French Books USA: Week in Review

April 17, 2015 | By Kyra Sturgill
French editor François Maspero passed away on April 11.

Remembering French Editor François Maspero
François Maspero, the prolific French editor, writer and translator, passed away on April 11, 2015 at the age of 83. Maspero began his literary career when he opened his own bookstore Paris in 1955, eventually beginning a career as editor and publisher in its basement. His main motivation to publish literature was initiated by his objection to colonialism and frequency of colonial wars waged in the late fifties and early sixties. In 1959, Maspero launched the collection “Cahiers libres” which would include works objecting the colonial war in Algeria. He also began the review Partisans in 1962, which became a pivotal publication in the anti-colonialist movement. His collection of published titles became known as the Petite Collection Maspero. He left PCM, known today as La Découverte, in 1982, moving on to focus on writing and translating. He traveled the world, reporting and writing from China, the Balkans, Latin America and Palestine. An essential figure in the leftist movements of the sixties and seventies in France, Maspero is remembered as a genuine intellectual, dedicated to sharing with the world an awareness of the injustices within it.

Francophone Authors Nominated for Impac Dublin Award
The Impac Dublin literary award, a prestigious prize awarded for a single novel written or translated in English, nominated two francophone authors: Mahi Binebine of Morrocco and Russian-born, French writer Andreï  Makine. Binebine was chosen for Horses of God (translated by Lulu Norman), which tells the story of four friends who grow up to become suicide bombers. Makine was selected for Brief Loves That Live Forever (translated by Geoffrey Strachan), a tale about an orphan set in Soviet Russia. The winner of the €100,000 prize will be announced on June 17.

Persepolis is Amongst Most Contested Books in US Libraries
American Library Association published its 2015 State of America’s Libraries report this week, which includes “The 2014 Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books,” meaning the books which people most often attempted to restrict or ban from library shelves. The second most contested book of 2014 was Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.  The graphic memoir, originally written in French, is the story of the author’s childhood during the Islamist Revolution in Iran. The ALA cited “gambling, offensive language [and] political viewpoint” as the reasons given when the widely acclaimed book was challenged.

Charlie Hebdo Editor’s Posthumous Book Published  
The editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, who was killed in the January 7 attacks on the office of the satirical magazine, had finished two days before a book voicing a response to the magazine’s critics. Published in France this week, the 88-page book, Lettre ouverte aux escrocs de l'islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes (Letters to the Swindlers of Islamophobia who play into the Hands of Racists) takes on politicians, the media, and Islamophobia. The book opens with a poem, addressed to those with preconceived notions, such as those who "think it's written in the Quran that drawing the Prophet Muhammad is forbidden ... think caricaturing a jihadist in a ridiculous position insults Islam ... think a drawing is more dangerous than an American drone."

Recommended Reading:
Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu

Publishers Weekly writes that Bagieu’s first graphic novel published in English “is perfect for women in their 20s, a demographic often overlooked by comic publishers.” Exquisite Corpse tells the story Zoe, a young, carefree woman stuck in a dead-end job and relationship, who is thrown into the elite literary world of Paris when she meets a world-renowned author she’s never heard of. Zoe’s ability to maintain her sense of self, despite her lack of literary knowledge, is her greatest strength. Met with much critical acclaim in France, the graphic novel will be published in English in May. “For great summer fiction to read out in the garden or while enjoying un café, look no further.”

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