Inaugural Albertine Prize to Award Favorite French-Language Novel Published in the US

March 17, 2017 | By French Culture
New York, NY (March 16, 2017) – – Aiming to introduce the very best of contemporary French-language literature to American audiences, Albertine, the acclaimed bookshop of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, reveals today the shortlist for its inaugural Albertine Prize. Co-presented with Van Cleef & Arpels, the $10,000 prize will honor the author and translator of one Francophone novel published in the U.S. in the previous year.
 
The winner will be selected by readers nationwide via online voting at http://www.albertine.com/albertine-prize/ and will be honored at an award ceremony, in the presence of the Prize's Honorary Chairs, American author and translator Lydia Davis and French literary critic and TV and radio host François Busnel, at Albertine on June 6th. 
 
Reflecting the rich diversity of modern French fiction, the ten nominated authors hail from a variety of Francophone nations. The titles range from Ladivine, Marie Ndiaye's powerful account of four generations of women haunted by their country of origin, to Eve Out of Her Ruins, Ananda Devi's poetic snapshot of life on the increasingly violent island of Mauritius, to Infidels, Abdellah Taïa's tale of a Moroccan boy's path to jihad. [See below for the complete list of nominees.]
 
Starting today through April 30th, American readers can discover each of the selected novels, pick one or more to read and cast their vote at www.albertine.com. The books can be purchased at Albertine Books on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street, at the online store, and at select bookstores throughout the United States, or borrowed in New York City’s libraries where they are all available. Two special events at Albertine will allow the public to learn more about the books: a launch party featuring actors reading excerpts from each book (March 16th) and a Book Battle where prominent literary figures will defend their favorite books (April 18th). [See more details on each event below]
 
“The diverse stories of these authors remind us that books are a powerful way of increasing understanding and empathy across borders and cultures, something that is needed now more than ever,” said Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States. "Americans have long appreciated French literature, and the Albertine Prize is an opportunity to strengthen this love affair, offering readers vital and exciting new voices from across the Francophone world while celebrating the gifted translators who help bring them to the English-speaking world" she added, “We hope Americans will see this prize as a fun opportunity to discover new literary treasures and to support the book they love, even if they have not read them all!”
 
The winning title will be fêted on June 6th at an award ceremony at Albertine bookshop in New York City, where the author will be present to receive an award of $8,000 while the translator will receive $2,000. The ten first-round nominees were selected by the Albertine staff, approved by the honorary chairs, Davis and Busnel. Entrants were evaluated based on the quality of the original French text and of the English translation, as well as each book's contribution to the overall diversity of the nominee list. To qualify, entrants had to have been released by a U.S. publisher in 2016.
 
The Albertine Prize is co-presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York, home to the Albertine bookshop, and Van Cleef & Arpels. Launched in 2014, Albertine Books offers the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in the United States, boasting more than 14,000 titles from over 30 French-speaking countries around the world. The venue also hosts readings, panels, and performances aimed at fostering French-American intellectual exchange.
 
To vote for the Albertine Prize, please visit www.albertine.com.  
 
COMPLETE LIST OF NOMINEES
 
* Couple Mechanics (Moment d'un couple)
By Nelly Alard
Other Press (US), Gallimard (Fr.)
 
At once sexy and feminist, Couple Mechanics tells the story of a woman who decides to fight for her marriage after her husband confesses to an affair with a noted politician. With intelligence, honesty, and humor, the novel examines the forces at work in a marriage, the effects of the inevitable ebb and flow of desire, and the difficulty of being in a relationship today. 
 
NELLY ALARD is an actress and screenwriter who lives in Paris. Her first novel, Le crieur de nuit, received the 2010 Roger Nimier Prize as well as the 2011 Prix National Lions de Littérature and the Simone and Cino Del Duca Foundation Prize for the Support of Literature. Couple Mechanics is her second novel. 
 
* Constellation (Constellation)
By: Adrien Bosc
Other Press (US), Stock (Fr.)
 
This best-selling debut novel from one of France’s most exciting young writers is based on the true story of the 1949 disappearance of Air France’s Constellation, a new plane launched by Howard Hughes, and its famous passengers. Tying together the destinies of boxer - and fiancé of Edith Piaf - Marcel Cerdan, a musical prodigy, and others, the novel gives these thirty-eight men and women a new life by imagining their long-forgotten story. 
 
A publisher and a writer, ADRIEN BOSC was born in 1986 in Avignon. Les éditions du Sous-Sol, the publishing house he founded, publishes a literary journalism review, Feuilleton, and prominent American voices of narrative non-fiction. Constellation, the winner of the prestigious Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française and a bestseller in France, is his first novel.
 
*The Heart (Réparer les vivants)
By: Maylis De Kerangal
Farrar, Straus & Giroux (US), Verticales (Fr.)
 
The Heart takes place over the 24 hours surrounding a fatal car crash and the subsequent heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a dying woman. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, the book examines the deepest emotions of everyone involved - grieving parents, doctors and nurses - as they navigate decisions of life and death. The book won the 2014 Grand Prix RTL-Lire and the Student Choice Novel of the Year from Prix France Culture/Télérama.
 
MAYLIS DE KERANGAL is the author of several novels, including Je marche sous un ciel de traîne (2000), La Vie voyageuse (2003), Corniche Kennedy (2008), and Naissance d'un pont (winner of the Prix Franz Hessel and Prix Médicis in 2010, published in English as Birth of a Bridge at Talonbooks). She has also published a collection of short stories, Ni fleurs, ni couronnes (2006), a novella, Tangente vers l'est, and a fiction tribute to Kate Bush and Blondie titled Dans les rapides (2007). 
 
 
* Eve Out of Her Ruins (Ève de Ses Décombres) 
By Ananda Devi
Deep Vellum Publishing (US), Gallimard (Fr.)
 
With brutal honesty and poetic urgency, Ananda Devi relates the tale of four young Mauritians trapped in an endless cycle of fear and violence: Eve, whose body is her only source of power; Savita, Eve’s best friend; Saadiq, a gifted would-be poet in love with Eve; and Clélio, a belligerent rebel waiting for his brother to send for him from France.
 
ANANDA DEVI is well-known for lyrical works that explore femininity and the experience of alienation within the Indo-Mauritian community. She has published eight novels and short stories and works of poetry, many of which have been translated into multiple languages. Literary prizes include the Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie in 2006, the Prix Louis-Guilloux in 2010, and the Prix du Rayonnement in 2014. Her previous novel, Indian Tango, is available in the US at Host Publications.  
 
* The Little Communist Who Never Smiled (La Petite Communiste qui ne souriait jamais) 
By Lola Lafon
Seven Stories Press (US), Actes Sud (Fr.)
 
Lola Lafon's award-winning novel offers a fictionalized account of iconic gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s life, from her rural Romanian childhood to her unprecedented perfect score in the 1976 Olympics and to her 1989 defection to the U.S. The book re-imagines a childhood in the spotlight of history, a woman adored by young girls in the West and appropriated as a political emblem in Communist Romania.
 
LOLA LAFON is a bestselling Paris-based novelist and musician. The author of three previous novels, Lafon has a Polish and Russian background and grew up in Sofia and Bucharest. The Little Communist Who Never smiled was widely acclaimed when it was released in France where it won several literary prizes. Her previous novel We Are the Birds of the Coming Storm was published in English by Seagull Books. 
 
* Suite for Barbara Loden (Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden)
By Nathalie Léger
Dorothy, a publishing project (US), P.O.L (Fr.)
 
Moving between fact and speculation, film criticism and anecdote, Suite for Barbara Loden came out of Nathalie Léger's obsessive investigation into the mysteries of Wanda, the only film American actress Barbara Loden ever wrote and directed. The product of a journey across continents, into archives, and through mining towns of Pennsylvania, the book is a stunning meditation on how we come to truth not through facts alone, but through acts of the imagination. 
 
NATHALIE LÉGER is an award-winning author, as well as an editor, archivist, and curator.  Other works include L’Exposition (2008), a semi-fictionalized essay about the enigmatic Countess of Castiglione, the most-photographed woman in late 19th-century Paris, and Les Vies Silencieuses de Samuel Beckett (2006). She curated the Pompidou's 2002 exhibition on Roland Barthes and its 2007 exhibition on Samuel Beckett. Since 2013 she has been the Director of the Institut Mémoires de l’Édition Contemporaine, a unique cultural institute dedicated to the archives of 20th- and 21st-century French writers.
 
* Ladivine (Ladivine) 
By Marie NDiaye
Knopf (US), Gallimard (Fr.)
 
A harrowing and subtly crafted novel of a woman captive to a secret shame, Ladivine tells the story of Clarisse Rivière, whose pale beauty helps her to rise above her dark-skinned mother’s life of servitude. The book follows her through years of living a lie, leading up to a shockingly violent act that leaves her own daughter, named Ladivine after her grandmother, yearning to understand who her mother really was. A mesmerizing psychological tale of a trauma that ensnares three generations of women, Ladivine proves Marie NDiaye to be one of Europe’s great storytellers. 
 
* Infidels (Infidèles) 
By Abdellah Taïa
Seven Stories Press (US), Le Seuil (Fr.)
 
Set in Morocco, Infidels follows the life of Jallal, the son of a prostitute, fresh out of boyhood and on the path to Jihad. Filled with a cast of supporting characters whose dreams unravel, the book is structured as a series of monologues, an emotionally relentless mix of confession, shouting match, and secret longing.
 
One of the most prominent Moroccan writers of his generation, ABDELLAH TAÏA was born in the public library of Rabat, Morocco, where his father was the janitor. Acclaimed as both a novelist and filmmaker, he has published eight widely translated books, including Le jour de roi, winner of the prestigious French Prix de Flore in 2010. He made history in 2006 by coming out in Morocco, where homosexuality is illegal. The film adaptation of his novel L'Armée du salut was praised by the New York Times for giving "the Arab world its first on-screen gay protagonist." His books Salvation Army, An Arab Melancholia, Another Morocco: Selected Stories, have all been published by Semiotext(e). 
 
* Naked (Nue)
By Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Dalkey Archive (US), Éditions de Minuit (Fr.)
 
Naked is Jean-Philippe Toussaint's fourth and final novel about one of the most fully realized female characters of contemporary fiction, the haute couturière Marie Madeleine Marguerite de Montalte. With his customary nuanced reflection and nimble wit, Toussaint continues to follow Marie’s relationship with his unnamed narrator, navigating through jealousy and comedy, irony and tenderness, and the meticulous accretion of details that engross and distract us even as life’s larger changes shift the assumptions by which we live.
 
JEAN-PHILIPPE TOUSSAINT is the recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the Prix Décembre for The Truth about Marie, which is available from Dalkey Archive Press. He directed seven films, most of which are inspired from his literary works. His previous novels, Running Away, Self-Portrait Abroad, The Truth about Marie, Reticence and Urgency and Patience have all been published by Dalkey. 
 
 
* Bardo or Not Bardo (Bardo or Not Bardo)
By Antoine Volodine
Open Letter Books (US), Le Seuil (Fr.)
 
One of the funniest installments in Antoine Volodine's acclaimed post-apocalyptic series, Bardo or Not Bardo consists of seven vignettes set in a universe of failed revolutions, radical shamanism, and off-kilter nomenclature. In each one, a newly dead character bungles his way through the Tibetan afterlife, or Bardo, failing to achieve enlightenment, while the living make a similar mess of things.
 
The pseudonymous ANTOINE VOLODINE has published twenty books under several names, many of which are set in a post-apocalyptic world where members of a “post-exoticism” writing movement have all been arrested as subversives. In the U.S., he published under this name Writers, Post-Exoticism in ten lessons, lesson eleven, and Radiant Terminus. Under the name Manuela Draeger, Dorothy Project released In the Time of the Blue Ball; We Monks and Soldiers was published by University of Nebraska Press under the name Lutz Bassmann. Together, the books constitute one of the most inventive, ambitious projects of contemporary writing. 
 
 
 
Albertine Prize Events
 
Launch Party & Live Readings
Thursday, March 16
7PM 
Albertine Books in French and English, 
located in the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
972 Fifth Avenue (between 78 and 79th Streets)
Free, open to the public 
 
Albertine Prize Book Battle
Tuesday, April 18
7PM
Albertine Books in French and English, 
located in the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
972 Fifth Avenue (between 78 and 79th Streets)
Free, open to the public 
 
#albertineprize 
 
The Albertine Prize is presented by Van Cleef & Arpels and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. The program is made possible with support from Air France, and Bookwitty. Additional support is provided by Pommery, Ladurée, and diptyque Paris.
 
About Albertine
Albertine is a reading room and bookshop that brings to life French-American intellectual exchange. A permanent venue for free events and debates, the space offers more than 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from over 30 French-speaking countries around the world. Visit www.albertine.com.
 
About the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
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.
 
About Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels was born in Paris’ Place Vendôme in 1906, following Alfred Van Cleef’s marriage to Estelle Arpels in 1895. Always striving for excellence, the Maison has become a worldwide reference through its unique designs, its choice of exceptional stones and its virtuoso craftsmanship, offering jewels and timepieces that tell stories and bring enchantment to life. Literature and poetry from famed authors such as Shakespeare, Jules Verne and Charles Perrault have inspired collections that go beyond the world of High Jewelry, allowing friends of the Maison to escape to mythical lands filled with magic and fairies, and to explore new horizons, from the mysterious depths of the ocean to the heart of the galaxy. Visit www.VanCleefArpels.com for additional information.
 
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