Item description for Passion Simple, French Edition by Ernaux...
"A work of lyrical precision and diamond-hard clarity....A remembrance of desire past." THE NEW YORKER Memoirist Annie Ernaux has written eloquently about loss. Now she writes of another kind of loss, the loss of herself in a love and then the loss of the love itself. In spare, beautiful language, she writes of the end of an affair, the coming to terms with its close and with the person she has become because of it.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Passion Simple, French Edition?
If you've ever waited for a phone to ring..... Apr 26, 2006
You wait for the phone to ring. That's your life, waiting. You never know when he'll call, so you leave your home as little as possible. Hair dryers and vacuum cleaners make noise that could drown out a ringing phone; you use them sparingly. And then, without warning, there's the voice you crave --- he can be free for a few hours without his wife getting curious.
In a panic, you bathe. Frantically clean your home. File your nails so there's no chance you'll leave a mark on him. Lay out drinks, ice, his favorite snack. And then the door opens and your life begins. You barely speak, this isn't that kind of relationship. Later, he looks at his watch. You sigh. He showers, dresses. A final touch, and he's gone. And your life once again turns to waiting.
That's a woman's story. (It's the rare man whose life revolves around an unavailable woman who has trouble finding a moment to call and has an even harder time arranging a rendezvous.) Indeed, it's Annie Ernaux's story --- a lightly fictionalized account of a two-year affair she had with a married Eastern European diplomat. The whole story takes just 64 pages. And nothing really happens; it's mostly waiting. But the waiting is so acutely observed that in France --- Ernaux lives in a suburb of Paris --- 'Simple Passion' was the #1 bestseller for 8 months, with more than 400,000 copies sold.
The appeal of the book is, if you will, how manly it is. How matter-of-fact. Writing, Ernaux tells us at the start of the novel, should be like sex. That is, there should be "a feeling of anxiety and stupefaction. a suspension of moral judgment." So you won't get any speculation about his feelings. Or if he'll leave his wife. No, this affair is about sex. It's about "lying in bed with that man in the middle of the afternoon."
The man, like the woman, is nameless. He's 38. He likes "Yves Saint-Laurent suits, Cerruti ties and powerful cars." He watches bad TV. He drinks. But these preferences hardly matter. For the narrator knows at the beginning of the affair something that most woman only learn at the end: "The man we love is a complete stranger." As is, perhaps, the woman. Something happens at the end of the book --- nothing dramatic, like a murder or even a confrontation, but I don't want to spoil the experience for you --- and we're forced to consider her anew.
Who is Annie Ernaux? You've probably never heard of her, but she's one of the biggest names in French fiction. Born in 1940, she grew up in a small town. She became a literature teacher in Paris. And, from her first book to her most recent, she had her style down pat: short, autobiographical books, so honestly told you feel she's scraping off skin with every word. She never presents herself as a victim or a hero; she just is. Her books win prizes. And, though they're chilly, they sell. Her humanity --- that honest expression of desire and weakness --- only looks simple. It's a bitch to write.
Ernaux says that passion is the luxury of adults. I think I understand what she means: It's time out of time, a shared secret, a deep and wordless acknowledgment of need and a gloriously hot way of satisfying that need. I think that's why women, in particular, gravitate to Ernaux's short, disturbing books --- they know they're real. How? Because, at one point or another, they've been that woman looking at her phone, praying for it to ring.
A fascinating look into the mind of an obsessive lover. Apr 10, 2003
SIMPLE PASSION is a woman's story of her affair with a married man. It is a short book which I read in one sitting. What makes the story special is that it only tells what her life is like when she is not with him. From the time he left her side until the next time she saw him she says she did nothing else but wait for him. She describes in detail her obsessive thinking about her lover. So although she never describes her time with him, all her time away from him is spent thinking about him, planning her next meeting with him, waiting for him to call, fantasizing about him. As she goes about her daily life, her mind never strays from him. It is as compelling a story as her obsession was to her.
passion is the greatest high Feb 26, 2003
My favorite book. It honestly explores the effects of passion, and does so with total economy. It is both dramatic and zenlike at the same time. Most writers believe in the "show don't tell" aproach, but only the best writers, most of them being in my opinion, French, have a way of telling that exceeds the showing. Ernaux, like Gide and Duras, offers a very processed view of a relationship which becomes an intellectual experience --despite it revolving around a physical love affair. Ernaux transportes her readers, not necessarily into the moments, but into the DRAMA of them --getting us inside this woman's mind and body and feeling the pain and exstacy of the many stages of obsession. While reading this book, I often had to pause and just sigh. And when I completed this slim novel, just a couple hours later (I really took my time), I began it again.
Passion Put Simply, but Beautifully Dec 12, 2001
My relationship to this book became very intimate after translating it from French to English for a college course. I really appreciated the subtlties of language that Ernaux mastered in Passion Simple. The French is marvelous, and the subject itself, passion/obsession, is pertinent. Most people reading this book are quick to judge the narrator's attitudes and actions. She, herself, is unwilling to do so in this book. Instead, she simply relays the facts. It is amazing how well she is able to do this so beautifully.
AN ANTHILL OF PASSIONS Jul 18, 2001
One review on the cover of this book says it is "a monument to passions". I believe it is an inconsequential anthill. This tiny little book, is in actuality simply an overpriced pamphlet. It consists of 64 pages but in large print and much doublespacing and footnotes at the bottom of some pages. Having just gone through the painful experience of wading through the 827 page Underworld by Don Delillo I decided to pick up this little book. It was a bad choice. There is nothing redeemable about the boring lackluster prose. The subject of love has been rhapsodied on for thousands of years and this boring little assemblage of pages adds nothing to its mystery. If anything, it cheapens it. With its emotionless tone, it resembles the side of a cereal box. Actually, the cereal box would be more entertaining. Ernaux could have minimalized her book even further by limiting it to two sentences: "Woman loves married man. Has affair with him that ends." Actually, these lines are good representatives of the prose style in Simple Passion. I could go on but then the review would be longer than the book.