French Books USA: Week In Review

November 20, 2014 | By Maggie Love
Prix Interallié winner Mathias Menegoz with his novel, Karpathia

Literary Prize Season Comes to a Close
David Foenkinos’s Charlotte has been awarded the Prix Goncourt for Lycéens (the Goncourt selected by a jury of high school students). The book is based on the life of German artist Charlotte Salomon, who was deported to Auschwitz from France. Charlotte also won the Prix Renaudot. 

The last major prize of literary awards season, the Prix Interallié, went to Mathias Menegoz’s Karpathia. Set in 1833, the novel follows Hungarian Army captain Alexander Korvanyi, who marries a young Austian. The two live in Transylvania, where they find themselves amidst racial, linguistic, religious and ethnic tensions.

Speaking of literary prizes, here’s an argument for bringing back the National Book Award for Translation.

Pépites for YA and Children's Books
Montreuil's Salon du Livre and presse jeunesse (youth press) honored seven writers and artists, its 7 Pépites* recognizing works originally by British, Croatian and Czech artists in addition to works by French artists. 

The Salon de Montreuil kicks off next Wednesday, November 26, and runs through December 1st. Just in time for the event, organizers released a study that indicated that literature for children and young adults made up a whopping 25 percent of sales in 2014.

*A pépite is a gold nugget

Oulipo Exhibition in Paris
The Bibliothèque nationale de France opened an exhibition Tuesday on the literary group Oulipo (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle), which included the writers Georges Perec and Raymond Queneau.  Begun in 1960, the group reimagined literature by writing according to rules that were often based on game-like mathematical structures.

Slicing History
How is it decided when one historical period ends and another one begins? Books & Ideas, the English-language mirror website of La Vie des Idées, published a review of the late medievalist Jacques Le Goff’s Faut-il vraiment découper l’histoire en tranches ? (Le Seuil, 2014). In the book, Le Goff defends the concept of a « long middle ages» and rejects the notion that the Renaissance was a distinct period. (Ed. note : La Vie Des Idées contributors Lucie Campos and Florent Guénard sat on panels for the Cultural Services of the French Embassy’s Literary Salon earlier this month.)

The “Style Minuit”
When Author On Tour Julia Deck's book Viviane was published by the small, prestigious publishing house Les Editions de Minuit  in 2012, it was the first debut novel they put out in a generation. In the recently published book Existe-t-il un style Minuit ?, Michel Bertrand, Karine Germoni and Annick Jauer examine the level of influence Les Editions de Minuit has on each author’s writing style.

French Books Reviewed in the US
LIMONOV, by Emmanuel Carrère, translated by John Lambert (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The New Yorker raves, “Carrère’s prose has a brash punk energy; his refusal to flatten Limonov with easy judgment gives the book its life.”

BIRTH OF A BRIDGE, by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore (Talon)
“This delightful book’s unabashed idealism, combined with those playfully literary proper names, marks it as a kind of aspirational fairy tale,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Sam Sacks.

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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