Publisher Éditions EHESS
Publication Date 03 March 2023

Humanities and Non-Fiction


Over 5,200 copies sold in the first month. Translation rights have been sold in Chinese, Korean, Greek, Hindi, Bengali and Tamil. 

One is a Nobel Prize laureate in literature, the other a sociologist at the EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales - School of Advanced Studies in Social Science), both are Bourdieu-influenced feminists: Annie Ernaux and Rose-Marie Lagrave discuss their past, their work and their journey as class defectors.
They are both from modest backgrounds and have gained access, through their work as authors, into what is referred to as "The Elite"; a trajectory that is neither easy to achieve nor to take on board. For sociologist Rose-Marie Lagrave, born in 1944 in a village in Normandy, eleventh of a family of thirteen children, it happened when she was over 70 years old and it is thanks to her book Se ressaisir: Enquête autobiographique d'une transfuge de classe féministe (La Découverte, 2021), that she finally called herself a Defector. "I became one the moment I was elected Director of Research at the EHESS, thus, very late in life," she explains, whereas Annie Ernaux’s status as a defector is still uncertain: "I don’t handle literary prizes well; I don’t go to the cocktail parties; I don’t insure my presence at the reigning literary world get-togethers, and I have the impression that you always have to be on your guard, to stand back and not to be taken in."


"You are not born a defector, you become one"

"How, at over 70 years old, can one continue to resist sliding innocently into being the bourgeois that one has become, and, at the same time, put in place a thousand strategies so as not to detach from the origins that one has done everything to escape? Annie Ernaux and Rose-Marie Lagrave have dedicated their lives to addressing these questions. The former, through writing novels, the latter through her sociological studies on rural life, gender and the concept of the Defector. So, when they are talking to each other, we can’t help but listen to them fervently," writes journalist and essayist Xavier de La Porte in L'Obs about this little book that became an immediate success.
"Short and comprehensive, built on two extensive experiences, enriched by a large number of social science references and marked by a very political sensibility, Une conversation traces the evolution of French society over the last sixty years through the stories of these two women's journeys: two points of view on society, class, gender relations, as well as on their futures, all against a background of the vibrant Parisian intellectual scene of the 70s and 80s," says the editor. 
This book has drawn significant attention from foreign publishers, with translation rights already sold for six languages, probably because the notion of class, as well as all the literature and the sociological studies it generates, is at the heart of the great debates on equal opportunities in work and merit that are currently stirring up many countries in the world.

Katja Petrovic 
May 2023