French Books USA: Week in Review

May 15, 2015 | By Kyra Sturgill
Artists of the collective Urban Sketchers Paris took to depicting the famous Parisian bookstore La Hune, which will close next month. (B. Lannaud Levy)

Artists Pay Homage to La Hune
La Hune, the famous Parisian bookstore which has been a landmark of the quartier St. Germain since 1949, will close its doors on June 14th. A dozen artists of the collective Urban Sketchers Paris took to depicting La Hune in their own artwork to honor the bookstore that has been an emblem of Paris intellectual culture for decades.

Plans Announced to Reduce E-Book Value-Added Tax
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission,announced a plan to propose reduced value-added tax for e-books to member states in 2016. Since a decision by the European Court of Justice ruled in March that France and Luxembourg were violating EU law by offering a reduced tax on e-books, opposition has been voiced by French government and publishers, who claim a book is a book regardless of its platform, and that a higher VAT on e-books stifles technological innovation. Juncker acknowledged that there should be no difference in the tax added to paper and electronic book sales, although for any proposition to be adopted by the European Commission, the 28 member states must approve unanimously.  

33 Days by Léon Werth Published in English
Léon Werth’s memoir about escaping Nazi-occupied France has been published in English seventy-five years after the original manuscript was first smuggled out of France and into the United States by his friend Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Having intended to publish his friend’s harrowing account in English, Saint-Exupéry wrote an introduction for the memoir; however, the book was never published and the introduction was lost until 2014 when it was found in a Canadian library. The first English language version of the text, translated by Austin D. Johnston and published by Melville House, finally includes that original introduction. This edition, says Melville House co-publisher Dennis Johnson, “is a welcome introduction in English to an important French writer, [and] stands as a testament to a long-term friendship tempered in wartime, that of Léon Werth and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry—who dedicated his most famous work, The Little Prince, to Werth.”

Mallarmé's Translation and Manet’s Illustrations of Poe’s The Raven
When French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé was reading the American writer Edgar Allan Poe in the late 19th century, Poe had been dead for nearly twenty years. That, however, did not stop Poe, whose work became far more recognized after his death in 1849, from becoming a major influence on French culture. Charles Baudelaire had called Poe his “twin soul,” though it was his disciple Mallarmé who translated and published Poe’s iconic poem, The Raven, in French in 1875. Accompanying the text were illustrations done by the French painter Edouard Manet. This original bilingual edition of The Raven/Le Corbeau, including Manet’s illustrations, can be viewed online.

BTBA Shortlist
Three Percent’s Best Translated Book Award announced its finalists for fiction and poetry, both of which include titles translated from French. The shortlists include, for fiction, Eric Chevillard’s The Author and Me, translated by Jordan Stump; for poetry, Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s Where Did the Trees Go?, translated by Marilyn Hacker, and Suzanne Doppelt’s Lazy Suzy, translated by Cole Swensen. The two winners of the BTBA will be announced at the BookExpo America on Wednesday, May 27th.

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