French Books USA: Week in Review

July 23, 2015 | By Arian Murati
Jules and Edmond Goncourt

Houellebecq Review in Publishers Weekly

The controversial writer's latest novel, Submission, entered the public discourse with aplomb: its publication coincided with the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and, as such, the book found itself wedged into the debates surrounding Islamophobia and the politics of modern France. But to read the novel as reactionary paranoia would be a huge disservice to its "moral complexity," with Houellebecq writing "an indispensable, serious book that returns a long-eroded sense of consequence, immediacy, and force to contemporary literature."

Le Corbusier, 50 Years On

MIT Press is celebrating the life and work of Le Corbusier by offering discounts on several books written by or about the legendary architect, writer, and artist. MIT, sometimes described as a haven for brutalist architecture, seems a fitting home for the literary treasure trove of one of the 20th century's most important modernists.

Faïza Guène in PEN English World Bookshelf

In Dreams from the Endz (published in America as Some Dream for Fools and translated by Jenna Johnson), Faïza Guène  depicts the often grim realities facing immigrants in the Parisian banlieus. Ahlème's perforated identity serves as a reference point for multicultural France, with Guène's injections of humor and sass "illuminat[ing] the impact of politics on everyday lives, seeking out the stories that many would not dare to tell, weaving unforgettable tales across barriers." As PEN English celebrates the tenth anniversary of their Writers in Translation program, readers can vote for their top books. Guène is currently the only Francophone author on the leaderboard, however there are several in contention, including recent books by Karim Miské, Grégoire Chamayou, and Cédric Villani.

Examining the Goncourt Brothers

Does fame outlive death, or does time makes nobodies of us all? This question proves central to the quests of Jules and Edmond Goncourt as they document the madness of Parisian literati for most of the latter half of the 19th century. Tara Isabella Burton examines the death drives of both brothers via their veritible archive of notes, entries, scathing reviews, and sometimes hilarious anecdotes (one cannot help but laugh at the thought of Turgenev and Zola turning an otherwise civilized dinner into an outburst of hypocondria-fueled symptom checking). This obsession with death colors the brothers' comprehensive documentation, and, as we find out, permeates their interactions with nearly every French writer of the century.

Three Books Adapted to the Stage

"This year,the programme d’Avignon looks like a Goncourt selection," writes journalist Grégoire Leménager. Kamel Daoud's Meursault, contre-enquête (Eng: Mersault Investigations), Eric Reinhardt's l’Amour et les Forêts, and Laurent Mauvignier's Retour à Berratham are all featured as stage adaptations at this year's programme d'Avignon, going on until July 25th. While Reinhardt and Mauvignier have both had experiences with the theatre, this is Daoud's first piece to make the transition to the stage.

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