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September 26, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

A MAN'S PLACE by Annie Ernaux, translated from the French by Tanya Leslie (Ballantine: $9.; 103 pp.). Ernaux considered writing a novel about her father, but rejected the idea: "If I wish to tell the story of a life governed by necessity, I have no right to adopt an artistic approach, or attempt to produce something 'moving' or 'gripping.' " Nevertheless, the affectionate but unsentimental portrait she draws is all the more moving for its unsparing honesty. Ernaux chronicles the hard life of a man who struggled to attain middle-class respectability by becoming the proprietor of provincial market-cum-cafe. Her cool, spare tone seems appropriate for the biography of her father, whose feelings remained largely unexpressed.

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