French Books USA: Week in Review

September 15, 2017 | By Jasmine Bissete

Remembering John Ashbery

Distinguished American poet John Ashbery has passed away at the age of 90. His extensive oeuvre includes the collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1976. Ashbery was also a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Guggenheim Fellowship. He published numerous translations of French poetry, including works by Raymond Roussel, Arthur Rimbaud (notably his Illuminations, one of the major works of nineteenth century poetry), and Pierre Martory, and was honored with the insignia of Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur in 2002. Renowned for his surrealist postmodern works, he eschewed poetic convention, instead turning to music and visual art to find inspiration for the written form.

Les Trentes Glorieuses in Focus

The thirty years following the Second World War were period of rapid social change and cultural growth in France. English author Alex Christofi pays homage to this transformative era of French history in his second novel, Let Us Be True, which takes place in 1960s Paris. James Marriott of The Times calls Let Us Be True “a wonderful, moving love story…It’s tender and sensitively written with a powerful feeling for the passage of time.” In an article for The Guardian, Christofi selects his top 10 books on postwar France.  Among his picks are The Journals of Janet Flanner, (she was The New Yorker’s Paris correspondent for half a century), George Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, and After the Circus by Patrick Modiano.

Translators’ Advocate to be feted at Gala

Jill Schoolman, founder and publisher of Archipelago Books, will be honored with the 2017 Ottaway Award at the WBB Gala and Globe Trot. Archipelago primarily publishes foreign-language works in translation. Schoolman herself is fluent in French and lived in Paris for many years, pursuing a career in film production before switching gears to publishing, so French-language works are a cornerstone of the company. Francophone authors on their roster include Scholastique Mukasonga, Marie Vieux-Chauvet, Eric Chevillard, Abdellatif Laâbi, and Frankétienne. More recently, Archipelago Books published Christine Angot’s Incest. Angot will be in New York and Boston in the fall for the launch of her book.

Awards, awards, awards!

Awards season is upon us. French cartoonists/husband and wife team Lewis Trondheim and Brigitte Findakly have been nominated for the Kirkus Prize for Poppies in Iraq, their highly anticipated memoir. Selections for the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Renaudot have also been announced. Notable picks include Alice Zeniter’s L’Art de perdre, Philippe Jaenda’s La serpe, and Sexe et mensonges from Leïla Slimani (last year’s Goncourt winner).

Rave reviews for Siglio Press titles

French artist and cartoonist Vincent Sardon designs his own rubber stamps in a small studio near Paris’ 11th arrondissment. Traditionally a symbol of the banality of bureaucratic control, Sardon re-imagines this medium to make a powerful statement against authority. The Daily Heller calls Sardon’s latest work The Stampographer, “The most exciting book of the fall publishing season.” The artist will be at the NY Art Book Fair from Thursday, Sept. 21 to Sunday, Sept. 24 and at Spoonbill Studio on Monday, Sept. 25, from 7 – 9pm. Anouck Durand’s photo-novel Eternal Friendship, another Siglio Press publication and a French Voices Grantee, has also been met with critical praise. The title was featured in Bomb Magazine’s fall book preview and traces the friendship forged between a Jewish photographer and young Muslim partisan during the Nazi invasion of Albania. 


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