Cover image for I remain in darkness
I remain in darkness
Ernaux, Annie, 1940-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Je ne suis pas sortie de ma nuit. English
Seven Stories Press first edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Seven Stories Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
94 pages ; 22 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PQ2665.R67 Z46713 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In the summer of 1983, Annie Ernaux's mother fell ill and stopped eating and drinking for several days. Her memory started to lapse and later the same year she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This collection of relentlessly honest journal entries tracies the descent of Ernaux's mother into the depths of disease and reveals the author's own complex feelings of guilt and responsibility. Profoundly self-revealing, it is a work that will provide readers with insight into their own questions of loss and grief.

Author Notes

Annie Ernaux was born in 1940 in Normandy. She is the winner of numerous prizes including the Prix Renaudot. Her "A Woman's Story", "A Man's Place", and "Simple Passion" were all "New York Times" Notable Books. "A Woman's Story" was also a "Los Angeles Times" Fiction Prize finalist and "A Man's Place" was a French-American Foundation Award finalist. Her Previous book "Shame", was named a Best Book of 1998 by "Publishers Weekly". Her books are taught in schools throughout France as contemporary classics. Ernaux lives outside Paris.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Eleven years elapsed between Ernaux's mother's death from Alzheimer's disease and the publication of Ernaux's journal recording her mother's decline. Even then, the French novelist and memoirist found the experience of her mother's illness so tender that she decided to publish the journal unchanged, so that "the astonishment and distress" she felt would not be blunted by any impulse to prettify. More than astonishment and distress, though, horror and guilt inform Ernaux's spare account of her mother's departure from Ernaux's home when her disability became too much for Ernaux and the two years of Ernaux's visits to her mother in hospital and nursing home. Offsetting the horror is Ernaux's mother's retention of a few strong characteristics right to the end, and exacerbating the guilt, which virtually all those with an Alzheimer's-afflicted loved one feel in some degree, is Ernaux's divorce, stemming from a love affair she began simultaneously with moving her mother out of her home. Perhaps the saddest thing about the book, however, is the title--the last words Ernaux's mother ever wrote. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Again blurring the line between memoir and fiction, Ernaux continues the story of her family in journal form. This slim volume is a quietly searing account of Ernaux's mother's deteriorating health after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, in 1983, and her heart attack and death in April of 1986. At first the formerly independent mother moves in with Ernaux and her sons. Then, as her memory losses become crippling, she is admitted to a geriatric hospital. Ernaux keeps a journal, recording the details of her mother's slow decline: the way she shrinks until she's like a little doll, the diaper she wears to control incontinence, the smell of the cologne that masks sickroom odors. Ernaux also records her own reactions: she is defiant when shopgirls eye her mother with contempt, dismayed when her mother no longer even tries to look for her mislaid toiletry bag, guilt-ridden but trying to remain emotionless as the years pass by, then finally overwhelmed by a flood of feeling after her mother's death. The selection of significant detail is thoughtful and poetic, arranged in a simple memoir format. Several recurring themes are woven throughout, notably those of time, art and the relationship between mother and daughter. Ernaux suggests that the beloved mother who gave her birth (reminding her of the Courbet painting The Origins of the World, which depicts the open thighs of a recumbent woman) is being consumed by time and that Ernaux, through her art, can restore her original image. It is a motif similar to, although in no way as richly developed as, that of Shakespeare's Sonnet 15: "As he [time] takes from you, I engraft you new." Like Ernaux's other work (Shame; Simple Passion), this is "not literature" exactly, but "an attempt to salvage part of our lives, to understand, but first to salvage," poignant though limited in its reach. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Unlike Aaron Alterra's The Caregiver (LJ 10/15/99), this slim volume by noted French writer Ernaux (Simple Passion) is not a straightforward medical account of her mother's death from Alzheimer's; instead, it is a collection of the notes, in their original form, that Ernaux jotted down at the time of her mother's illness. "When I write down all these things, I scribble away as fast as I can (as if I felt guilty), without choosing my words." Here in their raw, uncensored form are the "vestiges of pain"Äthe anger, guilt, and grief that Ernaux felt during her mother's two-year decline. Here are the graphic images of her once-powerful mother wearing diapers, the woman in the next bed peeing on the floor, a drawer in the bedside table filled with a human turd. Because the notes have not been edited, there is a choppy, unpolished feel to the book, which is perhaps Ernaux's intentionÄas a possible counterpoint to A Woman's Story (1991), her fictionalized memoir of her mother's life and death. For literary and Alzheimer's collections.ÄWilda Williams, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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