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Shame Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; A Seven Stories Press 1st ed edition (November 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 188836369X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888363692
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,587,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

"My father tried to kill my mother one Sunday in June, in the early afternoon." You'd expect a book that begins with these words to be a raw, anguished account of childhood trauma, but prize-winning French author Ernaux disdains such American-style obviousness. In order to explain why "that Sunday was like a veil that came between me and everything I did," Ernaux focuses not on individual psychology, but on "the codes and conventions of the circles in which I lived, [which determined] the vision I had of myself and the outside world." In a town where a street address reveals social class, where "showing off" is a mortal sin, where even the proper choice of words to describe feelings is rigidly circumscribed, 12-year-old Ernaux was devastated by her father's attack because "I had seen the unseeable ... we had stopped being decent people." To petit-bourgeois shopkeepers like her parents, for whom appearances were everything, such an incident was literally unspeakable--the family never discussed it. Ernaux fills that void with a pitiless portrait of provincial France circa 1952, nailing everything from its penny-pinching economies to its mean-spirited gossip and casual hypocrisies, all governed by the all-important question, "What would people think?" This is a memoir in the classic Gallic tradition: lucid, spare, impeccably reasoned and written, completely devoid of self-pity. There's not an excess word or a facile emotion anywhere in her elegant text, which compels readers' sympathy all the more forcefully by never asking for it. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Ernaux's last book, Exteriors, was a collection of incisive observations drawn from anonymous, momentary encounters, but now, Ernaux returns to her provincial French childhood, the world of her autobiographical novels Cleaned Out, A Woman's Story and the Prix Renaudot-winning A Man's Place. In each of those books, Ernaux portrayed her metamorphosis from the child of her petit bourgeois parents to a young woman embarrassed by them. Here, she traces that transformation back to June 15, 1952, the day "[m]y father tried to kill my mother." Another writer might brood endlessly over the personal significance of the event, but Ernaux is much too coolheaded for that. Having forgotten most of the details of the event itself, she refuses to make up something potentially bathetic. Instead she recalls and researches the details of the world outside the event, exposing the accepted code that governed language, behavior and even a young girl's aspirations. There are many lists: rules at private school ("we must make sure we never touch the handrail"); polite phrases ("It's a pleasure!"); what is good form ("to say that 'the whole family joins in the evening prayers' and that one wants to take the veil"). None of which makes any accommodation for a shop woman's loud tirade or her husband's subsequent attack with a scythe. With unsparing lucidity, Ernaux strips herself and her memories of any comforting myth and in the process, she forces us to face the jarring facts of being human.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Shame should not be read until you have reaad both Positions and A Woman's Story, the individuals accounts of her father and mother's lives. Only then will the beginning of this work appropriately shock you: "My father tried to kill my mother one Sunday in June". Her response was to be ashamed of her background especially as she was enrolled in schools beyond her social class. The trip to Lourdes with her father is a particularly vivid illustration of her relationship with her father that contrasts with the picture drawn in Positions. Again Ernaux's direct style says something universal about social position and what is hidden to preserve that position.
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By "ads46" on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I feel a bit full of shame for not being overly swept away by this memoir at the onset and I believe that is only because I'm immersed in the American tradition of the shameless individual tell-all, no-holds-barred, go-for-broke shock story. Yet,reading on, the reader does creep more and more inside the child Annie's head to a disturbing effect--disturbing more so because it is not Americanly-obvious--it is subtle and heartbreaking, highly intellectual and deeply felt. It is a work of great literature.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
A truly boring book. I don't need bodies strewn about to get interested in a book, but Ernaux utterly shuns narrative and gives us list after list of everything she can remember from the summer she turned twelve. The result is that no one comes alive in this book, not even the auther herself.
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