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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


No One

Gwenaëlle Aubry

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To purchase No One

Title: No One
Author: Gwenaëlle Aubry
Genre: Novel
Written: 2009 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 170 pages
Original in: French
Availability: No One - US
No One - UK
No One - Canada
Personne - Canada
No One - India
Personne - France
Nessuno - Italia
  • French title: Personne
  • Translated by Trista Selous
  • With an Introduction by Rick Moody

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Our Assessment:

B : quite well-handled attempt to deal with father's mental illness

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 15/4/2012 Andrew Haig Martin
Publishers Weekly . 19/12/2011 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The lives of the mentally ill and those who care for them are inevitably visited by repetition and exhaustion, and Aubry’s meticulous explication of her father’s condition can’t help containing instances of both. Yet her virtuosic sentences and ingenious structure make up for the narrative stasis. The reader feels privileged to gain access to these troubled minds." - Andrew Haig Martin, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Aubry, a philosopher and writer, examines mental illness in a story that unfolds in dictionary form, contrasting rigidity with the chaos of madness. (...) Aubry’s lucid prose has ascended to the heights of poetry." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       No One is presented as a novel, but is apparently closely based on fact; in his Introduction, Rick Moody 'explains' the: "recent development in international literature -- l'autofiction", and this is clearly an example of it. Narrated by Aubry, it is an attempt to come to understand her now dead father and the mental illness he suffered from. A one-time eminent jurist and professor, François-Xavier Aubry couldn't keep it together; his specialty, Aubry writes, was decentralization -- "He had, at a very young age, written a brilliant thesis on the subject, founded an academic discipline, published books and articles", but his own center could not hold. Medicated and sometimes institutionalized, he apparently remained largely functional -- but acted and acted out like a young child, with little self-control (though some surprising self-awareness).
       In trying to deal with the subject-matter Aubry tries imposes some order on it. No One is presented in chapters that are alphabetically arranged by title: in English -- where the fifth chapter is titled 'Enfant [child]', the sixth 'Flic [cop]', etc. -- this comes across as even more arbitrary than in the original French. Nevertheless, it provides structure in dealing with a man one of whose defining characteristics became his child-like unpredictability.
       Aubry also builds her account up in part around a manuscript of her father's that she finds, "almost two hundred pages of careful handwriting, corrected and annotated all the way through" -- and with a note on the file containing the pages: "To be novelized". The manuscript bears the title The Melancholic Black Sheep and a crossed-out sub-title, The Disturbing Specter -- which sums him up (at least as Aubry then presents him) almost perfectly. Indeed, No One reads as further annotation on, and analysis of, The Melancholic Black Sheep -- the words easier to deal with than the reality itself. Or, arguably, this is an attempt at the novelization of the material the father had planned.
       Aubry tries to makes sense of what happened to her father, providing some background, but much information seems just out of her reach -- both that which was before her time, as well as simply her father's ungraspable condition. She reflects on the newlyweds -- who had met when they were just five, both doctor's children -- in the tumult of 1968, but her parents separated when she was a small child. Her black sheep father also alienated much of his own family -- though exactly how and why remains unclear. Rather than a nucleus of family, the father she knew was largely almost entirely outside it -- yet, as father-figure, remained a powerful focal point in her own life
       Aubry also notes that:

My father departed from solid ground at a time when my adult life was just beginning.
       But it wasn't like he was entirely lost, either: he "came back to earth" at times too.
       No One is a fine account of trying to deal with the madness of someone one is tied to, and the frustrated helplessness one feels in that situation. Particularly in the use of her father's own writings Aubry also offers an often fascinating if still incomplete picture of this man and his mental instability.

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 December 2012

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No One: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Gwenaëlle Aubry was born in 1971.

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© 2012 the complete review

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