by Annie Ernaux
translated from the French by Deborah Treisman
from the November 14, 2022 issue of The New Yorker

This is a great opportunity to get to know the work of the most recent Nobel Prize winner, Annie Ernaux, and it’s translated by none other than Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor at the magazine.

Ernaux is known for her autobiographical books, of which I myself have read none. Though I do have a few I need to read.

Here is how “Returns” begins:

The last time I saw my mother at her home, it was July, a Sunday. I travelled there by train. At Motteville, we sat in the station for a long time. It was hot. It was quiet, both in the compartment and outside. I looked out the open window; the platform was empty. On the other side of the S.N.C.F. railroad barriers, the tall grass almost touched the lowest branches of the apple trees. It was then that I could really feel that I was approaching C. and that I was going to see my mother. The train continued on to C. at a reduced speed.

As you may have noticed, October was one of those busy months and for the first time that I can remember I got really far behind in posting for your thoughts. I’m going to go back and fill that in, though that might take me a bit of time. But for now, welcome! And please let us know how you felt about this story and if it has led you to want to read more of Ernaux’s work.

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