cover image A Man's Place

A Man's Place

Annie Ernaux. Four Walls Eight Windows, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-941423-75-5

``May I venture an explanation: writing is the ultimate recourse for those who have betrayed,'' says Jean Genet in the epigraph to Ernaux's ``autobiographical narrative'' about her relationship with her father. The betrayer is Ernaux herself, a cultivated intellectual whose bitter resentment towards her petit bourgeois parents first appeared in her novel Cleaned Out . The betrayed, of course, are her parents, without whose efforts the disparity in stations would not have existed. Although not as painfully immediate as Ernaux's depiction of her mother in A Woman's Story , this is nonetheless an affecting portrait of a man whose own peasant upbringing typified the adage that a child should never be better educated than his parents. Ernaux uses, as she says, ``no lyrical reminiscences, no triumphant displays of irony,'' but rather a dispassionate narrative to describe her father's climb to the relative prosperity of a shopkeeper in a small Norman town, and his fretful vigilance lest his manners, language, posture--or daughter--betray his uneasy social position. (Apr . )