Stončikaitė, Ieva, Montero, Óscar Ortega, "In Darkness We Meet: Annie Ernaux's Account of Care and Dementia," Gerontologist, Jun2024, Vol. 64 Issue 6, p1-9

Background and Objectives The complexities surrounding aging, dementia, and care are timely issues that transcend beyond institutional boundaries, evincing a critical debate on later life across disciplines. The aim of this study is to offer fresh insights into the intricate paradigms of living and growing older with dementia. The study focuses on the Nobel Prize-winning author Annie Ernaux’s memoir  I Remain in Darkness  (1999), which provides a candid account of her mother’s journey through dementia from its onset to the gradual decline.  Research Design and Methods This article employs the theoretical frameworks of literary gerontology, illness narratives and life writing to address the challenges of aging, dementia and care that are represented in Ernaux’s memoir. It also addresses societal attitudes and stigma associated with aging and dementia by exploring the embarrassment that individuals and families experience when confronted with the deteriorating mental health of their loved ones.  Results Ernaux’s memoir explores the nuances of dementia and caregiving within both the familial and institutional context, and sheds light on the complex relationship between a mother and a daughter. Through the act of witnessing, Ernaux embarks on a path of healing, which allows her to confront her past wounds and better navigate the challenges that lie ahead. However, Ernaux’s confessional memoir also troubles the ethics of life writing and identity issues, and seems to perpetuate the pathologizing medical gaze through the exposure of her mother’s vulnerability and intimacy in the face of dementia and care. Discussion and Implications Ernaux’s account of her mother’s dementia and aging is both a confessional piece of writing and a narrative therapy, which reveals the challenges of aging, illness, and unresolved family tensions. Her work illuminates the interconnectedness between the past, present, and future, and shows that illness narratives can act as a catalyst for transformative change, identity formation, and self-reflection. The article addresses the intricacies of old age, showcasing how life writing and humanities-based inquiry can bring to the fore key aspects of the latest stages in life, which are often unvoiced because they represent the most unpleasant and feared aspects of aging in contemporary society.