The Time-Before

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2022 was awarded to French author Annie Ernaux for what the Nobel Committee calls “the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements, and collective restraints of personal memory.” This skill is exemplified in her book The Years as she tells her life story spanning over sixty years in an unconventional manner, using the choral “we” and sometimes shifting into the third person. Reflecting on the voice of her book, Ernaux writes: “There is no ‘I’ in what she views as a sort of impersonal autobiography. There is only ‘one’ and ‘we,’ as if now it were her time to tell the story of the time-before.” Write an essay in the third person that focuses on a span of time in your life. How does this formal choice affect how you consider writing personally and collectively?