REVIEW Exteriors

“I realise that I am forever combing reality for signs of literature”. Written in the late 80s and early 90s, Annie Ernaux’s public spaces diary turns everyday scenes in the métro, supermarket and cashpoint queue into literary vignettes laden with meaning and dry humour. Overheard conversations, misunderstandings, graffiti and public displays of love and aggro are recorded in her characteristically cool, unflashy prose with compassion and a sharp eye for the absurd. The slim book itself – Fitzcarraldo’s seventh by Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie – is a lovely thing.

Exteriors (Annie Ernaux, Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2021, ISBN 9781913097684, 96pp, £8.99)


This book review was published in the November 2021 issue of France magazine.

Annie Ernaux was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in October 2022; her acceptance speech can be found at the Nobel website here. For more information about Exteriors (first published in French as Journal du dehors) and other titles from Fitzcarraldo Editions, click here. To read more of my book reviews and other published work, click here.

The photo at the top of this post is © Francesca Mantovani – Editions Gallimard.