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The Years

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,914 ratings  ·  408 reviews
Considered by many to be the iconic French memoirist’s defining work, The Years is a narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present, cultural habits, language, photos, books, songs, radio, television, advertising and news headlines. Annie Ernaux invents a form that is subjective and impersonal, private and communal, and a ...more
Paperback, 227 pages
Published June 20th 2018 by Fitzcarraldo Editions (first published February 7th 2008)
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Kirsten Not sure about the French but in the English edition the pun is "I'll be brief, said King Pepin the Short and climbing out of the monster's belly, Jon…moreNot sure about the French but in the English edition the pun is "I'll be brief, said King Pepin the Short and climbing out of the monster's belly, Jonas declared, you don't need to be a brain sturgeon to know that's dolphinitely no minnow." Cute but in a very eye-rolly sort of way (which is, of course, her point).(less)

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Adam Dalva
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fabulous collage of life - Ernaux melds history, feminism, and pop culture with snippets from her own experience since the 1940s, casting her life into sharp relief through a combination of imagery and analysis. The book accumulates as it goes, picking up speed as life accelerates - the 90s blip by in a way the tumultuous 60s in Paris don't. The contexualization of life with history is jarring - proof with relative time - and the book is uniquely effective. Though it has its slowness, I l ...more
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, recs
Structured like a scrapbook, The Years documents the history of France from the time of WWII to the late 2000s. Ernaux patiently examines the aging of the generation that grew up in the wake of the Liberation of Paris, alternating between detailing collective experience in the first-person plural and recounting her own daily life in the third-person singular. The work reads as a slow-moving collage of images, phrases, advertisements, artworks, private memories, and public events, plucked from ti ...more
Barry Pierce
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was in a bookshop in Cork city and chatting with one of the managers I know and I asked if anything of worth had actually been published in the last year. He said not really except for one thing. That ended up being this book. He told me to read the first page, which I did, and I was immediately sold.

Ernaux's style of memoir-as-social-history is such an enjoyable form of writing. It reminded me of reading Alexievich for the first time, that discovery of a whole new mode of storytelling. The wh
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019

This is a very enjoyable "impersonal autobiography", which mixes Ernaux's own life story with a form of collective consciousness recalling the events of her lifetime in France and how they were perceived more widely across her generation.

I do have a certain amount of sympathy for those who feel that something so close to non-fiction should not be competing for a fiction prize, and Fitzcarraldo's own decision to give it a white cover does not
Paul Fulcher
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Book 2/13 for me from the Man Booker International 2019 longlist

She would like to assemble these multiple images of herself, separate and discordant, thread them together with the story of her existence, starting with her birth during World War II up until the present day. Therefore, an existence that is singular but also merged with the movements of a generation. Each time she begins, she meets the same obstacles: how to represent the passage of historical time, the changing of things, ideas an

What an impressive undertaking, to write an autobiography without ever using the first person pronoun, without succumbing to the tyranny of me, me, me, but to project oneself as a representative of a generation, a society, a product of circumstances and structures that applied to a whole cohort. I could see it, absolutely, for Annie Ernaux's early life. Born in 1940, she grew up in a monolithic society, yes, one structured by a shared set of values, essentially unchanged over generations.
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Annie Ernaux’s The Years (“Les années” in its french original) is a sprawling and ambitious book that revisits one woman’s life and memories (the author’s) from the year she was born, 1940, to 2006 (fortunately not the time of her death but the year when she was finally able to write the book that was on the making for more than 30 years).

While the span of the book is very impressive, what makes it ambitions isn’t so much the ‘memoir’ part of it -- Ernaux wasn’t interested in writing about her l
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, 2019-mbi
Because in her refound solitude she discovers thoughts and feelings that married life had thrown into shadow, the idea has come to her to write ‘a kind of woman’s destiny’ set between 1940 and 1985…And how would she organise the accumulated memory of events, and news items, and the thousands of days that have conveyed her to the present?

Les Années (The Years) is Annie Ernaux’s memoir of her life. In the end, for reasons she explains as the book progresses, it doesn’t cover just the period from 1
This is the of the 13 books on the 2019 MBI longlist I have read. I finished reading, closed the book, and started to cry.

This will not be a work of remembrance in the usual sense, aimed at putting a life into story, creating an explanation of self. She will go within herself only to retrieve the world, the memory and imagination of its bygone days, grasp the changes in ideas, beliefs, and sensibility, the transformation of people and the subject that she has seen - perhaps nothing compared to
Eric Anderson
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When this year’s Man Booker International Prize longlist was announced it included French book “The Years” by Annie Ernaux. Some people scratched their heads at its inclusion – not because of its perceived quality – but because the English version was published in the UK by Fitzcarraldo with their recognizable plain white covers and blue lettering. This signifies it’s a book of essays or nonfiction (as opposed to their plain blue covers with white lettering which signifies it’s a work of fiction ...more
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Identity, which until then had meant nothing but a card in one's wallet with a photo glued to it, became an overriding concern. No one knew exactly what it entailed. Whatever the case, it was something you needed to have, rediscover, assume, assert, express-a supreme precious commodity." ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
"We were mutating. We didn’t know what our new shape would be."

I love the International Booker Prize's new version. They always have at least a couple of gems in their long list. And this book is such a gem. You could start introducing it by saying that it is an autobiography, however, it ain't just biography of a single person, rather it is a biography of a whole French generation born around 1940. Since the industrial revolution, generational differences have widened exponentially. And a s
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel so pleased when a novel I am resisting and condemning finally wins me over and makes me a fan, and that is exactly what happened with The Years. Ernaux's novel could be considered autofictional memoir but she narrates the novel using the plural "we," rather than the singular "I," writing as a voice of her generation growing up in France and stressing, shared rather than individual experiences. This is why I lost interest early. The novel referenced numerous cultural memes that held no sig ...more
Jonathan Pool
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
I had no prior awareness of Annie Ernaux prior to reading The Years. It took me about fifty pages to find any reading rhythm and then.. bam! I found myself carried along with the prose. Really, really enjoyable.
Ernaux writes in a particular style that’s not to everyone’s taste, and which has generated debate about the boundary between true fiction and thinly veiled autobiography.
The translator Alison Strayer adds a postscript to discuss the Ernaux writing style concept and the author herself ref
Gumble's Yard
May 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
I enjoy historical non-fiction so I did find plenty of interest in this part personal memoir/ part collective- autobiographical reflection on French society and history from 1941-2006, which I came to via its Man Booker Prize International longlisting – the jury there deciding that if the main prize jury can count comics as novels, then they can count non-fiction as fiction.

Interestingly one of the recurrent themes of the author’s reflections are on her lifelong ambition to write a novel – for
Karen Witzler
"that this writing... is able to ...capture the reflections that collective history projects upon the screen of individual memory" Annie Ernaux from the book.

I liked this very much - it often reminded me of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Quartet - which I love. The book is designed to carry us through time from mid -WWII to 2006. How did people behave around a communal table, how did one relate to music and song, to one's own body, to the family, to political life? Auto-fiction --- sociological cre
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mbi-2019
Having originally read the book in January this year, I revisited Annie Ernaux’s The Years (translated by Alison L. Strayer) due to its inclusion on the Man Booker International 2019 longlist. This collective autobiography “at the confluence of autofiction and sociology,” as the cover blurbs it, was certainly worth revisiting. It’s an impressive perusal of French culture and society as viewed through the lens of one writer, written in a memorable and inventive way.

What ultimately makes this flou
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is 'We Didn't Start the Fire' for people who wear too much tweed.
Lucy Dacus
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't decide between a 3 and a 5 rating. This book took me so long to read because it never grabbed me, but it had moments of such poignancy and beauty. I do think it's a great book even if pages passed without making an impression. I would only recommend this to people who are interested in form- it completely accomplishes the goal of writing a personal memoir and general history without referring to oneself (using "me" or "I"). It reads more like long-form prose to me, like flipping throu ...more
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, favorites
Annie Ernaux’s Man Booker International shortlisted book, The Years, is a cumulative history of one person and an entire nation ranging from 1940 (when the writer is born) to 2006 (when the book comes to fruition). The Years defies convention and escapes the straitjacketing that simplistic genre categories entail. In writing her memoir, Ernaux weaves together her own life with that of the nation she has come to know so intimately through a collage of memoires, culture, songs, news headlines, pho ...more
I read this because it is a memoir. I read memoirs and autobiographies as aids to the book I am writing, either a memoir or an autobiography depending on which day you ask. When I first heard about The Years, I learned that this acclaimed French writer covers her life against a background of social and political French life, comparing and relating her passages to those events. I am attempting a similar feat.

Unlike myself, Annie Ernaux is exemplary in her brevity. She manages to compress 1941 to
MJ Beauchamp
I wasn't sure about this book at first, but the more I read the more I fell in love... This life story, in style and structure, is unlike any other. Through a series of vignettes - historical and personal events, commentaries and trends, experiences and memories, pictures and images - Annie Ernaux masterfully travels in time and takes us on this incredibly detached yet extremely intimate voyage of years past, what is left behind and what is to come. A social and generational critique where miles ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Thank you so much @fitzcarraldoeditions for sending me this masterpiece of a memoir to review, and congratulations on having it shortlisted, as it deserves to be! I wouldn’t have thought that a history of France between 1941-2006 disguised as a memoir would affect me so deeply, but I was honestly mesmerised by this book.
It is both structurally and stylistically brilliant (and elegantly translated by Alison L Strayer - she handles the sheer amount of French culture beautifully), with Ernaux capt
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
65 years of social history told in 227 pages. Fascinating and mind-boggling, it’ll take me a while to recover from the intensity of this book!
Alison Hardtmann
May 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
Annie Ernaux's book belongs in that odd genre of auto-fiction, books that are based on the author's own life, but the events of the past have either been altered or the author concedes that their own memories are not necessarily accurate. Here, Ernaux takes her own life and memories as a way of telling the story of what life was like during her life, for herself, for women in France, and for France itself.

Beginning in the mid-1940s, the book begins with Ernaux's earliest memories, and with descr
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, france, translated
I’m gathering my thoughts on this and have a feeling that’ll take awhile. It makes an incredible impact.

This was actually maybe 4.5 for me just because so many references went over my head, but as the translator notes that was going to be the case for most English readers and French cultural touchpoints. That was the only drawback. What an extraordinary memoir and use of form - it’s both personal and collective and somehow blends them both perfectly. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite l
Kristin MB
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated
The Years is a unique mixing of personal and historical reflections. I appreciated the forest of this book, but at times got trapped by the individual trees and vines of it. I wish I had a figurative machete to cut through the slow parts. I imagine much of this had to do with my ignorance of French history and politics. There are great parallels between France and the U.S. in terms of goals, drives, fears, struggles, and flaws. The challenges faced in France in terms of bigotry and inhumane trea ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
Autobiographical novel with interesting POV (with which I had some big problems) is told in snippets, from postwar years till present time. In the foreground is development, progress in the society combined with author’s personal experiences and thoughts, impact of the society on individual and vice versa. Very well written and very interesting, structured look at one life.
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Annie Ernaux is a French writer.

She won the Prix Renaudot in 1984 for her book La Place, an autobiographical narrative focusing on her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up in a small town in France, and her subsequent process of moving into adulthood and away from her parents' place of origin.

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