Gérald Bronner, sociologist, has points in common with Annie Ernaux, writer, Nobel Prize for Literature 2022. Like her, he comes from a poor background (mother: cleaning lady; stepfather: night delivery man).
Like her, he succeeded, that is to say, he publishes books that are read.
Like her, he is a “social mestizo” (Philippe Lançon).
But Gérald Bronner is not Annie Ernaux.
First of all, he is not a Nobel Prize winner.
Then, the "shame" that inhabits her, since her first thoughts in her parents' café-grocery store in Yvetot (Seine-Maritime), he does not know her.
As a teenager, Annie Ernaux was ashamed of her mother's "swear words" and then she was ashamed of having succeeded.
Later, she was ashamed of having been ashamed.
Which is a lot of shame.
(Autrement 2023), Gérald Bronner offers a less suffering reading of success and warns: pointing out the difficulties of the poor to rise socially shows a good intention.
It is also dangerous.
- In your book, you say that everyone builds their myth
by looking at their origins
and you deplore that the story of contemporary transclasses is always “painful”, that is to say whiny.
Do you want to challenge the idea that getting out of your social environment is painful?
- With this book, my intention was not at all to contradict Édouard Louis (author of
Ending Eddy Bellegueule
) or Annie Ernaux, but it was by comparing my personal journey to theirs that I was struck by their exaltation of pain.
They constantly bring up the shame they feel.
As children, they were ashamed of their background - Édouard Louis's books describe a homophobic, alcoholic background - then ashamed of not mastering the codes of bourgeois backgrounds then ashamed of having been ashamed of their background.
These are deadly stories, the suffering is constant.
It is a way of haloing themselves with a form of social heroism: they have succeeded but they still suffer.
As if they were still to be pitied!
In my journey, there has been beauty, joy and I now feel pride.
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