French Books USA: Week in Review


Abdellatif Laâbi shortlisted for the Griffin Trust Poetry Prize

Moroccan Poet, Abdellatif Laâbi, has been shortlisted for the Griffin Trust Poetry Prize for his book, In Praise of Defeat (Archipelago Books). The collection of poems, translated from French by Donald Nicholson-Smith, demonstrates the development of his style throughout his career, from his explosive verse to elegant constructions of phrase. Laâbi’s cumulative work has also been nominated for the 2017 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. In Praise of Defeat has been referred to as a ‘landmark work,’ by the jury of the Griffin Poetry Prize and will compete against three other books in order to win the $65,000 award. 

Publishers Weekly Ten Essential African Novels

Alain Mabanckou, author of Black Moses (The New Press), long-listed this year for the Man Booker International Prize, was asked, along with four novelists with a novel out this spring, to select two of their favorite African novels. The list of ten essential African novels, released by Publishers’ Weekly includes works by Francophone authors Abdourahman A. Waberi, Emmanuel Dongala, and Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Waberi’s Harvest of Skulls (Indiana University Press) revisits Rwanda’s massacres through collective accounts with the goal of generating a discussion reflecting on the genocide. Emmanuel Dongala’s Jazz and Palm Wine (Indiana University Press) is a collection of short stories filled with marvelous lyrical imagery that takes place in both America and in his native Congo. Mujila’s Tram 83 (Deep Vellum Publishing) is filled with a surging life force that “crackles and leaps with energy.” The book follows protagonist Lucien and his adventures with a band of writers, alcoholics, drug dealers, and romantics. 

Édouard Louis’ The End of Eddy

Édouard Louis’ debut novel, The End of Eddy (FSG), which has already sold more than 300,000 copies since its release in France, is featured in the The New Yorker. The story is an offtake from the author’s own childhood. The plot surrounds Eddy, a young man who is exploring his sexuality while being relentlessly subjected to the stigma and hateful remarks. Louis recently discussed the topic, as he participated in the PEN World Voices Festival event ‘Portraying Gay Male Life Today.’ The book delves into various experiences that he explains have occurred throughout his life. For Louis, a canny writer who uses theory-inflicted language throughout his novel, “refined language is a weapon, a way to turn stigma of difference into the prestige of distinction.”

Charif Majdalani and his work Moving the Palace

Charif Majdalani was on tour  in Washington DC, Denver, Boulder and Los Angeles promoting his recently translated work, Moving the Palace. Majdalani’s work is situated at the crossroads of various literary and cultural influences.  In Moving the Palace (New Vessel Press), a young Lebanese explorer leaves for the wilds of Africa, where he enlists in the service of an eccentric English Colonel. Moving the Palace won the 2008 François Mauriac Prize from the Académie Française as well as the Prix Tropiques. In the book, Majdalani, “renders the complex social landscape of the Middle East and North Africa with subtlety and finesse.” With his richly textured prose he is able to bring the reader into a world of djellabas, caravans, daggers, banquets and palanquin. 

Sandrine Revel’s Glenn Gould: A Life Off Tempo nominated for Eisner Award

Sandrine Revel’s Glenn Gould: A Life Off Tempo (NBM Publishing) was listed for the Best Reality- Based Work for the Eisner Award. The stunning graphic novel surrounds the life of the legendary Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, often recognized as one of the best musicians of the twentieth century. Professionals within the graphic novel industry will vote for the winners of the award to be announced in July during Comic-ConThe Will Eisner Comic Industry Award is named after the acclaimed comic creator and recognizes the best publications and creators in comics and graphic novels. Revel was recently a guest of the World Voices festival and currently on tour, on her way from Boston to Toronto where she will attend TCAF.

Remembering Ruwen Ogien

Philosopher Ruwen Ogien passed away on May 4th at the age of 60 due to complications from cancer. Ogien’s experience with the illness led him to write his final essay, Mes Milles et Une Nuits, a work in which he ponders on a patient’s journey, the words or metaphors we use to describe, or avoid naming the illness, and the ploys we use to forget it. The philosopher well-known for his work on ethics and sexuality was the author of La Panique morale (Grasset). A frequent guest of radio programs, he tackled issues of liberty, surrogacy and prostitution. With a refined style, and fluidity, Ogien clearly stated his theories comparing his arguments with those of other well-known thinkers on subjects ranging from euthanasia to terrorism. His introduction to ethics Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissant was published by Columbia University Press in 2015.