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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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 — June 05

50% Off Our Dark Fiction for Sunny Days Reading List

The Seven Stories fiction list began with Nelson Algren stories, with titles like "The Face on the Barroom Floor" and "The Lightless Room." These are not exactly beach reads, nor are the books you'll find below. What you will find are novels rooted in this world, presenting the dignity of people struggling to make sense of it and in one way or another to change it.

So, this is another kind of summer fiction list. We hope you'll find much that will challenge, inspire, and engage, in times of darkness and of light.

All titles 50% off for one week only, through June 14, 5:00PM EST. Check out the full collection here.

Parable of the Sower is the Butlerian odyssey of one woman who is twice as feeling in a world that has become doubly dehumanized. The time is 2025. The place is California, where small walled communities must protect themselves from hordes of desperate scavengers and roaming bands of people addicted to a drug that activates an orgasmic desire to burn, rape, and murder. When one small community is overrun, Lauren Olamina, an 18-year-old black woman with the hereditary trait of "hyperempathy"—which causes her to feel others’ pain as her own—sets off on foot along the dangerous coastal highways, moving north into the unknown.

Parable of the Talents is the continuation of the travails of Lauren Olamina, the heroine of 1994's Nebula-Prize finalist, bestselling Parable of the Sower. It is told in the voice of Lauren Olamina's daughter—from whom she has been separated for most of the girl's life—with sections in the form of Lauren's journal. Against a background of a war-torn continent, and with a far-right religious crusader in the office of the U.S. presidency, this is a book about a society whose very fabric has been torn asunder, and where the basic physical and emotional needs of people seem almost impossible to meet.

The Undiscovered Chekhov gives us, in rich abundance, a new Chekhov. Peter Constantine's historic new collection presents 38 new stories and with them a fresh interpretation of the Russian master. In contrast to the brooding representative of a dying century we have seen over and over, here is Chekhov's work from the 1880s, when Chekhov was in his twenties and his writing was sharp, witty and innovative.

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 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."—Edmund White, New York Times Book Review

"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."—John Banville

Jalla is a boy growing up in Salé, Morocco—the hometown author Abdellah Taïa fled, but which he continues to reimagine in his fiction and films—with no one to care for him but his mother, a prostitute and witch doctor. Fiercely protective of her, but also deeply vulnerable, he is propelled through a world peopled with an unforgettable cast of characters—soldiers, wanderers—and set aglow by the spirit of Marilyn Monroe, until unforseeable events at last set him on the path he has least forseen for himself: the one that leads to jihad.

"Infidels combines a lightness of touch, a deep lyricism, an openness to beauty and mystery, with an undercurrent of daring, fierce, erotic energy and images of shocking brutality and challenging complexity."—Colm Tóibín

Elfriede Jelinek's first novel to be published in English after she won the Nobel Prize, Greed is the story of Kurt Janisch, an ambitious but frustrated country policeman, and the lonely women he seduces. It is a thriller set amid the mountains and small towns of southern Austria, where the investigation of a dead girl's body in a lake leads to the discovery of more than a single crime. In her signature style, Jelinek chronicles the exploitative nature of relations between men and women, and the cruelties of everyday life.

Winner of the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

The hotly anticipated first novel by lauded playwright and The Wire TV writer Kia Corthron, The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter sweeps American history from 1941 to the twenty-first century through the lives of four men—two white brothers from rural Alabama, and two black brothers from small-town Maryland—whose journey culminates in an explosive and devastating encounter between the two families.

"A stunning achievment by any measure."—Angela Davis

A masterpiece of mood and setting, character and remembrance, The Cuban Club is Barry Gifford's ultimate coming-of-age story told as sixty-seven linked tales, a creation myth of the Fall as seen through the eyes of an innocent child on the cusp of becoming an innocent man.

Read a (very) short story from The Cuban Club here.

“For a long time I believed that writing meant dying . . .” begins So Vast the Prison, the double-threaded story of one woman’s existence set against the unforgiving history of her country.

So Vast the Prison is the most ambitious work to date by Assia Djebar, the woman many consider to have been North Africa’s most important literary voice. The tragedies of Algerian history are its subject—particularly the condition of women in Islam. Djebar’s fiction, like that of Nadine Gordimer and Edna O’Brien, wrestles with issues of oppression and the subtle ways that language and history enforce it.

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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.