diary portraying snapshots from the writer’s life between 1985 and 1992.

Instead of the typical diary format which explores the life and inner feelings of the writer, this diary does as it says on the tin – or should I say cover – as Ernaux records scenes and conversations captured in trains and stations, supermarkets, and the shopping centre in the new post-war town of Cergy-Pontoise.

Ernaux’s preface informs readers that this diary is not an attempt to create a report or a sociological investigation. You may initially disagree with this. Ernaux’s direct and journalistic writing style feels as if you are reading short fragments from a newspaper that may seem, at first, somewhat disjointed.

The diary structure jolts us from “ce soir” straight to “samedi matin” through different events, conversations, and masses of different strangers. It is in this way that Annie Ernaux gives an insight into all walks of life – from the everyday shoppers to the commuters, to the SDFs (sans domicile fixe: homeless people) who everyone appears to be avoiding.

Themes and symbols: contrasting ideasMyFrenchLife™ book club: MyFrenchLife™ French Book Club: January literature challenge – Annie Ernaux, Journal du dehors

Yet, it is by far the case that these fragments are chosen at random. Ernaux carefully positions her extracts to juxtapose one another, contrasting with similar and different ideas.

One precise incident of these connections is the representation of hairdressers whose extravagant hairstyles serve as an illustration of their job, which is immediately contrasted by the next paragraph whereby an outrageous homeless man is sitting with his flies left open.

Although at first, the two incidents may appear unrelated, it’s clear that Annie Ernaux is making a precise comparison between how appearance can represent people’s roles in life – as well as commenting on what is deemed as acceptable, and what is not.

This isn’t the only such incident in the text; many of the fragments are positioned to give readers similarly interesting perspectives. These may be easily overlooked by a reader without much time, but any text under 100 pages gives a bibliophile like me plenty to analyse!

Annie Ernaux: an immersive experience

By capturing her outside world, Annie Ernaux claims to depict the collective life of Cergy-Pontoise, finding a part of herself at the same time. Equally, readers can find themselves in Ernaux’s text as well…

  • We are the shoppers looking in wonder at our purchases – excited by what we find, worried about what it costs
  • we are those who shamefully avoid giving to the poor;
  • we are the eavesdroppers of intimate train conversations;
  • we are the judges of people and passers-by;
  • we are the hopeless consumers, constantly purchasing.

Reading in French: bite-sized chunks

The text’s brief nature is perfect for those who find reading in French difficult. Annie Ernaux describes her writing to be:

une sorte d’écriture photographique du réel [1]

(a sort of photographic writing of reality) – and this couldn’t be a more accurate way of describing the text: snapshots of our everyday lives.

Readers can pick up the text at any page without needing the coherence of a normal story to bring sense to the narrative. Although there are clear connections between the fragments, it’s a perfect way to practise reading modern French in a concise and bite-sized way.

Find a part of yourself in Ernaux’s work as you become the eyes and ears of the writer.

A perfect, page-turning read that will make you wish it was longer!

Curious to delve deeper into the secrets behind Ernaux’s life and literary inspirations? You can tune in to listen to France Culture’s fascinating podcast series here.

[1] Annie Ernaux, Journal du dehors (Paris: Gallimard, 1993) p. 9.


Now it’s your turn – Get involved here.
Let the challenge begin!

Here you will find full details of our 2018 French literature challenge and READING LIST

In true book club fashion, we’re eager to get together – if only virtually – and compare literary notes – below in ‘comments’ and complete the questions in the reading guidance form linked below.



READING GUIDANCE: Book 1
– EN FRANÇAIS CI-DESSOUS: 

Welcome to our My French Life™ French Book Club!! #ReadinginFrench
After the launch of our FIRST BOOK challenge of 2018: Annie Ernaux ‘Journal du dehors’… we would love to hear all of your opinions to kickstart our literary discussion! Please feel free to comment as honestly as possible – there are no right or wrong answers to these questions! Let’s go!!!!  
(En français ou en anglais – https://goo.gl/forms/Ya5qfX3HR0bnz4vx1 )


Bienvenu à toutes et à tous à notre club de lecture ‘My French Life™ French Book Club!!
Après le lancement du premier défi de 2018: Annie Ernaux ‘Journal du dehors’… nous souhaiterions recueillir vos avis sur le roman afin de discuter la littérature française! Merci de répondre le plus franchement possible car il y a une infinité de réponses possible pour chaque question! C’est parti! 
(En français ou en anglais – 
https://goo.gl/forms/Ya5qfX3HR0bnz4vx1 )

 


Did you enjoy Annie Ernaux’s ‘Journal du dehors’? What did you think of the contrasting imagery? We’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections in the comments box below – here’s where you GET INVOLVED.


Image Credits
1. Images 1-2 © Jessica Rushton
2. Annie Ernaux via Wikimedia


Join the conversation

29 Comments

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  1. Craig Underhill
    8 months ago

    Bonjour Jessica
    I couldn’t see a link to join the book club. Do I need to signup somewhere.?
    Thank you for organising this initiative.
    One of my new years resolutions was to read more and to improve my french so hopefully this fits with 2 resolutions.
    I have just contacted our local independent book store to order the first 2 books.

    Aussi, pourrais-je vous suggérer qu’il vaut mieux si l’on discuter les livres en Française? Par example les synopses et les commentaires serraient en Française (ou peut-etre les deux langues). Bien sur il ferait plus facile d’en faire en anglais mais pour progresser plus rapidement il vaut mieux que l’on en faisse en français.

    Qu’est-ce que vous pensez?

    Bon week-end!

    Craig


    • Jessica Rushton
      8 months ago

      Bonjour Craig!

      You can sign up to the MyFrenchLife newsletter that will keep you updated and follow us on the MyFrenchLife Twitter and Facebook Communities 🙂

      It’s my pleasure, it’s so exciting to be able to share my passion for literature with others! I hope you enjoy the books.

      Avec plaisir on peut discuter en français, à cette manière ceux qui veulent améliorer leur langage ont une opportunité! Je ne vous discourage pas d’écrire en français, mais pas tout le monde n’a les mêmes niveaux alors je sais que certains aimeraient une moitié dans les deux langues! 🙂

      Comme ces messages alors!

      It would be great to discuss Ernaux further like this!!!!
      Bonne semaine!

      Jess


    • Judy MacMahon
      8 months ago

      Bonjour Craig, thank you for your message, questions and suggestions…
      Allow me to add to Jessica’s response.
      1. discussion: in French or English or both 😉
      2. joining the book club: you are already a member here on MyFrenchLife.org and we have some other initiatives in mind (working on them right now behind the scenes 😉 ). Those initiatives will help us facilitate communication right here and with the help of monsieur google using their forms… more about that soon…
      That means we need to channel the discussion here…
      Don’t worry we’ll make sure you are advised when it happens.
      3. We suggest that you tick the boxes below to stay across the discussion.
      Of course, we’re open to any other ideas you may have,
      AND importantly we’re looking forward to hearing your views as we read together 🙂
      À bientôt
      Judy
      PS: Also if it interests you we’ve just launched our MyFrenchLife PRIVATE closed COMMUNITY PAGE – where you can speak French or English, your choice… There are already ~1200 members after just 7 days.
      Here is the link to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyFrenchLifeCommunityPage/


    • Judy MacMahon
      8 months ago

      Bonjour Craig
      You’ll find the reading guidance for Book 1 Journal du dehors is above on the post and you can also find the questions here: (En français ou en anglais – https://goo.gl/forms/Ya5qfX3HR0bnz4vx1 )
      I also encourage you to continue a discussion here is comments with other readers.
      Merci d’avance
      Judy Jessica and Jacqueline


      • Craig Underhill
        8 months ago

        Bonjour à tous!

        Thanks for the replies.

        I missed some of the earlier ones, hopefully I am now signed up to receive notifications.
        Looking forward to participating.

        Je vais essayer de faire des commentaires en français lors j’ai lu les livres.

        Merci encore pour cet initiative sur My French Life. Bravo!

        Bon week-end.

        Craig


        • Jessica Rushton
          8 months ago

          Merci beaucoup Craig!!!!
          J’espère que vous aimerez Ernaux!

          Bon we et bonne lecture!
          Jessica


    • Jessica Rushton
      7 months ago

      Dear Craig,

      I have started our conversation on Ernaux’s below, feel free to join in and let us know your thoughts and opinions!

      Jessica


  2. Carolyne Lee
    8 months ago

    Thank you for this wonderful idea, and for the great list of books. I already belong to a French bookclub at the Alliance Francaise in Melbourne. But when I saw your list of 12 books, I couldn’t help but be greedy for more, especially since I am on the move for about 6 months each year and so need a virtual book group. I absolutely adore Annie Ernaux’s work, after reading Les années, followed by Une femme, and Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit. I hadn’t come across Journal du dehors so was thrilled to see it as the January book. I was a teacher of writing for many years and would have loved to use Ernaux’s work (translated) as a stimulus for my students for writing about everyday scenes in a profound way. I’ve nearly finished the book and will post about it later. But merci mille fois for this fabulous new venture.


    • Jessica Rushton
      8 months ago

      Dear Carolyne,

      How fantastic to see you are going to be joining our book club! I love that you were ‘greedy for more’ what a fantastic way to describe book loving – I feel exactly the same – I can never have enough! I also really adore Ernaux’s work, it would be great to see what you think of the ‘Journal du dehors’ in comparison to her other works!!! Cannot wait to hear your thoughts and discuss!

      A très bientôt!

      Jess


    • Judy MacMahon
      8 months ago

      Bonjour Carolyne
      You’ll find the reading guidance for Book 1 Journal du dehors is above on the post and you can also find the questions here: (En français ou en anglais – https://goo.gl/forms/Ya5qfX3HR0bnz4vx1 )
      I also encourage you to continue a discussion here is comments with other readers.
      Merci d’avance
      Judy Jessica and Jacqueline


    • Jessica Rushton
      7 months ago

      Dear Carolyne,

      I have started our conversation on Ernaux’s below, feel free to join in and let us know your thoughts and opinions!

      Jessica


  3. Keith Van Sickle
    8 months ago

    Hello Jess,

    I’m partway through the book now and enjoying it!

    Can you please tell me how/where the discussion will take place?

    Best,

    Keith


    • Judy MacMahon
      8 months ago

      Hi there Keith. Great to hear that you’re reading!
      The discussion will be facilitated here or under the article of each book to be more specific. So tick both the boxes below to stay in touch. We’re running a little behind, and we’ll be back to you really soon – keep reading 🙂
      Jessica will be back here soon 🙂
      merci
      Judy


    • Judy MacMahon
      8 months ago

      Bonjour Keith
      You’ll find the reading guidance for Book 1 Journal du dehors is above on the post and you can also find the questions here: (En français ou en anglais – https://goo.gl/forms/Ya5qfX3HR0bnz4vx1 )
      I encourage you to continue a discussion here is comments with other readers.
      Merci d’avance
      Judy Jessica and Jacqueline


    • Jessica Rushton
      7 months ago

      Dear Keith

      I have started our conversation on Ernaux’s below, feel free to join in and let us know your thoughts and opinions!

      Jessica



  4. Judy MacMahon
    8 months ago

    READING GUIDANCE: Book 1 – EN FRANÇAIS CI-DESSOUS: 

    Welcome to our My French Life™ French Book Club!! #ReadinginFrench
    After the launch of our FIRST BOOK challenge of 2018: Annie Ernaux ‘Journal du dehors’… we would love to hear all of your opinions to kickstart our literary discussion! Please feel free to comment as honestly as possible – there are no right or wrong answers to these questions! Let’s go!!!!  
    (En français ou en anglais – https://goo.gl/forms/Ya5qfX3HR0bnz4vx1 )

    Bienvenu à toutes et à tous à notre club de lecture ‘My French Life™ French Book Club!!
    Après le lancement du premier défi de 2018: Annie Ernaux ‘Journal du dehors’… nous souhaiterions recueillir vos avis sur le roman afin de discuter la littérature française! Merci de répondre le plus franchement possible car il y a une infinité de réponses possible pour chaque question! C’est parti! 
    (En français ou en anglais – https://goo.gl/forms/Ya5qfX3HR0bnz4vx1 )

    Merci
    Judy, Jessica and Jacqueline


  5. Jessica Rushton
    7 months ago

    Bonjour tout le monde!

    Thank you for responding to my forum on Ernaux…now it’s time to discuss!

    The forum showed that readers enjoyed the fragmented nature of the novel with the claim “it was like real life”, do you think Ernaux achieved her goal to make an écriture photographique…*a written style of photography*?


    • Keith Van Sickle
      7 months ago

      I found the book impressionistic, kind of like a mosaic. It gave me a picture of a New Town that is without history and without much of a soul. If I had to pick a color for this “photography,” I would say that many of the images were gray.

      And some were brilliant! The entry on the sociology of the butcher shop was great–“if you just want a slice of ham or some ground beef and don’t have time to make a proper daube, you should go to the supermarket.” And I loved her description of how just a single line from a song, even one whose words you never understood, can transport you more than even the greatest memoir.


      • Jessica Rushton
        7 months ago

        Dear Keith,

        I really like the idea of the mosaic here. For me, it really represented how life is a series of different fragments thrown together.
        It’s really interesting that you gained the ‘grey’ colour from the text. I think there is definitely a tension with Ernaux between the grounded history we get in a traditional French town like Normandie, to, as you say, a town without a history. It made me think that she’s almost searching for her place in that world, amongst the other people. Did you get this same sense?

        I think Ernaux maybe trying to tell us there’s more culture and history to a place that may meet the eye. At the same time she feels completely alienated by the city, she seems to also find part of herself. She does say in her ‘Avant Propos’ (depends on your edition!) that she wants to change the idea that culture is found only in pre-established places such as the theatre, to show that culture and history can in fact be found in the super market! I think you’re completely right about the butcher’s in this sense! What do you think?
        I also really liked how she highlights the specific language in the butchers — you need to know what you’re asking for!


        • Keith Van Sickle
          7 months ago

          I agree that the author is trying to find her place in the world. The disconnectedness she conveys in describing the city perhaps reflects something similar inside herself. There is certainly a loneliness in her, as when she describes the young man who tries to steal her purse: “I was even more humiliated that all that skill and desire was directed at my purse and not at my body.”


          • Jessica Rushton
            7 months ago

            I never noticed this before! That’s brilliant. France Culture has recently done a feature on Ernaux and her life – her poor mother had a form of dementia and revealed there was a second daughter who passed away, she labelled her “far kinder” than Annie.. I think this has haunted her. Have you noticed there’s references to cancer and dementia in the text? I think it’s hints at her own story too, the idea of loneliness is definitely an aspect of this!


          • Jessica Rushton
            7 months ago

            Dear Keith,

            Just a quick message to say thank you for joining the conversation and if you are also reading our book 2, Delerm? 🙂

            Jessica


          • Keith Van Sickle
            7 months ago

            Hi Jessica,

            Thanks for the reminder. I’m not sure yet about the next book but I will try!

            Keith


    • Carolyne Lee
      7 months ago

      Thanks for your notes Jessica, they were very helpful. I believe Ernaux did succeed in creating an ecriture photographique, but I think it’s also ecriture sonore… She really seems to listen to the people she observes. And in recreating the pictures and sounds she makes a richly textured scene that we can enter very easily. We ‘shift’ into the world she has created, and I feel she does this more strongly than any other writer I’ve read for a very long time. But it’s also a type of stream of consciousness, although done in a very self-restrained way. This restraint is what I admire so much (I’m not a restrained writer at all, I have a lot of trouble with that). I’m reading this very slowly as I love it so much I do not want to finish it. In the evenings I sit and translate several paragraphs into English, trying to get the perfect tone in English that I found in the French. I know this book is already translated, but I don’t want to read someone else’s translation, I want to interact personally with Ernaux’s text, not have another consciousness intervene between me and the text. Some time ago I tried reading the English translation of Ernaux’s ‘Une Femme’ that I’d just read in French, and I hated the English translation, I didn’t get anything like the same feeling I’d had when reading the French version, and put it down after a few pages. One last thing: I think Ernaux’s writing helps us to better observe and listen to our surroundings, wherever we may be.


      • Jessica Rushton
        7 months ago

        Its my absolute pleasure to be able to discuss the wonderful world of Ernaux with other readers like yourself Carolyne!

        I thought your idea was fantastic about an ecriture sonore.. she really does pay a lot of attention to the way in which people talk too, what is seen as accepted and not accepted. She does tell us in her Avant Propos that she wanted to be as self-restrained as possible and not include herself too much in the text – it’s great how her thoughts and opinions are only in snippets!

        I think its a perfect book to read slowly and I admire you so much translating it! I think you’ll find a lot of hidden meanings and images in this way – please let me know what you find! Translation is such a difficult job, its amazing when you can read both languages what you like and dislike about the translator’s decisions. Definitely keep us updated on your translation.

        I completely agree. Ernaux really does change the way you go about your daily life (well she certainly did mine). I think it’s a work of art in its own right!

        Does Ernaux remind you of the literary type the ‘flâneur’? For those that don’t know, the flâneur came mainly as an established term by Walter Benjamin and his critique of Baudelaire. It was the idea of a man/the poet practising ‘flânerie’…wandering about the city as part of the crowd, observing and spotting the key features of the everyday life style of nineteenth-century France. I really think Ernaux is a female flâneuse, I think she uses her environment to identify herself, identify the small parts of daily life we may miss, but also pinpoint the “not so nice” pieces.

        What are everyone’s thoughts on this 🙂 ?

        Jessica


      • Jessica Rushton
        7 months ago

        Dear Carolyne,

        Just a quick message to say thank you for joining the conversation and if you are also reading our book 2, Delerm? 🙂

        Jessica


  6. Patricia ABASSEUR-MOORE
    7 months ago

    Heureuse d’avoir découvert ce blog par pur hasard ! Je ne connais pas cette auteure (Annie Ernaux) mais je souhaite une agréable lecture à ses lecteurs. Happy to have by chance discovered this blog. I don’t know this writer (Annie Ernaux) but I wish the readers will enjoyed her book.