French Books USA: Week in Review

September 22, 2015 | By Arian Murati
The 6:41 to Paris

Publishers Weekly Gets Existential

This week, Publishers Weekly reviewed two French books translated into English. The first, Jean Philippe Blondel's The 6:41 to Paris (with translation by Alison Anderson), concerns two former lovers who find themselves together on a train after 27 years apart. Told through alternating interior monologues, "[t]heir overlapping narratives, unfolding over the course of their commute, lend insights into their former selves and the feelings of inadequacy and ambivalence that are perhaps endemic to middle age." They worry. They hesitate. Why are they so afraid to speak to each other?

The second book is Brave as Can Be: A Book of Courage, by Jo Witek and translated by Christine Roussey. A rosy-cheeked, polka-dot-frocked little girl navigates her monsters by facing them head on and describes how she "defangs each conquered fear" with the self-assuredness and bravery of childhood.

Was Publishers Weekly trying to tell us something about the internal collapse of adulthood and the unbridled engagement that we leave behind as children? Maybe.

Google Singularity Looms

American ebook subscription service Oyster is shutting down operations, with much of its core staff relocating to Google in what could be a hint that the search engine giant may be planning to compete with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited service. In France, the digital battle over the public domain continues, as writers and publishers debate the costs of accessing archives, research, and open-source literature.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

“I can't see why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” -Alfred Humblot

Perhaps one of the most humorous rejections of In Search of Lost Time can be summarized as such: "This Proust book is too Proust."

This week, a new rejection has come to light after eighty years of obscurity:

"[The story] would cause, I am sure, the loss of a large number of readers for the book. People will tremble, will question and will be disrupted; and they will not want to think about what makes them tremble. "

In other words: "This Beckett is too Beckett."

Echo's Bone was rejected in 1934 and shelved until 2014, when it was finally published. The editor, Charles Prentice, had previously rejected Beckett's Dream of Fair to Middling Women, which went unublished until 1992.

This Week in Prizes

Livres Hebdo keeps a well-organized list of French literary prizes, and this week, we have the nominations for the Prix Interallié and Prix Jean-Freustié. In case you missed it, here are the selections in contention for this year's Goncourt.

No. 10

For a long time, I went to bed early. That is, until I stayed up until three in the morning to watch my hero, Zidane, and Les Bleus attempt to win the World Cup a second time. Taking his cues from Proust, Jean-Philippe Toussaint reflects on the 2002 World Cup in which France, the incumbent champions, were unceremoniously dumped out of the tournament after a dissapointing display. His meditations on lost time invoke the sleepy haze of watching the matches in a dreamy somnolence.

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