Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Winner of the 2018 French-American Foundation Translation Prize

Winner of the 2016 Strega European Prize

Translated by Alison L. Strayer

The Years is a personal narrative from Annie Ernaux of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present—even projections into the future—photos, books, songs, radio, television and decades of advertising, headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and writing notes from six decades of diaries. Local dialect, words of the times, slogans, brands and names for the ever-proliferating objects, are given voice here. The voice we recognize as the author's continually dissolves and re-emerges. Ernaux makes the passage of time palpable. Time itself, inexorable, narrates its own course, consigning all other narrators to anonymity. A new kind of autobiography emerges, at once subjective and impersonal, private and collective. On its 2008 publication in France, The Years came as a surprise. Though Ernaux had for years been hailed as a beloved, bestselling and award-winning author, The Years was in many ways a departure: both an intimate memoir "written" by entire generations, and a story of generations telling a very personal story. Like the generation before hers, the narrator eschews the "I" for the "we" (or "they," or "one") as if collective life were inextricably intertwined with a private life that in her parents' generation ceased to exist. She writes of her parents' generation (and could be writing of her own book): "From a common fund of hunger and fear, everything was told in the 'we' and impersonal pronouns."

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Buying options

The Years is an earnest, fearless book, a Remembrance of Things Past for our age of media domination and consumerism, for our period of absolute commodity fetishism.””

“One of the best books you'll ever read.”

The Years is a revolution, not only in the art of autobiography but in art itself. Annie Ernaux's book blends memories, dreams, facts and meditations into a unique evocation of the times in which we lived, and live.”

“I admire the form she invented, mixing autobiography, history, sociology. The anxious interrogations on her defection, moving as she did from the dominated to the dominant classes. Her loyalty to her people, her fidelity to herself. The progressive depersonalisation of her work, culminating in the disappearance of the 'I' in The Years, a book I must have read three or four times since its publication, even more impressed each time by its precision, its sweep and—I can’t think of any other word—its majesty. One of the few indisputably great books of contemporary literature.”

“The author of one of the most important oeuvres in French literature, Annie Ernaux’s work is as powerful as it is devastating, as subtle as it is seething.”

“Annie Ernaux is ruthless. I mean that as a compliment. Perhaps no other memoirist — if, in fact, memoir-writing is what Ernaux is up to, which both is and isn’t the case — is so willing to interrogate not only the details of her life but also the slippery question of identity . . . . Think of The Years . . . as memoir in the shape of intervention: ‘all the things she has buried as shameful and which are now worthy of retrieval, unfolding, in the light of intelligence.'”

“The process of reading The Years is similar to a treasure box discovery. . . . It is the kind of book you close after reading a few pages, carried away by the bittersweet taste it leaves in your mind. . . . Ernaux transforms her life into history and her memories into the collective memory of a generation.”

“"[H]umble and generous, an homage to the great French writers and thinkers of the previous century. The “she” of The Years could be (and indeed is meant to be) any woman who grew up in a small town and moved into the literary world. . . . To her, the book will “give form to her future absence.” The Years is not the testimony of a woman who once existed, but of a woman who no longer exists.”

“Attentive, communal and genuinely new, Annie Ernaux’s The Years is an astonishing achievement.”

“A book of memory, of a life and world, staggeringly and brilliantly original.”

“Ravishing and almost oracular with insight, Ernaux’s prose performs an extraordinary dance between collective and intimate, ‘big’ history and private experience. The Years is a philosophical meditation paced as a rollercoaster ride through the decades. How we spend ourselves too quickly, how we reach for meaning but evade it, how to live, how to remember—these are Ernaux's themes. I am desperate for more.”

blog — August 02

Women in Translation: Announcing a Week-Long Sale and a New Bookseller Initiative

Back in June, after we announced a special offer for Pride Month, Eileen Dengler, executive director of the North Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) reached out to me asking if we could find a way to include booksellers directly in these kinds of initiatives. I was intrigued, and excited. I reached out to our sales team at Penguin Random House, and right away they were excited too. The result, beginning today, is what we hope will be a monthly partnership in which Seven Stories creates special themed collections and PRH offers these titles to booksellers at a special 51% discount for the entire month. Within that span, Seven Stories will also feature these collections for one week at a time online, hopefully building awareness of these titles—beginning today with “Women in Translation” since it is Women in Translation month, and the other, beginning August 15, “For Human Rights, Against War,” featuring a number of our most widely read political titles. We’ll discount these titles online, but only in such a way that booksellers can experiment with matching our discount if they so wish, thanks to the additional trade discount they receive.

We don’t know if this is exactly the right model. What we know is that a lot about it feels right, and we’ll keep experimenting until we find the model that is right for booksellers and publishers alike. If we can do that, then others will follow us.

If you have a local independent bookstore, shop there before you shop on our site, and remember that we provide a free e-book of every book that you buy from us online. If you buy one of the books from the collection at an independent bookstore, email a picture of your receipt to sevenstories@sevenstories.com to get a free e-book and updates from Seven Stories.

—Dan Simon, Publisher
Seven Stories Press

Here are the seven award-winning titles from our Women in Translation series, all at 35% off through August 8th. Free shipping within the U.S.!

1. The Hotel Tito: A Novel, by Ivana Bodrožić, translated by Ellen-Elias Bursać

Applauded as the finest work of fiction to appear about the Yugoslav Wars, acclaimed poet and novelist Ivana Bodrožić’s The Hotel Tito is at its heart a story of a young girl’s coming of age, a reminder that even during times of war—especially during such times—the future rests with those who are the innocent victims and peaceful survivors.

2. The Tongue’s Blood Does Not Run Dry: Algerian Stories, by Assia Djebar, translated by Tegan Raleigh

In these short stories, Djebar presents a brutal yet delicate exposition of how warring worlds enact their battles upon women’s lives and bodies.

3. The Ages of Lulu: A Novel, by Almudena Grandes, translated by Sonia Soto

The lurid and compelling story of the sexual awakening of a girl long fascinated by the thin line separating decency and morality from perversion, but whose increasingly dangerous sexual forays threaten to engulf her completely.

4. Syrian Dust: Reporting from the Heart of the War, by Francesca Borri, translated by Anne Milano Appel

In moving, powerful prose, Syrian Dust is a record of a freelance war reporter confronting the many-factioned conflict being fought against Bashar al Assad.

5. The Years, by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer

The Years is a personal narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions of past and present—even projections into the future—photos, books, songs, radio, television and decades of advertising, headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and writing notes from six decades.

6. Natural Histories, by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by J.T. Lichtenstein

Five dark and delicately written stories by international award-winner Guadalupe Nettel unfold in fragile worlds, where Siamese fighting fish, cockroaches, a cat, a snake, and a strange fungus are mirrors that reflect the unconfessable aspects of human nature we keep hidden.

7. The Little Communist Who Never Smiled, by Lola Lafon, translated by Nick Caistor

Adored by young girls in the west and appropriated as a political emblem by the Ceausescu regime, Comaneci’s life was scrutinized wherever she went, her body seemingly no longer her own. Lafon’s ficitionalized account shows how an extraordinary athlete mesmerizes the world, her fate reverberating across nations.

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Born in 1940, Annie Ernaux grew up in Normandy, studied at Rouen University, and later taught high school. From 1977 to 2000, she was a professor at the Centre National d’Enseignement par Correspondance. Her books, in particular A Man’s Place and A Woman’s Story, have become contemporary classics in France. Ernaux won the prestigious Prix Renaudot for A Man's Place when it was first published in French in 1984, and the English edition became a New York Times Notable Book. Other New York Times Notable Books include Simple Passion and A Woman's Story, which was also a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist. 

Ernaux’s most recent work, The Years, has received the Françoise-Mauriac Prize of the French Academy, the Marguerite Duras Prize, the Strega European Prize, the French Language Prize, and the Télégramme Readers Prize. The English edition, translated by Alison L. Strayer, won the 31st Annual French-American Translation Prize for non-fiction.