Reviewed by Éric Chevillard
“But what’s the word for a male florist?” my eight-year-old daughter asks. I know that terms like authoress and woman of letters are no longer irregularities in terms of vocabulary, but in terms of judgment? Hard to say. It’s amusing to see, in a Larousse dictionary from the nineteenth century (1866–1879), the following entry: “AUTRICE: Bygone feminine form, now obsolete, of the word auteur.” But there remain so many injustices, so many inequalities, that our sensitivity around the issue is deservedly deep and unforgiving. Gender is no laughing matter, not even for us Frogs (this being the feminine derivation of frogman, naturally). And a lady chef? There is no word for her in French other than cheftaine: not the most appetizing option, but then we all must play the chards we’ve dealt for ourselves. The Swiss and the Québécois have opted for cheffe. Marie NDiaye does too, in The Cheffe: A Cook’s Novel . . .