Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2001

Department 1



No two texts better exemplify the contemporary "he said, she said" phenomenon than Annie Ernaux's Passion simple (Simple Passion) and Alain Gerard's Madame, c'est a vous que j'eeris (Madam, It Is To You That I Am Writing). Ernaux's book, published in 1991, recounts the author's heretofore hidden affair with a foreign businessman living temporarily in France. Dissatisfied with Ernaux's account, Gerard assumes the lover's identity and chronicles events from his perspective, making Madame, e'est a vous que j' ecris, published four years later, an explicit response to Passion simple. The result is a rare literary "tac au tac" very much in the public eye, in which a man and a woman both wish to tell their side of the story about a past sexual relationship. Furthermore, as is so often the case in these disputes, the two stories simply do not jibe, and there are reproaches, recriminations, accusations, and counter-accusations. However, it seems to me that what is most intriguing about this unusual pair is their disagreement over the definition of desire, and thus, how they illustrate the fundamental feminist notion that gender informs writing as well as reading.