A girl is going to visit her mother by train. She mentions Motteville and then she talks about her destination that points to as "C":

"I travelled there by train. At Motteville, we sat in the station for a long time. [,,,] On the other side of the S.N.C.F. railroad barriers, the tall grass almost touched the lowest branches of the apple trees. It was then that I could really feel that I was approaching C. and that I was going to see my mother. The train continued on to C. at a reduced speed." [...]

"It’s always windy in C. Everyone, including my mother, believes that it’s colder in C. than in other places, even those just five kilometres away."

My question is : is C a town or village? Why it is called C? Is it an abbreviation?

Source: The New Yorker, November 14, 2022 Issue "Returns" By Annie Ernaux November 7, 2022

1 Answer 1


The next rail stop from Motteville is Yvetot, which has a street called Rue Carnot, which is mentioned in the story. Although it does not lead from the station to the centre of town.

Ernaux grew up in Yvetot and her later and longer autobiographical work of 2013 is called ‘Retour à Yvetot’ which suggests this is the place she is referring to.

Why she refers to it as ‘C.’ In the earlier work, I have not been able to determine. I’d speculate that in 1985 when she wrote ‘Retour’, she did not intend to so overtly identify her hometown, but was less concerned about such matters by 2013.


I searched for a version of the short story in the original French to check if the abbreviation was the same, but was not able to locate a copy.

  • Thank you very much for your informative answer. Now I see that logically- and certainly - the ‎name of the city “C” must in fact be Yvetot.‎ Now, I have a secondary question that I would be grateful if you or other members would ‎answer:‎ If you were to translate the story, would you keep “C” as it is mentioned by the writer or you ‎would replace it with “Yvetot”?‎ Jan 6, 2023 at 14:37
  • Without access to the original French, I don’t know for a certainty what the original author called it. If I were translating it to a third language I’d want to know how it started out.
    – Spagirl
    Jan 7, 2023 at 0:41

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