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Summer Reading List 2019

As you are savoring the warmth and calm of summer, take a few moments to peruse our selection of notable books translated from French and published between September 2018 and August 2019. From uproarious fiction and graphic novels to children and non-fiction books , there's something on this list for everyone.


                                      FICTION

The Living Days
by Ananda Devi, Translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman | Feminist Press, April 2019

The story of a magnetic attraction between a seventy-five-year-old white British spinster, and a thirteen-year-old Jamaican boy from Brixton against a background of increasing nationalism. The Living Days deals with the queasy nature of desire, the violence of aging, the tricky mysteries of memory and the explosion of white supremacy, poverty, and class conflict on the streets of London. "The finest Mauritian novelist at work today, has long been the francophone saint of the outcast, the oppressed, and the derelict. This fluid translation of one of her darkest works gives the reader a glimpse at her profound talent and her unique ability to synthesize political rage with poetic lyricism." –Adam Hocker, Albertine

Mala Vida
by Marc Fernandez, Translated by Molly Grogan | Arcade Publishing, January 2019

Present-day Spain, a time of economic crisis and resurgent populist nationalism. Radio crime reporter Diego Martin decides to look into a series of murders in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. This investigation eventually leads him far beyond his local beat and puts his life at risk. What he uncovers exposes the roots of a national scandal: the theft of babies from the victims of the Franco regime. The stunning first novel of Marc Fernandez was a finalist for the Readers of Elle Magazine's Grand Prize (France). "Almodóvar meets Orwell in this acclaimed, fast-paced contemporary noir novel exposing the most shameful secrets of the Franco era."Arcade

For a Long Time, Afraid of the Night
by Yasmine Ghata, translated by Marjolijn de Jager | Schaffner Press, April 2019

In the middle of the night in early April, 1994, Arsène, an eight-year old Tutsi boy flees his Rwandan village as the shouts and gunshots from the Hutu gangs draw near. His family along with the entire village would be massacred that night. Several years later, he unfolds his tragic story, at first haltingly and then in a flood of words to Suzanne, a writing teacher at a Parisian school where he is now enrolled. "For A Long Time, Afraid of the Night, by acclaimed French novelist Yasmine Ghata, is an unforgettable meditation on the curative power of story that transcends race, history, and geography. " –Schaffner Press

Hold Fast your Crown
by Yanick Haenel, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan | Other Press, April 2019

A man writes an enormous screenplay on the life of Herman Melville but no producer is interested in it. Then one day, someone gives him the phone number of the great American filmmaker Michael Cimino and a meeting is arranged in New York. What follows is a series of crazy adventures through Ellis Island, the Musée de la Chasse in Paris and a lake in Italy. We run into Isabelle Huppert, Diana the hunting goddess, a Dalmatian named Sabbat, a diabolical neighbor, and two shady characters with conspicuous mustaches... “A story of madness, art, alcohol and creativity…elegantly translated…vivid.” –New York Times

To Leave with the Reindeer
by Olivia Rosenthal, Translated by Sophie Lewis | Other Stories, April 2019

To Leave with the Reindeer is the account of a woman who readies herself for freedom, and questions its limits, by exploring how humans relate to animals. Rosenthal weaves an intricate pattern, combining a central narrative with many other voices – vets, farmers, breeders, trainers, a butcher – to produce a polyphonic composition full of fascinating and disconcerting insights. "Olivia Rosenthal captures the world of the child with inchoate wants and needs, inexplicable to others and herself, in vivid and concise vignettes, against a background of information and opinions about animals and how we treat them – for food, education and, then, to make ourselves feel better after destroying their habitats. This is rich, allusive and evocative." –Times Literary Supplement

                                    


                                       GRAPHIC NOVEL

 

This Woman’s work
by Julie Delporte, Translated by Helge Dascher | Drawn & Quarterly (CA), March 2019 

Told through beautifully evocative colored pencil drawings and sparse but compelling prose, This Woman’s Work documents Delporte’s memories and cultural consumption through journal-like entries that represent her struggle with femininity and womanhood. She structures these moments in a nonlinear fashion, presenting each one as a snapshot of a place and time. While This Woman’s Work is deeply personal, it is also a reflection of the conversations that women have with themselves when trying to carve out their feminist identity. Profoundly resonant in the era of #MeToo. "The book is a fascinating, expansive mediation on gender politics, relationships and the expectations women face..." –The Hollywood Reporter

Guantanamo Kid: The True Story of Mohammed El-Gharani
by Jérôme Tubania (author), Alexandre Lefranc (illustrator), translated by
Jérôme Tubiana and Edward Gauvin | Self Made Hero, March 2019 

Mohammed El-Gharani was no more than 14 when he left his native country, Saudi Arabia, in order to study English in Pakistan. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he was arrested and transferred to the Guantánamo Bay U.S. military base in Cuba. He was one of the youngest prisoners in this notoriously illegal camp, and one of the few black detainees of African descent. It took eight years for his innocence to be finally recognized. In this landmark work of graphic non-fiction, Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc tell the heart-wrenching story of one of the Bay’s youngest detainees. Written in collaboration with Mohammed El-Gharani, Guantánamo Kid reflects closely his memories and experiences of life in the camp.

The Structure is Rotten, Comrade
by Yann Kebbi (illustrator) and Viken Berberian (author), translated by Viken Berberian | Fantagraphics, May 2019

Enter Yerevan, the capital of Armenia — a city in ruins. Wrecking balls swing wildly and cement trucks race through congested streets. Frunz, an aspiring Architect and his father, the renowned builder known as Mr. Cement, plan to level Yerevan’s historic landmarks and flood the city with high-rises. But this plan outrages the citizens of Yerevan, who rise up in revolution. Amid the ensuing chaos, only one thing is certain: Frunz must brave the streets swarming with rebels in search of the Golden Mean. “Berberian’s writing is propelled by artist Kebbi’s color pencil art, which embraces the chaotic narrative fully. Smart and wild in equal measure, The Structure Is Rotten, Comrade is excellent reading.” –The A.V. Club

The Wind of Things: Uncertain Manifesto I
by Fréderic Pajak, Translated by
Donald Nicholson-Smith | New York Review Comics, March 2019

The utterly original book that Frédéric Pajak produced is a memoir born of reading and a meditation on the lives and ideas, the motivations, feelings, and fates of some of Pajak’s heroes: Samuel Beckett and the artist Bram van Velde, and, especially, Walter Benjamin. The author re-creates, in word and image, the latter's travels to Moscow, Naples, and Ibiza, his experiences with hashish, faltering marriage and love affairs and critique of modern experience. Pajak’s moody black-and-white drawings accompany the text throughout, though their bearing on it is often indirect and all the more absorbing for that. "[Pajak] meditates on the need to remember the past in order to understand the present...A complex portrait of the nature and power of narrative." –Kirkus Reviews

Perineum Technique
by Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot
| Fantagraphic Books, March 2019

After meeting online, JH and Sarah arrange to meet regularly for virtual hookups. Their exchanges, though brief and distant, begin to consume JH, who tries to convince Sarah to meet in person. The resulting game of seduction culminates with a provocative challenge of abstinence.The Perineum Technique is a contemporary meditation on seduction and intimacy in our era of hyperconnectivity. Playing skillfully with visual metaphor in lieu of sexual explicitness, Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot invite you to follow them into emotional head games, as experienced through the subconscious of young romance. "With a maze of complex emotions, skillful symbolism, and relatable romantic situations, this book is a head game begging to be played." –Publishers Weekly starred review

 


                                         KIDS

Ages 3 to 5:
Deep in the Ocean
by Lucie Brunellière
| Abrams Books, May 2019

A scientific team has boarded the submarine Oceanos to explore the ocean’s depths. Suddenly, it gets caught in a violent storm, causing it to drift thousands of miles off-course. From the glittering surface of the sea to the darkness of the abyss, Deep in the Ocean takes readers on a bewitching journey through fascinating waters—some warm, colorful, and crowded with sea creatures, others mysterious and turbulent. A free downloadable soundtrack allows readers to fully immerse in this beautiful underwater world. "The immersive, multilayered art teeming with intricately drawn crowds of sea creatures set on ethereal backgrounds and the feeling of grand scale admirably capture the majesties under the sea." –Kirkus Reviews

My Tree and Me
by Christine Roussey (illustrator) and Witek Jo (author), translated by Erica Tinkel | Abrams Books, April 2019

One little girl has a very special friend, the tall ancient tree in her backyard. Through the seasons, she grows along with the tree, playing in its branches and basking in its shade. She can swing and have a picnic, draw the tree and play hide and go seek. Through time spent by the tree, the girl learns to appreciate the natural world as something to be savored and protected and acknowledges her place within it. The Growing Hearts series celebrates the milestones of a toddler’s emotional development, from conquering fears and expressing feelings to welcoming a new sibling.

Ages 6 to 9:
Sweet Dreamers
by Isabelle Simler, translated by Sarah Ardizzone | Eerdams Books, March 2019

From the celebrated creator of Plume and The Blue Hour comes another enchanting animal book. Countless cozy animals are settling in for the night, but they all sleep in different ways. A bat dreams upside down, a hedgehog snuggles into a pile of leaves, and a humpback whale spins in its sleep like a ballerina. With its poetic language and lush illustrations, Sweet Dreamers will dazzle young readers as they drift off to sleep themselves. "[Simler's] dense, detailed illustrations, highlighted with vibrant touches of color, depict the glittering majesty of the natural world at night. The perfect way to wind down the day, Sweet Dreamers is the ultimate bedtime read." –Bookpage

Seraphin
by Philippe Fix, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith | Elsewhere Editions, July 2019

Seraphin, dreaming of gardens full of birdsong, sunny avenues, and flowers, works as a ticket seller in a subway station. One day, after being scolded by the stationmaster for trying to save a butterfly that had flown into the station by accident, he learns that he has inherited an old, dilapidated house. Overjoyed by the possibilities, he and his friend Plume set about building the house of their dreams, and much more besides! Philippe Fix’s illustrations, cinematic in their scope, have entranced children since their 1967 début. Out of print in English for decades, a fresh translation of Seraphin allows a new generation to experience the wonder and inventive spectacle of the original.

From age 10:

Cloud Chaser
by Anne-Fleur Drillon et Eric Puybaret, translated by Lisa Rosinsky | Barefoot Books, 2018

Dreamy Emery loves doodling wild inventions... but when a new friend moves in next door with piles of tools and ideas, can they build a real flying machine together? This charming celebration of intergenerational friendship, creativity and the thrill of scientific discovery will delight young inventors and STEM educators alike. Cloud Chaser won the prestigious 2019 Albertine Prix Jeunesse in the category 10-11 years old.

 


                                 NON-FICTION

Nourishment
by Corine Pelluchon, translated by Justin E. H. Smith | Bloomsbury, February 2019

In her new book, Corine Pelluchon argues that the dichotomy between nature and culture privileges the latter. She laments that the political system protects the sovereignty of the human and leaves them immune to impending environmental disaster. Using the writings of Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, and Ricœur, Pelluchon contends that human beings have to recognize humanity's dependence upon the natural world for survival and adopt a new philosophy of existence that advocates for animal welfare and ecological preservation. “In this original and important book, Corine Pelluchon argues for nothing less than a new social contract that does justice to the biosphere, to all life, especially other animals, as well as human life, and to future generations [...] Anyone interested in questions of justice and environmental or food ethics should read this book.” –Mary C. Rawlinson, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Stony Brook University, USA.

Doctors and Healers
by Isabelle Stengers and Tobie Nathan, translated by
Stephen Muecke | Stephan Muecke Polity Press (UK),

We think we know what healers do: they build on patients’ irrational beliefs and treat them in a ‘symbolic’ way. If they get results, it’s thanks to their capacity to listen, rather than any influence on a clinical level. At the same time, we also think we know what modern medicine is: a highly technical and rational process, but one that scarcely listens to patients at all. Blurring the distinctions between traditional and modern practices and drawing on perspectives from across the globe, this ethnopsychiatric manifesto encourages us to think in radically new ways about illness, challenging accepted notions on the relationship between sufferer and symptom. It will be of great interest to those working in medicine and healthcare, as well as anthropologists, social scientists and those in the humanities more broadly.

The Tears of the Black Man
by Alain Mabanckou, translated by Dominique Thomas | Indiana University Press, July 2019

Award-winning author Mabanckou explores what it means to be black in the world today and confronts the long and entangled history of Africa, France, and the United States as it has been shaped by slavery and colonialism. Without ignoring the injustices and prejudice still facing blacks, he distances himself from resentment and victimhood, arguing that focusing too intensely on the crimes of the past is limiting. Instead, it is time to ask: Now what? Embracing the challenges faced by ethnic minority communities today, The Tears of the Black Man looks to the future, choosing to believe that the history of Africa has yet to be written and seeking a path toward affirmation and reconciliation.

Blue: The History of a Color
by Michel Pastoureau, translated by Markus I. Cruse | Princeton University Press, September 2018

Blue has had a long and topsy-turvy history in the Western world. The ancient Greeks scorned it as ugly and barbaric, but most Americans and Europeans now cite it as their favorite color. In this fascinating history, the renowned medievalist Michel Pastoureau traces the changing meanings of blue from its rare appearance in prehistoric art to its international ubiquity today.Any history of color is, above all, a social history. Pastoureau investigates how the ever-changing role of blue in society has been reflected in manuscripts, stained glass, heraldry, clothing, paintings, and popular culture. Beautifully illustrated, Blue tells the intriguing story of our favorite color and the cultures that have hated it, loved it, and made it essential to some of our greatest works of art. "A miracle of poetry in the midst of academic rigidity." –Télérama

Survival of the Fireflies
by Georges Didi-Hubermann, Translated by Lia Swope Mitchell | University of Minnesota Press, September 2018

Dante once spoke, in his Divine Comedy, of the miniscule lights, in the twenty-sixth canto of the Inferno, which, contrary to the great lights that shined bright within the sublime circles of Paradise, frailly wandered within the darkness. Pliny the Elder was once preoccupied by a type of fly named pyrallis or pyrotocon: “as long as it remains in the fire, it can fly; when its flight takes it out too far a distance, it dies. ”Through his readings of Dante, Pasolini, Walter Benjamin, and others, Georges Didi-Huberman seeks to understand this strange, minor light, the signals of small beings in search of love and friendship. Their flickering presence serves as a counterforce to the blinding sovereign power that Agamben calls The Kingdom and the Glory, that artificial brilliance that once surrounded dictators and today emanates from every screen. In this much needed reflection, in our time of excessive light, Didi-Huberman’s Survival of the Fireflies offers a humble yet powerful image of individual hope and desire: the firefly-image.

 

Article by Loïse Tachon

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