French Books USA: Week in Review

December 3, 2015 | By Arian Murati
Alain Mabanckou

Notes From Above Ground

Have you noticed, dearest reader, that platitudes on the Internet are changing the way we interact with certain words? I'm not talking about user-generated slang and hashtag neologisms, but rather our old friend the adjective and its new BFF, the clickbait title. Scroll through your  newsfeed and find examples like "Ten Best Capoiera Themed Restaurants in Camden, NJ" or "Mindblowing Uses for Imitation Crab Meat" and you'll quickly wonder, "Is any of this actually great?" So, when a venerable publication like the New York Times wants to put out a year-end list and avoid sounding like a Buzzfeed article, how do they do it? By being subtle with their adjectives: 100 Notable Books of 2015, which includes Kamel Daoud's Meursault Investigation and Submission by Michel Houellebecq.


Island Vibes

No novel from Madagascar, whether written in French or Malagasy, has ever been published in English, and very little of its literature of any form has appeared in the international forum. That is, until now. Words Without Borders has dedicated their December issue to emerging and established writers from the island nation where a veritable trove of narrative treasure has constituted a literary renaissance. "Still," translator Allison Charette writes, "today as ever, writing is not a profession. In the 1980s, an author’s options were essentially either to shell out money to get a book bound or to print out copies from a typewriter or computer and pass them around to friends. (...) A select number of authors from Madagascar have managed to support themselves solely via their writing, but that’s only after publishing a huge body of work in France and gaining a following with a French-speaking audience." Note that Albertine will be hosting a reading by Naivo and Charette next week.


Making Moves

This week in France: Franco-Congolese writer and academic Alain Mabanckou will be breathing in the rarefied air of the Collège de France after this week being appointed Chair of Artistic Creation for a year of lectures and seminars. Mabanckou, who currently teaches Francophone literature at UCLA, is the first writer to hold the position, which was created in 2004, and he succeeds architect Christian de Portzamparc. In award news, the Goncourt des lycéens, a literary prize awarded by French high school students (and for which Mabanckou's Petit piment was a finalist), was given to Delphine de Vigan for D'après une histoire vraie.



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