Gwenaëlle Aubry • Personne

Translators must make do.

This French novel was published in English in 2012 as No One, which is both accurate and entirely insufficient. Its original title, and the title I will use in this review, is Personne.

As a noun, French personne is equivalent to English person. As an indefinite pronoun, however, personne means no one. The word’s root is Latin persona, which means a mask used in theatre. All three of these resonances are essential to understanding the novel, and there is no English word that captures them all. Reading the last sentence of the novel you understand why they went with No One rather than Person or Persona, but any is insufficient. So for this review, I’m going to use Personne.

The translation otherwise is very readable, as if it had been written in English originally.

Gwenaëlle Aubry, Personne [No One], trans. Trista Selous. 2009 autofiction about the author’s relationship with her father, who struggled with bipolar disorder. Recommended.

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