French Books USA: Week in Review

January 12, 2016 | By Amy Martin

Nuit des idées

The Institut Français and Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, are hosting the inaugural Night of Ideas on January 27th from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m., welcoming not only scientists, academics, and journalists of all types, but also the general public to the Quai d’Orsay.  The event will contribute a French point of view on global topics such as the future of borders and the potential inhabitability of our planet. Alongside debates that will feature Pierre Rosanvallon, Catherine Wihtol de Wenden or Achile Mbembe, just to name a few, the philosopher Cynthia Fleury, poet Ryoko Sekiguchi, novelist Hervé Le Tellier and others, will perform works which aim to decipher the world to come in the Lire L’avenir literary Salon.

Translating Tolerance

When, after the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo, French academics released a collection called Tolérance : Le combat des Lumières—which included texts by Voltaire, Diderot and other enlightenment thinkers—the book quickly sold out at newsstands. As we mark the anniversary of the attack, a group of more than 100 students and academics at Oxford University, led by Dr. Caroline Warman, has now released an English version of the anthology. The translators “thought it was something [they] could do to show [their] support for France and for all countries in the world affected by these issues” The French version and the new translation are both available free online.

Return of the Indie Bookstore

Looking back, 2015 turned out to be a good year for independent bookstores in France and the U.S. “The shop-local movement, good weather, and a strengthening economy boosted sales” in American bookstores, who reported significant increases over 2014, especially during the holiday season. Worries about digital books were unfounded for 2015; demand for paper books is up, and sales of ebooks are levelling out; in fact, in France books remain the most popular gift for the holidays. But some American and French booksellers have found another thing to worry about: the opening up the first brick-and-mortar Amazon bookstore in Seattle.


The comics and graphic novels community was dismayed when the Angoulême Festival published a short list of 30 writers and artists—all men!—for its annual lifetime achievement award. Many nominees (including Riad Sattouf, Etienne Davodeau and Joan Sfar) refused to appear on the list, some offered to cede their spot to female artists, and voting members threatened to boycott the prize altogether. The shortlist was since set aside and voting members will be able to cast their vote for the artist of their choice (female or male). Meanwhile, the Prix Artemisia, awarded annually on the birthdate of Simone de Beauvoir to a graphic novel written or drawn by women, went to Sandrine Revel’s biography Glenn Gould, une vie à contretemps.

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