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French Voices Grand Prize 2016 Goes to The Lights of Pointe Noire by Alain Mabanckou, Translation by Helen Stevenson
New York, February 22, 2016 – The Cultural Services of the French Embassy and FACE Foundation are thrilled to announce that the 2015 French Voices Grand Prize will go to Alain Mabanckou’s memoir The Lights of Pointe Noire. Originally published in French by Le Seuil in 2013, it will be released by The New Press on March 1st in a translation by Helen Stevenson.
The ceremony, to be held on February 29 at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, will mark the 10-year anniversary of the French Voices program. Created to reflect the institutions’ commitment to translation and independent publishing, the French Voices Awards honor translators and American publishers working to bring the best contemporary French writing to US audiences.
13 titles were chosen, by an independent committee and translation experts, to receive the French Voices Awards (full list below). 12 recipients will receive $6,000 while the Grand Prize Winner will receive $10,000. The prizes will be shared by the publishers and translators.
In The Lights of Pointe Noire, the 2015 Grand Prize winner, Alain Mabanckou —who left Congo in 1989 not to return until a quarter of a century later— builds a stirring exploration of the way home never leaves us. When the author came home to Pointe-Noire, a bustling port town on Congo's south-eastern coast, he found a country that in some ways had changed beyond recognition, while many things remained untouched and realized he can only look on as an outsider at the place where he grew up.
The French-Congolese writer, and 2015 Man Booker International Prize finalist, is one of the most widely read and discussed African writers today. He is the author of among others African Psycho, Broken Glass, Black Bazaar, Tomorrow I Will Be Twenty, and The Lights of Pointe-Noire. He was named 2015-2016 Chair for Artistic Creation at the Collège de France, one of the highest distinctions in France’s academic world. Mabanckou, who teaches literature at UCLA, recently wrote the foreword for the French edition of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Helen Stevenson works as a literary translator and lived for many years in the South West of France. She has translated works by Marie Darrieussecq, Antoine Bello, Alice Ferney, Catherine Millet and Alain Mabanckou. Stevenson memoir Love Like Salt will be published by Virago on March 3rd. She now lives in Somerset, where she teaches piano.
Mabanckou has stated that "to be a francophone writer is to benefit from the legacy of French literature, but it’s above all to bring your own voice to a broader culture, one that shatters boundaries" adding that with time “we will no longer come from a country, or a continent, but from a language”. Thomas Michelon, Deputy Cultural Counselor, remarks that with over 275 million French speakers on all continents, it’s fair to say that, “French is in fact one and many languages at once. With works by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Annie Ernaux, Scholastique Mukasonga, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, Julia Kristeva, Luc Boltanski and Zeina Abirached published in the French Voices Collection the award is proving just that”.
Nurturing this commitment to a world of literature, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy has launched FrancophonINK, a series that provides a platform for writers who sometimes come from places where French is spoken, and sometimes not, but who have made French their own. From the renowned Franco-Russian author Andreï Makine (French Voices Award, 2015), who will participate in the PEN World Voices Festival, to the Haitian Kettly Mars (French Voices Award, 2010), or the Franco-Iranian Fariba Hachtroudi, the Embassy is proud to celebrate these incredible talents and the diversity of French writing.
Since its inception in 2006, the French Voices program has strived to expand the selection of translated contemporary French fiction and non-fiction books and proven that high-quality works and successful sales are not mutually exclusive.
Full list of titles awarded in 2015
- Les Lumières de Pointe-Noire/The Lights of Pointe-Noire by Alain Mabanckou, transl. Helen Stevenson, The New Press, 2016
- Le Crieur de nuit by Nelly Alard, transl. Grace McQuillan; seeking an American publisher
- Travesti by David Dumortier, transl. Ava Lehrer; seeking an American publisher
- Réparateur de Destin by Cyrille Fleischman, transl. Lynn E. Palermo and Catherine Zobal Dent; seeking an American publisher
- Roland Barthes by Tiphaine Samoyault, transl. Andrew Brown; Polity Press, January 2017
- Jean Renoir by Pascal Mérigeau, transl. Bruce Benderson; Running Press, May 2016.
- Lettre à Zohra D. by Danielle Michel-Chich, transl. Lara Vergnaud; seeking an American publisher
- Puissance de la douceur by Anne Dufourmantelle, transl. Katherine Payne; Fordham University Press, April 2016
- Traduire comme Transhumer, by Mireille Gansel, transl. Ros Schwartz; seeking an American publisher
- Deleuze, les mouvements aberrants/Aberrant Movements: the Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze by David Lapoujade, transl. Joshua David Jordan; Semiotext(e)
- Nous sommes tous des cannibales/We are all Cannibals by Claude Lévi-Strauss, transl. Jane-Marie Todd; Columbia University Press, March 2016.
- L'Autre Portrait/Portrait by Jean-Luc Nancy, transl. Sarah Clift, Fordham University Press
- Bain de lune by Yannick Lahens, transl. Emily Gogolak; seeking an American publisher
All of the 2015 French Voices Awards titles will be available at Albertine Books in French and English, the only French reading room and bookshop in New York. Albertine is a project of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
Members of Selection Committee, 2015
- Esther Allen, Associate professor of Modern Languages at Baruch College
- Olivier Brossard, Poet, Associate professor and translator, University Paris Est
- Roger Celestin, Professor of French and Comparative Literary & Cultural Studies, University of Connecticut
- William Cloonan, Professor of Modern Languages, Florida State University
- Peter Consenstein , Professor of French, CUNY, Graduate Center
- Linda Coverdale, Translator
- Vincent Debaene, Associate Professor of French, Columbia University
- Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Professor of French and Philosophy, Columbia University
- Emmanuelle Ertel, Assistant professor and translator, New York University
- Stéphane Gerson, Professor of French and French Studies, New York University
- Samir Haddad, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University
- Violaine Huisman, Humanities Manager, BAM.
- Jordan Stump, Professor and translator, University of Nebraska
- Dan Simon, Publisher, Seven Stories Press
The French Voices program was created in 2006 by the French Cultural Services and PEN American Center to support translations from French to English and to encourage the publication of French titles in the U.S. Since its inception, the program has helped the translation and publication of 105 French titles. Several French Voices grantees have become best-sellers, such as Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog (2008), which sold over 900,000 copies, André Comte-Sponville’s The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality (2008), and Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read (2009).
The full list 2006-2014 is available at: http://face-foundation.org/french-voices/previous-grantees.html. The program is supported by the Florence Gould Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The New Press has published since 1992 books that promote discussion and understanding of the issues vital to our democracy and explored contemporary social issues, with an emphasis on race relations, women's issues, immigration, human rights, labor, popular economics, and the media. The New Press has been the recipient of numerous awards and been featured in publications from the New York Times, The Nation, The Guardian (UK), Toronto Globe and Mail (Canada), Le Monde (France), and many other media.
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, intellectuals and innovators to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts. www.frenchculture.org
FACE Foundation is an American nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting French-American relations through innovative cultural and educational projects. In partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, FACE promotes artistic, literary and educational exchange and collaboration between creative professionals from both countries. With additional corporate, foundation, and individual support, FACE administers grant programs in the performing and visual arts, cinema, translation, and secondary and higher education, while providing financial sponsorship to French-American festivals and other cultural initiatives. FACE focuses on new and recent work of living artists and the promotion of bilingualism and the French language. FACE Foundation (French-American Cultural Exchange) is a 501(c)(3) organization chartered by the state of New York. For more, visit www.face-foundation.org
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