French Books USA: Week in Review

October 8, 2015 | By Arian Murati
Debord's Mémoires


Svetlana Alexievich has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” Alexievich, who is still relatively unknown to English-speaking audiences (with the exception of Voices from Chernobyl, published by Picador, and Zinky Boys, by Norton), has been published in France since 1991 by editor Christian Bourgois. Last year's recipient, Patrick Modiano, was little known outside of France until his works appeared in a wave of English (and other) translations following his win. Actes Sud, Alexievich's French publisher, also counts among its catalogue Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Situation

Attention Situationists: Guy Debord's Mémoires has been translated into English. The not-a-book "contains random sentence stubs, bits of cast-off novels, heaps of newsprint, confettied journals, slivers of ad copy and obsolete instruction manuals, all fanning out across pages in guerilla formations and jujitsu juxtapositions." In other words, "(...) more or less, one more antiquated objet d’art that happened to beat the ’60s to the starting gate." Ice cold.

Round II

The race for the 2015 Prix Goncourt is heating up, with eight titles remaining after the committee's second selection on October 6th. Boualem Sansal's 2084, the bookie's favorite, remains on the list, as does Boussole by Mathias Enard. In other prize news, the second selections for the Prix Médicis were also announced this week.

New York Times Reviews Lemaitre

Pierre Lemaitre's The Great Swindle, a novel that examines the shady and often brutal realities that followed soldiers after WWI, is "[h]eavy on extravagant characterization, kaleidoscopic description, third-person omniscient analysis, occasional first-person authorial digression, moral accounting and dissections of the motivations, thoughts and prejudices of its protagonists (...) this book is thick with detail, immersing the reader in its elaborately bleak world."

There Goes the Neighborhood

French sociologist Sylvie Tissot examines the underpinnings of gentrification from a unique perspective: the manifestation of cultural capital through voluntary positions on park boards, planning committees, conservation groups, and other forms of collective power that allow newcomers to  "[mold a] city in their image" and "actively exclude those who lived there before them from decision-making and positions of power."

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