French Books USA: Week in Review


Amazon continues to be the subject of much debate across Europe. Recently, the European Commission began investigating the fiscal advantages given to Amazon for book sales in Luxembourg. Meanwhile, Amazon offered to settle its ongoing standoff with Hachette by giving its ebook sales revenue directly to the authors, thus stirring up a hornet's nest from Paris. Writing from the French capital, American journalist Pamela Druckerman reported on the numerous bookstores that populate the Quartier Latin, linking the impressive number of shops to France’s fixed book price law, which has remained unchanged since 1981.

In other matters of the court, French novelist Grégoire Delacourt was ordered to pay 2500 euros to Scarlett Johansson, (only a fraction of the 50,000 euros she asked for) in damages for violation of privacy, after he included a fictionalized version of the actress as a character in his novel La Première Chose qu’on regarde ("The First Thing You Look At", Lattès, 2013). The court refused to honor Johansson’s lawyer’s request to forbid any unauthorized exploitation of “her name, her image and her celebrity”, arguing that she had already discussed her private life in interviews. Delacourt declared he would have preferred Johansson to “send him flowers” because his book was actually "a declaration of love". He might seek comfort by going to the movies to watch the adaptation of René Goscinny and celebrated New Yorker illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé's Little Nicholas on Vacation, which promises to be a summer blockbuster in France.

Among recent publications drawing attention in France, Kamel Daoud’s rewrote Camus’s The Stranger through the eyes of the brother of the Algerian killed by Meursault. Michel Foucault’s last seminar has just been published by EHESS-Gallimard-Seuil: in a 1981 lecture on sexuality given at Collège de France, the philosopher argues against the cliché of repressive Christianity.  Jean-François Mignot writes on the social and economic changes the widely popular Tour de France has revealed through time. Last but not least, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century continues to sell extremely well, but apparently those who bought it on kindle only read 2,4% of it. They are undoubtedly waiting to catch up while on the beach.

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.