He really wants me, as usual

Annie Ernaux in 1984
Photo by Sophie Bassouls/Sygma via Getty Images

In 1991, three decades before she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, French author Annie Ernaux published Passion simple, a brief, semi-autobiographical novel in which its narrator recounts her intensely passionate, all-consuming two-year relationship with a married man. Twenty years later, the inspiration for that story was published in the form of Ernaux’s personal diary from the late-1980s, at which time she was having a secret affair with a Russian diplomat in Paris—a raw, riveting, explicit account of a largely unrequited obsession and the heartbreak that eventually followed.

The Diary Entry

Wednesday 21 

A dream which says a great deal about my desires and what I’m afraid of being: I meet S in public, for lunch. He puts his hand on my shoulder and we look for a place to be alone, and he really wants me, as usual. A kind of cave, the light inside dims, the water on the ground swells. I’m afraid, and we leave the cave. We meet back at my place, the house is full of people and the children are gone. We go to my room, the bed is filled with objects, as if I were moving house. I start to stroke his sex. A change in attitude: he becomes ironic, mocking (which he never is), reproaching me for rushing for his cock and always wanting to make him come (which is true). Later in the dream, the cat Lucrèce reappears, alive. (She has been missing since Friday, and I think she’s dead – another sorrow of this month of June.)

Further Reading

Annie Ernaux’s diary was originally published in French in 2001, titled Se perdre. In 2022, it was translated into English by Alison L. Strayer with the title Getting Lost, published by Seven Stories Press. It’s a short but powerful book, with entries beginning in September 1988 and ending in April 1990.

Annie Ernaux was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2022, “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”

Visit Annie Ernaux’s website.

Diary entry excerpted from Getting Lost by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer. Fitzcarraldo Editions, London, 2022. Copyright © Éditions Gallimard, 2001. Translation copyright © Alison L. Strayer, 2022. Reproduced by permission of Fitzcarraldo Editions and Éditions Gallimard.

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