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French Books In The U.S. - The 2020 Edition

As the year is coming to a close, it’s time to look forward to the next one. Here is a first look at the numbers and trends for 2020, according to the annual survey conducted by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, of works scheduled to be translated from French to English in the United States. As more titles will be announced throughout the year, be sure to check back in a few months for updates. 


FICTION

At first blush, it is refreshing to see that American publishers are increasingly interested in contemporary French-language literature. In 2020, 117 fiction books, a majority of which were released in France over the last 3 years, will be published in the United States. In contrast, in 2019 and 2018, over half of the translated publications dated back 5 and 10 years, respectively.

The list of fiction works to be published in 2020 includes works by 110 writers from no less than 27 different countries, confirming that French is one of the handful of languages that span the world and that publishers are catching on to this strength. Authors published in 2020 hail from Algeria, Argentina, Belgium, Cambodia, Cameroun, Canada, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, France, Gabon, Germany, Haiti, Iran, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, and the United States. French-language literature from Maghreb and the Middle East is increasingly popular, with 25% of forthcoming translations written by citizens of Morocco, Algeria, Iran, Lebanon, Syria or Egypt. Such authors include Tahar Ben Jelloun (The Punishment, Yale University Press), Mahi Binebine (The King’s Fool, MacLehose Press), Amin Maalouf (The Disoriented, World Editions), Kamel Daoud (Zabor or the psalms, Other Press), and Javad Djavahery (My Part of Her, Restless books).

32% of the fiction books to be published in 2020 were written by women, a similar proportion to last year. Some of the authors, such as Annie Ernaux (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Women, Seven Stories Press) and Sandrine Collette (Just After the Wave, Europa Editions), are firmly established. For many others, however, these publications mark their English-language debut: Kaouther Adimi’s exploration of Algerian history in Our Riches(New Directions), Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam’s depiction of a libertarian community in Arcadia (Seven Stories Press), and novelist and film director Fabienne Kanor’s narration of a women-led slave rebellion in Humus (University of Virginia Press).

Many beloved contemporary authors will earn another spot on American bookshelves, such as winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize Maryse Condé (The Fabulous and Unfortunate Fate of Ivan and Ivana, World Editions), Haitian poet and artist Frankétienne (Ultravocal, Archipelago Books), and the critically acclaimed novelists Nathacha Appanah (Tropic of Violence, Graywolf Press), Emmanuel Dongala (The Bridgetower Sonata, Schaffer Press), Fatou Diome (Waiting Women, University of Virginia Press), Koli Jean Bofane (The Belle of Casablanca, Indiana University Press), and Virginie Despentes (Vernon Subutex 2, Farrar Straus & Giroux).

New works by Goncourt Prize winners will be available in English this coming year: Nicolas Mathieu (And Their Children After Them, Other Press), Mathias Enard (A Perfect Shot, New Directions Publishing), Laurent Gaudé (Salina, Europa Editions), and Jérôme Ferrari (In Her Own Image, Europa Editions). Classics to be published in English for the first time include Alexandre Dumas’s Isaac Laquedem: A Tale of the Wandering Jew(Noumena Press), André Gide’s Marshland (New York Review of Books), and Yves Bonnefoy’s collection of short stories The Red Scarf, Two Stages and other stories (Seagull Books). Among classics to be released with a new translation are Against Nature by the extraordinary Joris-Karl Huysmans (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Illustrated Tales by the 17th century writer Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy (Princeton University Press), and Lily by Honoré de Balzac (New York Review of Books). In the final weeks of 2019, Serotonin by Goncourt Prize winner Michel Houellebecq Farrar, Straus & Giroux) was also published.

Forthcoming poetry collections written in the 20th and 21st centuries feature a variety of styles: The Idea of Perfection by Symbolist Paul Valéry (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Pan Dada by Dadaist Clément Pensaers (Wakefield Press), Avant Desire: A Nicole Brossard Reader Anthology byFormalist Nicole Brossard (Coach House Books), Sun of Consciousness by philosopher Edouard Glissant (NightBoat Books), and The John Cage Experiences by the experimental Vincent Tholomé (Autumn Hill Books).


NON-FICTION

140 non-fiction books are scheduled for publication in 2020.

With over 30 forthcoming titles in translation, philosophy remains a French specialty. As in the past, there is a strong interest in prominent figures such as Michel Foucault (four titles), Alain Badiou (three titles), and Jacques Derrida (two titles). Works by groundbreaking philosophers will also be translated, including David Lapoujade, a pragmatist who is highly influenced by the work of Deleuze (William James: Empiricism and Pragmatism, Duke University Press).

Among other anticipated publications, you’ll find Leïla Slimani’s collection of interviews with Moroccon women (Sex and Lies Penguin Random House), Hélène Cixous’s exquisite memoir (Oznabruck Station to Jerusalem, Fordham University Press)Paul B. Preciado’s bold essay that defies the “gender-sex binary system” (An Apartment on Uranus: Chronicles of the Crossing, Semiotext(e)), and Felwine Sarr’s vibrant call for an African utopian philosophy (Afrotopia, University of Minnesota Press).

Several political and social science essays provide a detailed analysis on a variety of issues such as political unrest and disobedience, are, including Achille Mbembe’s Out of the Dark Night: Essays on Decolonization (Columbia University Press)Grégoire Chamayou's Ungovernable Society (Polity Press), Françoise Vergès’ The Wombs of Women (Duke University Press), and Frédéric Gros’s Desobey (Verso). Many of the works grapple with the ills of our time, such as economic inequalities and the need for social justice: Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology, Lucas Chancel’s Unsustainable Inequalities: Social Justice and the Environment (Harvard University Press), Daniel Bensaïd’s The Dispossessed (University of Minnesota Press), The Cybernetic Hypothesis by the Tiqqun collective (Semiotexte), and Giulia Mensitieri’s The Most Beautiful Job in the World(Bloomsbury). Works further exploring our current economic and political systems and how to change them are Michel Callon’s The All-Powerful Markets: Essays such as Understanding How They Work in Order to Change them (Zone Books), François Ewald's History of the Welfare State (Duke University Press), Julia Cagé’s The Price of Democracy: How Money Shapes Politics and What to do About It (Harvard University Press), and Mark Alizart's Cryptocommunism (Polity Press).

Significantly, American publishers are welcoming an increased number of books on environmental issues: Cataclysms: An Environmental History of Humanity, by Laurent Testot (University of Chicago Press); The Contamination of the Earth: A History of Pollution in the Industrial Age, by Francois Jarrige et Thomas Le Roux (MIT Press); How Everything Can Collapse: A Short Manual on Collapsology for the Present, by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens (Polity Press); and The Last Humanity: A New Ecological Science, by François Laruelle (Bloomsbury Publishing).

In another field, roughly 30 historical works will also be translated, such as Trace and Aura and Machiavelli by Patrick Boucheron (Other Press), Death of the Guillotine: Public Executions in France, 1870-1939 by Emmanuel Taïeb (Cornell University Press), and Smells: A Cultural History of Odours in Early Modern Times by Robert Muchembled (Polity Books). Other forthcoming publications explore the spiritual realm, such as Laurence Louër’s Sunnis and Shiites: a Political History (Princeton University Press), Jean-Luc Nancy’s Excluding the Jew Within Us (Polity Press), and Olivier Roy's Is Europe Christian? (Oxford University Press).


GRAPHIC NOVELS

112 graphic novels in translation will be published in 2020, confirming publishers’ and readers’ interest in French comics.

Notable non-fiction works include Emma's popular graphic novel on feminism, Emotional Load: And Other Invisible Stuff (Seven Stories press), Aurélien Ducoudray's study on an experimental psychiatric clinic, The Third Population (Penn State University Press), and Jean-Noël Fabiani and Philippe Bercoviv's illustrated history, Medicine: A Graphic History (SelfMadeHero).

The number of illustrated biographies has also soared recently, making it a trendy subgenre: Eddy Simon and Alessandra Joël's Rodin: Fugit Amor, An Intimate Portrait (NBM Comics), Claire Fauvel's Phoolan Devi, Rebel Queen (NBM Comics), Kahil Marwan and Vittori Ariel's Leonard Da Vinci, Renaissance of the World (NBM Comics), JD Morvan, Severine Trefouel and David Evrard's Irena Book 2: Childern of the Ghetto (Magnetic Press), Pascal Bresson and Sylvain Dorange's Serge & Beate Klarsfeld: Nazi Hunters (Humanoïds), and Jack Lemonier and Eddy Simon's Renoir (Pegasus Books).

The publication of new volumes of French comics demonstrates a consistent interest in the works of specific French authors and illustrators. Notable titles include Florent Ruppert, Jérôme Mulot, and Bastien Vives’s The Grand Odalisque V2: Olympia (Fantagraphics); Lewis Trondheim and Boulet’s Infinity 8 vol.7 - All for Nothing (Magnetic Press); Lewis Trondheim and Emmanuel Guibert’s Infinity 8 vol 6 - Ultimate Knowledge (Magnetic Press); and Friha Karim’s Rise of the Zelphire Book 3 - Heart of Evil (Magnetic Press).

Also forthcoming are Florent Ruppert, Jérôme Mulot and Jérôme Olivier’s Portrait of a Drunk Schrauwen (Fantagraphics) and Bastien Vivès’ A Sister (Ablaze), exceptional and beautiful works that capture both the intimacy and quality of their French editions.


CHILDREN BOOKS

Finally, 45 children books will be translated in 2020

A principal theme seen in upcoming translations is the exploration of emotions, with notable works including Tears by Sybille Delacroix (Owl Kids) and Little Unicorn Is Shy by Aurélie Chien Chow Chine (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers).

American publishers are expressing an exciting new interest in creative and talented French illustrators:  Beatrice Alemagna’s Things That Go Away (Abrams Books for Young Readers); Nathalie Dargent and Le Huche’s The Christmas Feast (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers); Maria Dek’s Malo and the Merry-Go-Round (Princeton Architectural Press); Wilfrid Lupano, Mayana Itoïz and Paul Cauuet’s The Wolf in Underpants Returns (Graphic Universe); and Delphine Perret’s A Bear Named Bjorn (Gecko Press). Marc Boutavant, who toured the U.S. in March 2019 for Dumpster Dog, will release a new volume in translation, Dumpster Dog at the Beach (Enchanted Lion Books).


Find the full list of French Books to be published in the U.S. in 2020 here. In the event that a publication has been overlooked or a title’s date of release has been postponed, please email us at 972livre@gmail.com, and we will update our list without delay.

For more information about previous publications, refer to our articles for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.


Several authors mentioned on this list will soon be visiting the United States (in their order of arrival): Mark Alizart for Dogs, Julia Billet for Catherine’s War (HarperCollins), Javad Djavahery for My Part of Her (Restless Books), Kaouther Adimi for Our Riches (New Directions), Felwine Farr for Afrotopia (University of Minnesota Press), Julia Cagé for The Price of Democracy: How Money Shapes Politics and What to Do About It (Harvard University Press). Please refer to our Authors On Tour page for more information about their  events.

We hope that these recommendations improve your reading experience.

Article by Loïse Tachon, Jessica Cohen, and Soline Bouchacourt

PDF icon List of translations for 2019 PDF icon List of translations for 2020
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