French Books USA: Week in Review

September 15, 2015 | By Arian Murati
Kamel Daoud

Grand Prix 

This week, the 2015 Prix Médicis, Prix Femina, and Prix du Style nominees were announced, as was the Man Booker shortlist. Some of the nominated writers, in fact, have already been featured on this site, including Laurent Binet, Alain Mabanckou, and Christophe Boltanski.

In other literary coffer news, it seems that digging ditches might just be more enterprising than writing books in the States. However, if you're a struggling writer in need of some cash, you can always sell your collected Jules Verne at auction.


In honor of Banned Books Week, let's take a look back at some of France and America's greatest hits: Voltaire's Candide was seized in the U.S. in 1930 for obscenity, as was Madame Bovary. Lolita was banned in France in 1955, and so too was Fanon's Wretched of the Earth in 1961. Les Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire was banned until 1947, and Sade splits a distinction between both countries (and many others) by having been banned entirely, with Napoleon himself calling Justine "The most abominable book ever engendered by the most depraved imagination." In case you're curious, the American Library Association maintains an annual list of the most frequently challenged books, and something about Captain Underpants topping a list that would have once contained Ulysses is nearly as hilarious as the necessity of the list itself.

"It is better to burn than to disappear"
Kamel Daoud sits down with "All Things Considered" and situates The Meursault Investigation not only against The Stranger, but also alongside Camus' legacy in Algeria and how the inspiration for his book continues to elude a truly positive or negative reception in his home country. "You have to know," Daoud says,  "that the status of Camus in Algeria today is extremely complex. He's at once both French and Algerian. He's both claimed by some people and rejected by others. And he's also someone who evokes an extremely painful moment in Algerian history."

Gold Rush of Blood

Fiston Mwanza Mujila's Tram 83 is a melting pot novel of seedy characters, ambitious schemes, and ethical grey areas as a fictional-but-familiar African city runs amok with foreign "tourists" who exploit the local mines in a modern gold rush. The novel's jazz-inspired pacing and exploration of honesty in the muddled world of its titular nightclub are the focus of Sam Sacks' Wall Street Journal review. Mujila will be one of several Francophone auhors the Brooklyn Book Festival this weekend, where he will sit on a panel with Pierre Lemaitre (The Great Swindle, also speaking at Albertine Books) and Kettly Mars (Savage Seasons).

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