French Books USA: Week in Review

December 10, 2015 | By Arian Murati

Here be Giants

In hegemony news, Amazon's world literature imprint, AmazonCrossing, now officially makes up the bulk of translated fiction in the English language. In 2015, they published 75 titles from around the world into English, whereas their nearest competitor, Dalkey Archive, published 25. While Amazon has published more translated works than Dalkey for a few years now, last year the scores were closer to level: Dalkey 30, Amazon 46. The news comes a few months after Amazon's $10 million pledge to bolster its ranks of translated books. Cue groans: "There have been grumblings from some translators about AmazonCrossing – about the way it runs a bidding process to select translators, and about its contract," and the Association of French Literary Translators have also had their say. Since its début with French-Guinean writer Tierno Monénembo's The King of Khael in 2010, French titles have made up a large chunk of AmazonCrossing's projects, with eleven fiction titles in 2015 alone, including Revenge on the River by Philippe Bouin and Christine Ambrosius's Pinch of Nutmeg. 

Weekend at Gary's

The oft-forgotten writer Romain Gary is undergoing a bit of a resurgence, thanks to a great article in Tablet and a mention in The Paris Review. Perhaps you'd remember him better as Émile Ajar, the Goncourt-winning writer who many in the French literati believed was an alter-ego of Raymond Queneau or Louis Aragon, but who was, in fact, Gary himself. "Gary would refuse to let the joke end, even though he had already won a Goncourt, which cannot be awarded to any author more than once, for Les Racines du Ciel [Roots of Heaven] 16 years earlier. He hired his distant cousin Paul Pawlowitch to play the part of Émile Ajar and penned a rambling first-person account titled Pseudo in which he, as Pawlowitch, pretended to be an insane man named Émile Ajar."

Festival of Significance

As our celebration of L'École des Loisirs rolls on, be sure to check out our range of events for all ages. With ten days left in the festival, there's still time to watch author and illustrator Matthieu Maudet, Pénélope Bagieu and Julia Rothman battle it out on the easel, or sit in for a lively discussion on the impact of children's literature with Maria Popova, Magali Bonniol, and Marianne Dubuc


This week, Livres Hebdo reported a study of French reading habits in 2015, and, despite the grip of international bestsellers, books written by French authors are still popular among the variety of choices. While it's seemingly impossible to dislodge Fifty Shades of Grey and Paula Hawkins from the top spots, French writers occupied six of the top ten most read books of the year. Genre-wise, romance and mystery novels are attracting the lion's share of purchases, which mirrors American habits in that they are buoyed by an increasing young adult market.

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