Auchan 2000 & Authentica 2023

The Auchan hypermarche in Cergy is at the location of the red balloon in the image above. It is a short walk from the ESSEC campus (lower center of map). Click to go to the map on Auchan’s website

On each of the occasions I have read articles about Annie Ernaux I have been reminded of the first of my five years teaching at ESSEC. During the 2000-2003 academic years I lived on campus for extended periods away from home and family in Costa Rica. My grocery shopping was at the same Auchan elegantly dissected by the woman who last year won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  During my fourth year teaching there I was completing work on a project in Montenegro that made it more convenient for our family to be based in Paris for 12 months. This turned out to be one of the most culturally enriching experiences our family ever had together. And relevant to life now.

Adrienne Raphel’s article in The Paris Review begins with her own “big retail” experience, and at first read it connects dots between our Paris time and our retail life now. For the last 4+ years we have been waking up each day looking for novel ways to succeed without following the “pile it high and watch it fly” model. So, if that resonates with you for any reason, read on:


“The Dead Silence of Goods”: Annie Ernaux and the Superstore

The first and only time I went to the Walmart in Iowa City was surreal. When I was in high school, my parents’ business-oriented small press had published a book called The Case Against Walmart that called for a national consumer boycott of the company; the author denounced everything from the superstore’s destruction of environmentally protected lands to its sweatshop labor to its knockoff merchandise. So by the time I made a pilgrimage out to the superstore at age twenty-one, I hadn’t stepped in a Walmart for nearly a decade, and it had acquired this transgressive power—the very act of crossing the threshold was as shameful as it was thrilling…

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