cover image Cleaned Out

Cleaned Out

Annie Ernaux. Dalkey Archive Press, $19.95 (127pp) ISBN 978-0-916583-65-1

``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.'' In this first novel, written in 1974, the Prix Renaudot-winning author's narrator is a 20-year-old college student who lies pondering the childhood that brought her bleeding and alone to her dorm room following a back-alley abortion. But Ernaux has no bent for bathos: for her the abortion serves as a metaphorical rather than moral backdrop against which Denise Lesur, the not particularly lovable heroine, recounts the events of a life that closely parallels Ernaux's own. Denise is the petted only child of small shopkeepers who slave to keep her in a private Catholic school, where she discovers a ``finer'' existence and turns away from her parents, working to expunge their traces from her speech, her clothes, her ambitions and herself. Cleaned Out is a tough story of young girl's coming-of-agestet hyphens per Web. in postwar France, a story filled with the spirit of Elvis, Sartre, jazz and the nasty little verities of adolescence. (Nov.)