10 French Books on US "Best of 2014" Lists

December 15, 2014 | By FRENCH CULTURE BOOKS

Quite a few French books are making "Best Books of the Year" lists here in the US. Wondering where to start? Read on for our (far from exhaustive) list of 10 titles in translation that won critics over this year. (You can check out the French Embassy Book Department's picks here.)

The Author and Me
Eric Chevillard, trans. Jordan Stump (Dalkey)
"Perhaps the funniest literary writer in the world, Eric Chevillard outdid himself this year with The Author and Me, which takes the prevailing metafictional trend to new comedic (and literary) heights."
-From Flavorwire's "50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014" list

Midnight in the Century  cover

Midnight in the Century
Victor Serge, trans. Richard Greeman (NYRB Classics)
"One of the great novels by one of the politically honest (and adventurous) souls of the 20th century. Anyone who cares about oppression, power, and the abuses that link the two, should read Midnight in the Century."
-From Flavorwire's "50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014" list


Our Lady of the Nile: A Novel
Scholastique Mukasonga, trans. Melanie Mauthner (Archipelago)
"This “prelude to the Rwandan genocide” recalls the closed world, preceding Fascism, of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, which is all the more impressive considering this is Mukasonga’s novelistic debut."
-From Flavorwire's "50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014" list

Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Self-Portrait in Green
Marie NDiaye, trans. Jordan Stump (Two Lines Press)
"One of France’s most startling new voices, NDiaye’s introduction to American audiences is a bravura collection of stories that may or may not double as autofictional memoirs: I simply can’t tell. This hypnotic book estranges life, marriage, motherhood, and memory like no other book in recent memory."
-From Flavorwire's "50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014" list

The Severed Head: Capital Visions
Julia Kristeva (Columbia University Press)
"This is a pretty simple equation. After curating an exhibition on the subject for the Louvre, Julia Kristeva wrote about severed heads throughout history. Amazing."
-From Flavorwire's “10 Best Books By Academic Publishers in 2014" list

Suspended Sentences: 3 Novellas
Patrick Modiano, trans. Mark Polizzotti (Yale University Press)
"Yale was both prescient and fortunate to release these novellas by the unexpected winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature just one month after he was awarded the prize. They help prove that he deserved the award, even if Americans (like me) were clueless about him."
-From Flavorwire's “10 Best Books By Academic Publishers in 2014" list

Capital in the Twenty-First Century (front cover).jpg
Capital in the Twenty-First Century
Thomas Piketty, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Harvard University Press)
"While it may fall short of the ambitions of its title, and certainly it is not flawless, Piketty’s Capital is a must-read and good one. It’s been written ad nauseum that the book reads like a 19th century novel. This may be pushing it a bit, but the book is still the best written work of economic writing you’ll find for years. It deserves the accolades and debates that swarm around it."
-From Flavorwire's “10 Best Books By Academic Publishers in 2014" list


Emmanuel Carrère, trans. John Lambert (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
"No run-of-the-mill biography, this witty, fascinating portrait of the paradoxical Edward Limonov—a far-right ally of Serbian war criminals and principled opponent of Putin; a butler in New York City; and a literary rock star in Paris—has biographer Carrère giving himself a supporting part in the story as he ponders his own relationship to a confounding man who mirrors Russia’s many transformations."
-from Publishers Weekly's "Top 10 Books of 2014" list
(Limonov also made the New York Times's 100 Notable Books of 2014 list.)

At the Same Moment, Around the World by Clotilde Perrin
At the Same Moment, Around the World
Clotilde Perrin
"Bulgaria, Senegal, Peru, France: these are but a few of the countries featured by Clotilde Perrin in this story that depicts the passage of time all over the world. This book would be worth purchasing for the gorgeous illustrations alone, so the educational subject matter is an added bonus."
-From Buzzfeed's "23 Best Picture Books of 2014"

Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet
Mix It Up!
Hervé Tullet
"Hervé Tullet is inviting you to mix up some colors - how can you resist?"
-From Buzzfeed's "23 Best Picture Books of 2014"

Keep up with the latest news on the French literary scene in France and the U.S. with the French Book Department’s weekly paper trail. For daily updates on events, blogs and translations, follow us on Twitter @FrenchBooksUSA.

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