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SPHINX Reviewed by Byron Khalil

A gender-less love story that incorporates the highs and lows of everyday life, “Sphinx” was the first novel published by Anne Garréta in 1986 when she was just 23 years old. The story is uniquely written without the use of any gender-identifying pronouns to describe the firstperson narrator and his or her love interest A*** It is this method that identifies Garréta as a member of Oulipo, a French experimental literary group which uses constrained writing techniques. In just over 100 pages, Garréta envelopes all the joys and hardships that come along with true love – from a coquettish first meeting to the realities of an aging relationship. While there are some clues to the physical appearances of the two lovers, the ambiguity of their gender remains throughout the entire read.

The story is mostly set in France, but there are portions where the two lovers travel to New York to visit A***’s family. Noting the differences between the two cultures almost a world apart greater emphasizes the unique connection between the narrator and A***. After reading “Sphinx,” I realized that not knowing the gender of the two main characters in no way affected my understanding of the novel’s theme – love is genderless. At times, I found myself attempting to apply what I thought of each character’s gender because that’s what I have become accustomed to doing. Later, I tried to stop focusing on that, and focused instead on the simple fact that I was reading about two people in love. The novel was translated from French into English by Emma Ramadan. In the translator’s note, Ramadan explains the differences in difficulties associated with the literary constraint in both languages. For example, in French, nouns are assigned either a masculine or feminine gender. In English, objects are not given a gender, although people are usually given one. For this reason, “Sphinx” is also a fun read for those interested in linguistics.

Byron Khalil, a reporter with News Channel 7, came to the Panhandle in May 2016, having previously worked at the CBS and ABC affiliate in Montgomery Alabama as a video journalist. Byron is a 2014 graduate of the University of West Georgia where he majored in Mass Communications with a concentration in Convergence Journalism and minored in Spanish. While in school, he interned at the Atlanta news power house, WSBTV. Byron enjoys discovering new music, watching documentaries, and photography

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