French Books USA: Week in Review

November 5, 2015 | By Arian Murati
Short Édition's story vending machine


This week marked the crescendo of France's literary award season, with Prix Goncourt awarded to Mathias Énard for his novel La Boussole, and the Prix Médicis to Nathalie Azoulai for Titus n'aimait pas Bérénice. Also in France, the four finalists for the Prix Interallié were announced. Stateside, The Paris Review has announced that Lydia Davis will receive the Hadada Award for lifetime achievement. Davis, who is well known for her short stories, has also contributed several translations from French, including new editions of Madame Bovary and Swann's Way.

Glued to the Page

According to one recent study, it's quite likely that you spend more time in front of a screen on a daily basis than sleeping. What do you do with all that time? Play Candy Crush? Tweet your novel, 140 characters at a time? Whatever it is you do, the French city of Grenoble wants to change the way people kill time with lit-dispensing vending machines. The stories come courtesy of publisher Short Édition and currently offer one, three, or five minute-long pieces, or, in other words, the equivalent times for ten Vines, one pop song, or half a video game review on YouTube.

That Time of the Year

Just like the peppermint mocha and your aunt Claire's demands to host Christmas at her house, the end-of-the-year "best of" list is a time-honored tradition that creeps deeper into November with each iteration. This week, Publishers Weekly released their top 150 books of the year, and two, count 'em, two of our very own Festival Albertine (going on now) speakers, Kamel Daoud (The Meursault Investigation) and Riad Sattouf (The Arab of the Future) made the list, so between the ego-stroking ("Ha! My tastes align with theirs!") and masochism ("How dare they not include something I knew wouldn't be on this list!"), we're situated firmly in the former camp.

Remembering René Girard

Famed scholar and Académie française member René Girard passed away on November 4 at the age of 91. The longtime Stanford professor is best known for his critical and philosophical writings on mimetic desire, and, over the course of a half-century of development, his contributions to the fields of literary criticism, cultural studies, and anthropological philosophy. His books are published in the U.S. through a partnership with the Thiel Foundation, which extends Girard's influence to Silicon Valley's humanistic endeavors.

Private Eyes

French photographer Sophie Calle's work has been called equal parts "intrusive, invasive, [and] inquisitive," and with Siglio Press rereleasing1983's Suite Vénitienne, those adjectives continue to balkanize critical receptions of Calle's oeuvre. In Suite Vénitienne, Calle follows a stranger from Paris to Venice and "(...) spends thirteen days looking for and trailing Henri B. around the city. She rings hundreds of hotels; she thinks of bribing the police. At last, she finds Henri B.—he’s been staying in a pensione a hundred meters from her own. She stands outside his hotel and watches as he comes and goes. When he tours Venice with a woman, she shadows the couple."

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