French Books USA: Week in Review

May 1, 2015 | By Kyra Sturgill
French Voices Winner, Our Lady of the Nile, is amongst the ten books to be pitched for film adaptation at Shoot the Book!, an event taking place at the Cannes Film Festival.

Articles Emerge in Response to Protests of PEN Gala
As several figures in the literary world voice opposition to PEN American Center honoring the Charlie Hebdo staff with their Freedom of Speech Courage Award at their gala on May 5, some arguments have been raised on the other side of the debate. Among others, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker published a piece with the title declaring “PEN Has Every Right to Honor Charlie Hebdo.” For Gopnik, many misunderstand the actual history and practices of Charlie Hebdo: those doubting the decision to honor the Charlie Hebdo staff believe “that the comfort of communities is more important than the public criticism of ideas.”

French Voices Winner to be Pitched for Film Adaptation
After its first edition at the Cannes Film Festival last year, Shoot the Book! is back in Cannes in 2015. Organized again by Scelf (Société Civile des Editeurs de Langue Française), MOTif (Observatoire du livre et de l’écrit), and the Île-de-France film commission, the event will bring together French publishing professionals to pitch ten French books to international film producers, in order to evaluate  their potential for film adaptation. One of the ten books selected for this year’s Shoot the Book! is the French Voices 2014 Grand Prize Winner Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga. Chosen from 27 submissions, the ten books will be presented in Cannes on May 19. Shoot the Book will happen again this fall in Los Angeles at an event organized by the cultural attachés of the French Embassy.

Largest Publisher of Foreign Literature in the US
According to the New York Times and to the data gathered by Three Percent, the biggest publisher of translations in the US is not one of the independent publishers that specialize in the publication of international literature. Rather, it turns out that it is Amazon’s imprint, AmazonCrossing, with 44 translations last year. AmazonCrossing‘s titles consist mostly of genre fiction, such as romance or thriller, and most of them are released solely as e-books.
As this news item is published, it is worth recalling the controversy that arose surrounding the publisher two years ago. French translators sent a letter protesting the work conditions given by AmazonCrossing. Another piece, written after the 2013 London Book Fair, questions the idea that Amazon would be “the champion of translated literature,” and tries “to imagine what it might be like to send in a manuscript of a translation to an anonymous email address. What would the editing process be like? How would you know who had read it – if at all?”

Foreign Children’s Books Celebrated in NYC
Hundreds gathered for the day-long conference, “Where the Wild Books Are” on the subject of foreign picture books on at the New School on April 18. Numerous figures in the world of international children’s literature addressed the ongoing resistance in the US to publish foreign picture books. Christine Plu, professor of children’s literature and publishing at University of Cergy-Pontoise in Paris, shared her expertise on French, Swiss and Belgian picture books. For a full description of the conference’s talks and conclusions, check out Publishers Weekly’s roundup of the event.

French Philosopher on Happiness
French philosopher Frederic Lenoir, author of the book Happiness: A Philosopher’s Guide, discussed happiness science, meditation, and America’s problems with discontentment with New York Magazine last week. Lenoir’s book, “a provocative, possibly even helpful, book about happiness,” was published in English last month by Melville House.  

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