Annie Ernaux | Critical Review by Carolyn Kuebler

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Annie Ernaux.
This section contains 443 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Carolyn Kuebler

SOURCE: A review of A Frozen Woman, in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. XV, No. 2, Summer, 1995, p. 215.

In the review below, Kuebler favorably assesses A Frozen Woman.

Annie Ernaux's unflinching, unabashed prose [in A Frozen Woman] flows with such seeming spontaneity and such unguarded honesty that language seems a natural extension of her fierce mind. Even in translation (which is the only way I know it) the words seem unstoppable as they pile upon each other, forming an always clearer, always deeper path into the psyche of the central character of the story. Similar to her other books (Cleaned Out, A Woman's Story), A Frozen Woman is the interior monologue of a woman who grew up in a small town in France, the daughter of two shopkeepers, a girl who moves away from her parents to an elite, more educated society. The narrator of A Frozen Woman presents the same glorious, chaotic childhood in the café, and the same fearless sexual and intellectual discoveries of her other novels but with a different, even more autobiographical emphasis. The despair of A Frozen Woman is more complete, more shattering, because now its presence seems inescapable, both the result of fate and of the author's own actions.

Here is a woman trapped in the exhausting routine of mothering, teaching, and a traditional marriage, despite the commitment she and her husband had made to equality and intellectual freedom. Despite their efforts to avoid the compromises men and women often make when they accept the responsibility of a family, the woman's aspirations are always sacrificed first. Similar to when she was a teenager discovering her sexuality, Ernaux realizes in adulthood that men enjoy more freedom than women do. As a teenager, sex soon became the "defensive game of dividing my body into territories from head to toe: permitted area; the uncertain field of current maneuvers; the forbidden zone. Cede territory only inch by inch. Each pleasure is labeled defeat for me, victory from him. I had not anticipated experiencing the discovery of the Other in terms of loss, and it isn't amusing."

In flawless detail Ernaux evokes from her own experience the common struggle of any person to remain creatively engaged with the world. Ernaux's passion for living, her intellectual capability, and her perspicuity remove layers of social and literary taboo and take language to a level of expression that supersedes jargon or literary affectation. A Frozen Woman, first published in France by Gallimard in 1981, is devastating and exhilarating at the same time. There are no answers but there is passion, linguistic power, and a vibrant voice coming through the pain and disappointment.

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This section contains 443 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Carolyn Kuebler
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