Idioma original: French
Original title: I like it
Translation: Valèria Gaillard in Catalan for Angle Editorial and Nahir Gutiérrez in Spanish for Tusquets Editores
Year of publication: 1983
Valuation: recommendable

It is always appreciated that Ernaux’s books continue to be published, perhaps one of the most prolific authors on the literary scene, who not only has the ability and talent to make her books interesting individually, but also makes each appearance of a new book complement the vital and literary mosaic of the French Nobel Prize winner.

In previous novels reviewed, Annie Ernaux told us about her relationship with her parents and, in particular, with her mother, about whom she spoke specifically in several of her books (“I Haven’t Left My Night” or “A Woman”) and, despite the fact that the figure of the father also appeared in her books in which the author spoke of her family environment and her education, she did so in a more tangential, more subtle and in the background. In this case, the father is the center of the story and it was logical that the author wrote a book dedicated to him, although, because the publishers publish the books in the order they consider, paradoxically this book about the father was written before those that deal with the figure of the mother, which seems curious to me given the different influence that each of her parents had in her life.

On this occasion, the author begins by narrating a crucial episode in her life: two months after having obtained the certificate to be able to work as a professor, her father died at the age of sixty. A father who ran a café-shop with his mother after having worked hard on the land for most of his life and also working as a laborer. Thus, the author goes back to that crucial day in her life and tells us about the day of his burial and how, after a few months, she felt that “one day I had to explain all this,” “write about my father, about life, and this distance that occurred between us in my adolescence. A class distance, but a personal one, that has no name.” That is where the idea for this book was born.

Focusing the story on his father, he highlights how, despite having been born into a family without resources, he learned (unlike his grandfather) to “read and write without mistakes. He liked to learn”; an apprenticeship that grew during his time in military service, discovering a new world for him but which also isolated him from his previous interests, because upon his return, “he did not want to know anything more about ‘culture’. He always called the work of the land that way, the other sense of culture, the spiritual one, seemed useless to him.” In this way, his father, leaving aside his interest in culture and intellectual learning, dedicated himself to work as a laborer, with a woman dedicated to maintaining the business while trying to get him “to go back to going to mass where he had stopped going since he had been in the army and to abandon the ‘bad habits’ (that is, of a peasant or a worker)”; A dedicated and willing father, who in the middle of the Second World War and “under the incessant bombings of 1944 (…) continued to go to stock up on fresh produce, begging for extras for the elderly, large families, in short, all those who did not have access to the black market. In El Valle they considered him the hero of provisions” while on Sundays, when they closed the store, he would take little Annie on a picnic, walking her through the forest “carrying her on his shoulders, singing and whistling.” And now with the end of the war, the decision to return to their hometown, a city they found in ruins but which gave them the opportunity to start a new life by buying a small premises that they converted into a shop-café, acting at the same time as a shared space in which they offered a small haven of partying and freedom.

In this humble environment, Annie grew up, stating that “this way of living belonged to us, a certain kind of happiness, but also the humiliating barriers of our condition (awareness that ‘our house is not good enough’), I would like to be able to say happiness and alienation at the same time, to oscillate between one extreme and the other in this contradiction” because there was no time or space for training or the affection that she notes when stating that “we did not know how to speak to each other except with swear words or bad words. The friendly tone, reserved for outsiders.” Thus, as Annie grows, so does the distance that separates her from her father, a distance carved out in arduous lands for the intellectual growth of an Annie who knows she is more cultured than her father, more interested in art and in bourgeois and cultivated customs, more refined in her vocabulary and in her aspirations. A distance that she, out of interest, and he, out of attachment to his life as a worker, are increasing without knowing very well how to get closer again and that she finds in the letters the welcome that she does not find on an emotional level in her father, finally admitting with some regret that “maybe I write because we have nothing left to say to each other.”

Annie says of her father that “his greatest pride, or even the justification of his existence, was that I belonged to the world that had looked down on him.” Thus, his work and his effort seemed only a distraction that kept him away from what he would have wanted to be and what he wanted Annie to be: someone with culture, education and manners. Something that would probably confirm that they belonged to different worlds, but that would also confirm the most sincere love of a father: that his daughter would have the best possible.


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