French Books USA: Week in Review

January 4, 2016 | By Amy Martin

Most Anticipated

The Millions has posted its Great 2016 Book Preview. This includes: Prix Goncourt-winner Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Happy Marriage, a novel on the dissolution of a marriage; The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal, a heart transplant story told in the very unique style of a member of the Inculte collective; Bardo or Not Bardo by Antoine Volodine, a post-apocalyptic world woven by a "post-exotic" author; and The Lives of Elves by Muriel Barbery, the tale of two 12-year-old girls who discover the world of elves by the author of The Elegance of Hedgehog. Of note: Kerangal and Barbery are both coming to the U.S. in February/March, and will make a stop, among other places, at Albertine.

Brooklyn Preview and 2015 Review

Brooklyn Magazine, in its own preview of 101 books to read in 2016, makes a note of two additional translations from French: the complex and poetic Ladivine by Prix Goncourt winner Marie NDiaye, as well as Mount Pleasant, a novel “verging on surrealism” set in early-twentieth-century Cameroon, by Patrice Nganang.

For a review—if not a preview—of some of the titles translated in 2015, you can consult our list here.

The Gritty City

Luc Sante, author of The Other Paris, was recently interviewed about his views on money, art and freedom in New York and Paris. Having spent time in New York from his teenage years on, Sante remembers with fondness the grittier days of "a fertile place for young writers and artists." Wandering the city at night, Sante "was not about to sacrifice [his] freedom for the experience of not worrying about unknown forces." The author brings this experience and sentiment to his history of Paris in the jazz age. In The Other Paris, he delivers "a kind of love letter to the city as it was and before it got overtaken by money" and contends that money "may not immediately kill people in the way terrorism does, but it does certainly change the fabric of daily life in much deeper and more insidious ways."

Prix Goncourt Jury

The current members of the ten-person Académie Goncourt, headed by Bernard Pivot, have unanimously elected Virginie Despentes and Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt to join them, after Régis Debray and Edmonde Charles-Roux stepped down last year. Despentes was a bit of surprise to some, since she was selected to (to or for?) the Prix Fémina jury last year, a seat she’ll have to give up to serve on the Académie Goncourt. Despentes is the “universally respected novelist” of most recently Vernon Subutext, a filmmaker and essayist. Schmitt, well-known for his voracious appetite for theater and literature, “devours ten to fifteen books in a week.” The two new members will participate in the selection of the French-speaking world's most prestigious book award.

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