Book Review: Exteriors by Annie Ernaux
PIN-UP Magazine
Issue 35 / Fall/Winter 2023-2024

Programmed in the early 1970s, Paris’s new towns were to be independent, self-contained satellites that would absorb expanding populations, many of them immigrant communities, without disrupting the historical character of the city’s immediate suburbs. In Exteriors, the hyper-planned new town fades into the background of a din of passing characters and conversations until Ernaux, who has lived in Cergy since 1975, brings it into sharp focus. By turns critical and adoring, she is deeply attuned to the spatial and psychic nuances of this environment, Cergy’s stark Brutalist architecture possessing a disconcerting aura — a “one-dimensional place,” she writes — but also offering a grand stage for contemporary culture. “A hypermarket can provide just as much meaning and human truth as a concert hall,” Ernaux tells us.

︎ 2024