A steamy French novel featuring a Scarlett Johannson look-alike (haha, hmm), which Johannson herself sued to prevent from being translated into English, will be published in the United Kingdom next month.
According to the Independent, in the novel, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, a young, French village mechanic’s quiet life is interrupted when a woman who appears to be Scarlett Johansson shows up at his house. As it turns out, she is an imposter. The English-language publisher, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, called the book a “tender love story about two fragile souls trying to love each other.” It will be released in the U.K. on September 10th.
Johannson sued Delacourt after the novel—La première chose qu’on regarde, in French—was published in 2013. “I thought she might send me flowers, as it was a declaration of love for her,” Delacourt said at the time. He was wrong! (The novel sold 140,000 copies in France, however.)
Johansson’s lawyer stated that the novel constituted a “violation and fraudulent and illegal exploitation of her name, her reputation and her image,” the Guardian reports, as well as “defamatory claims about her private life.” The fictional Johansson look-alike (hmmmm) carries on two affairs.
According to the Guardian, last July, a judge allowed that the novel was defamatory but threw out Johannson’s demand that it not be translated or adapted into film, and also that it “fraudulently exploited her name, her image and her celebrity.” Johannson claimed €50,000 in damages; she was awarded €2,500 in damages and €2,500 in legal fees.
“All of Scarlett Johansson’s demands were rejected except one thing that was seen to be an attack in her private life over two relations that she never had,” Emmanuelle Allibert of the publishers J-C Lattès said at the time. “All her other demands… were rejected, notably that there should be a ban on the book being translated or made into a film. We just have to cut out the bit about the affairs.”
Kirsty Dunsheath, publishing director for Weidenfeld & Nicolson, praised the novel as “affecting” and heralded Delacourt’s “ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.”
Early in the novel, Delacourt writes:
Scarlett Johansson looked exhausted. Her hair, somewhere in between two colours, was at war with itself, tumbling loose, flowing, as if in slow motion. Her luscious mouth had lost its usual gloss... There were gloomy shadows beneath her eyes where her mascara had smudged, like charcoal. And unfortunately for Arthur Dreyfuss, she was wearing a baggy sweater. A sweater like a sack that did no justice to the actress’s curves, which everyone knew were bewitching, spellbinding.
“From very early on it’s clear she is a lookalike,” translator Anthea Bell said. Sure it is!