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French Authors on Tour This Fall

by Shannon Sullivan

A warm cup of coffee, pumpkin spice everywhere you turn, a cozy scarf around your neck, and… your new favorite author coming to town? That’s what we call a great way to kick off the season! The Cultural Services of the French Embassy is proud to present eight remarkable authors on tour in the United States from September through November. Each of them has, in their own way, explored the notion of before and after; whether through revolution, protest, innovation, tragedy or hope, these authors use writing to help us better understand our own lives, as well as humanity as a whole, on the cusp of change.

Jérémie Royer, Audubon: On the Wings of the World (Nobrow Press, translated by David Sutton)

Tour dates: September 12-28

Jérémie Royer is an illustrator and designer who studied comic book art and illustration at the École supérieure des arts Saint-Luc in Brussels. Audubon: On the Wings of the World follows the titular ornithologist John James Audubon on his decades-long quest to document avian life in pre-industrial North America. Audubon’s research revolutionized American ornithology, providing countless details on native birds that have set the standard for how we depict nature today. Royer’s stunning illustrations mirror Audubon’s own style, giving us an even better look into the process of one of the first American explorers.

Léonora Miano, Season of the Shadow (Seagull Books, translated by Gila Walker)

Tour dates: September 15-29

Author Léonora Miano has penned fourteen books, among which are the winner of the 2006 Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, Contours du jour qui vient, and the 2013 Prix Femina-winning Season of the Shadow. The latter tells of the early days of the transatlantic slave trade from the perspective of its first victims, villagers in sub-Saharan Africa. The striking prose takes readers through the transformation of a pre-colonial world on the verge of disappearing. Today’s generations know this world’s end, and Miano takes us through the tragic steps to get there.

Hubert Haddad, Desirable Body (Yale University Press, translated by Alyson Waters)

Tour dates: October 1-19

Prix des Cinq Continents de la Francophonie-winner Hubert Haddad is a poet, playwright, short story writer, and novelist. Desirable Body is his third book to be translated into English. It brings a Frankenstein-like story into our time: after his body sustains gruesome injuries from a traumatic accident, protagonist Cédric undergoes the first successful body transplant. Following the operation, Cédric must readjust to his environment and find new ways to live with a body that is not his own, forcibly drawing a line between the life he used to know and the one he has now.

Emmanuelle Loyer, Lévi-Strauss: A Biography (Polity Books, translated by Ninon Vinsonneau and Jonathan Magidoff)

Tour dates: October 8-20

Emmanuelle Loyer is a historian and professor at Sciences Po Paris, specializing in the cultural history of contemporary societies. Her masterful Lévi-Strauss explores the sociologist-turned-anthropologist and centenarian’s life and work during the tumultuous twentieth century. But Lévi-Strauss didn’t just live through befores and afters–he helped create them, too. As one of anthropology’s most prominent contributors, he reinvented the field and profoundly changed the way in which we view both the world and ourselves, and his work as the first Cultural Counselor impacted both French and American cultures by making them more accessible to each other after World War II.

Gérôme Truc, Shell Shocked: The Social Response to Terrorist Attacks (Polity Books, translated by Andrew Brown)

Tour dates: October 15-28

Gérôme Truc is a sociologist whose work focuses on social reactions to terrorist attacks, in particular with regards to moral and political sociology. Shell Shocked seeks to understand how ordinary people respond to these attacks, notably those of 9/11 in New York, March 11, 2004 in Madrid, and July 7, 2005 in London, looking at what prompts the intensity of a society’s reaction after its safety is threatened. Truc analyzes political language, media images, and demonstrations of solidarity to further understand why we respond the way we do to a crisis, even when we are not directly connected to it.

Gaël Faye, Small Country (Hogarth, translated by Sarah Ardizzone)

Tour dates: October 21-28

Gaël Faye is a songwriter and hip-hop artist, whose debut novel, Small Country, won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens and is being published in thirty countries around the world. Small Country introduces ten-year-old Gabriel, who enjoys a carefree life with his family in his small expatriate community in Burundi. But trouble looms on the horizon; when civil war and genocide hit Burundi and neighboring Rwanda, his peaceful world is shattered. Faye’s lyrical prose shows readers what a loss of innocence looks like from the eyes of a child—not just his own, but that of his country.

Éric Vuillard, The Order of the Day (Other Press, translated by Mark Polizzotti)

Tour dates: October 24-November 9

Éric Vuillard is a writer and filmmaker whose Conquistadors won the Prix de l’inaperçu in 2010. 2017 Prix Goncourt winner The Order of the Day breaks down two pivotal events that led to the German annexation of Austria during World War II: a meeting between German industrial leaders at the Reichstag in February 1933 that ends with a decision to financially support Hitler’s election campaign, and the Anschluss of March 1938. The drastic change that is initiated by each event illustrates how just one action can irrevocably alter the course of history, with the two combined serving to strengthen the brutality of the Nazi regime.

Gerty Dambury, The Restless (Feminist Press, translated by Judith G. Miller)

Tour dates: November 7-19

Gerty Dambury is a theater director, novelist, and poet; though she has published twelve plays and three books of poetry, The Restless is her first novel. Following the structure of a Creole quadrille, The Restless takes readers to 1960s Pointe-à-Pitre. In a period full of revolutions across the world, Guadeloupe is no different: here, racial and class stratification lead to a protest that itself becomes a massacre. Told from the point of view of narrators both living and dead, the book highlights the tragic change that overcomes Guadeloupe, but also the strength of its people as they continue on after it.