French Books USA: Week in Review
The Man Who Snapped His Fingers
In The Man Who Snapped His Fingers, Iranian-born Fariba Hachtroudi gives life to victims and executioners of a fictional state, “the Theological Republic.” Ala, a colonel of the regime, and Vima, a victim tortured but unbroken, find their post-prison lives intertwined in an exile in which they both long for missed and missing spouses. Hachtroudi’s first work translated into English is “a profound, exquisitely crafted novella about life under a merciless regime, about torture and resilience, truth and culpability and the triumph of love over fear,” that recently made Oprah.com’s list of “10 Books that Will Take You on a Foreign Literary Adventure.”
Hachtroudi will be speaking at Bookculture on February 22.
The Pleasure of the Book Fair
Happiness, the theme of the 46th Brussels Book Fair, is especially fitting since the organizers have done away with entry fees and opened the event to a broader book-loving public. The five-day celebration includes the usual trade show elements and will feature authors such as Amélie Nothomb, Philippe Claudel, Olivier Adam, and Dany Laferrière. The space previously dedicated to a single country as guest of honor has been reimagined as a European Quarter, with discussions on politics, science and literature from EU nations.
The Heart Is More than the Heart
In Maylis de Kerangal’s the Heart we briefly meet a young man, soon read about his cerebral death and begin following his heart through the bureaucratic and medical intricacies of organ donation. In her poetic fashion, de Kerangal raises unanswerable questions about the thin line between life and death and “crams an enormous amount of insight and information into this brief span of time.” Since death is inevitable in an organ transplant story, “incremental, articulated, human moments” drive the narrative more than the plot. The author pieces together, with minute details, “an exploration not only of death but of life, of humanity and fragility, ‘because the heart is more than the heart.’”
New Literary Prize from UNESCO
In its inaugural year, UNESCO’s Jaime Torres Bodet literary prize was awarded to Bernard Binlin Dadié, a francophone author from Côte d’Ivoire, considered by many a pioneer of African literature. This new award, named after a founding member and former director of the organization, will be granted every other year to a person or institution who has contributed to the development of knowledge through art, education and research. Dadié, who recently turned 100, received the prize from the director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, at a ceremony in Abidjan. The author remarked, “Writing is, for me, a desire to push aside darkness, a desire to open windows on the world for each person.”
Angoulême’s Amusement Park
The city of Angoulême, home of the international comics and graphic novels festival, hopes to bring a comics-themed amusement park to life. The designers plan to create a small space that is affordable and enjoyable for families with small children, with ten rides to start and seven more over the next decade. The Marsupilami, Lucky Luke, Blake and Mortimer, and the Smurfs will be permanent guests of the park—but only if the development company can gain the rights to all of these well-known characters.
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