Mercure de France
Number of pages
***Winner of the 2009 Prix Femina***
***Shortlisted for 2009 Prix Médicis***
***Translation sample available***
***Excerpted in The Chattahoochee Review***
In this critically acclaimed biographical novel, the author reconnects with her father, whose bipolar disorder had long removed him from her life—and his own.
Cleaning up her father’s home after his death, Gwenaëlle Aubry discovers a handwritten, autobiographical manuscript with a note on the cover: “to novelize.” The title is The Melancholic Black Sheep, but the subtitle, An Inconvenient Specter, had been crossed out. The specter? Her father’s disabling bipolar disorder. Gwenaëlle had long known that she wanted to write about her father; his death, and his words, gave her the opportunity to explain his many absences—even while he was physically present—and to sculpt her memory of him.
Personne is the portrait of a man without a true self; a one-time distinguished lawyer and member of the Paris bar who imagined himself in many important roles—a procession of doubles, a population of masks—who became a drifter and frequent visitor to mental institutions. Moving between the voices of daughter and father, this fictional memoir in dictionary form investigates the many men behind the masks, and a possible unified portrait evolves. A describes her father’s adopted persona as Antonin Artaud, the poet/playwright; B is for James Bond, H is for homeless, and finally, Z is for Zelig, the Woody Allen character who could transform his appearance to that of the people around him. Letter by letter, Aubry gives shape and meaning to the father who had long disappeared from her view.
A stunning evocation of the shifting emotional landscape of a man who has lost his way and a daughter who cannot find her father, Personne is an intimate novel of love and loss.
Gwenaëlle Aubry : A novelist and a philosopher, Gwenaëlle Aubry studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris and Trinity College in Cambridge. She published her first novel, Le Diable détacheur (Actes Sud), in 1999, followed in 2002 by L’Isolée (Stock) and two others. She is also the author of several nonfiction works, including a translation of a treatise by Plotinus and Notre vie s’use en transfigurations (Actes Sud, 2007), written while in residency at the Villa Médicis in Rome.