French Books USA: Week in Review

August 20, 2015 | By Arian Murati
The Elegance of the Hedgehog Europa Editions cover

A Double Dose of Noir

Published in English by Gallic Books and translated by Melanie Florence, Pascal Garnier's Boxes is described by Publisher's Weekly as an "intense, morbid character study." Garnier details the life of a Brice, artist who slowly descends into madness as the mysterious circumstances surrounding his wife's death cause him to hoard moving boxes and rummage through them at random. A local woman takes a liking to Brice as a result of his resemblance to her father, with whom she had an unusual relationship, and a dark bond forms between the two. In line with Garnier's signature noir style, Boxes "reinforces his cult status." In other noir-ish news, Luc Lang's French Voices Award-winning Cruel Tales from the Thirteenth Floor is now available in English from University of Nebraska Press and a fine translation by Donald Nicholson-Smith.


Platonic Forms in Pictures

In a big week for children's books, the New York Times has decided to alter its children's bestseller list to separate YA and middle-grade fiction from books intended for younger children and e-books. The shuffle coincides with Hervé Tullet's Press Here enjoying its 205th consecutive week as a top ten picture book, as well as a raft of French children's books arriving in translation, including Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci's graphic novel Love: The Fox and a series of philosophical picture books from University of Chicago Press aimed at introducing children to theory (or theory to children, depending on your interpretation of philosophical event).


Lost in Translation

Thursday marks the publication of David Foster Wallace's 1996 postmodern doorstopper Infinite Jest for the first time in French. Its journey to France is rather remarkable: originally turned down by most major houses, the book's initial translations were done in 2001, lost through a computer glitch, and picked up by one of the editors who had previously passed on the book after the software failure cost the indie publisher their translation rights. Translation into French was a slog through impenetrable slang and varying degrees of high-to-low language games, eventually reaching completion well past the expected date, although 20th century English-language texts have historically been somewhat of a quagmire for French translations: Faulkner's heavily-dialected The Sound and the Fury is still believed to be poorly translated, while even Joyce himself found it difficult to assist in translating Finnegans Wake, which took over thirty years to complete.


Found in Translation

Writers and publishers are always looking for new and innovative ways to promote both their works and the status of books in general. In Romania, one city offered a free ride if people read books on the bus. In the U.S., Simon & Schuster is partnering with Hotels.com to give away free e-books to guests who stay at participating hotels. This week, New York Times Magazine examines the cult status surrounding Europa Editions' visually captivating covers, and how books like Muriel Barbery's international bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog are providing additional publicity with their Instagram-friendly cover art.



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