French Books USA: Week in Review

March 3, 2016 | By Amy Martin
The Lights of Pointe-Noire, The New Press

The Lights of Pointe-Noire

At the ceremony for the 10th annual French Voices Awards, Helen Stevenson and the New Press won the Grand Prize for the English translation of Alain Mabanckou’s The Lights of Pointe-Noire. Guest of honor Mabanckou spoke about his decade-long collaboration with Stevenson and noted that this is the most personal book he has written. This excerpt from the memoir beautifully demonstrates the relationship between locations and emotions in The Lights of Pointe-Noire. Places encountered by the author during his return to Congo—after 25 years’ absence—evoke strong memories of his family.

Academicians in New York

Andreï Makine, Russian-born author of A Woman Loved and Brief Loves That Live Forever, was elected to the Académie Française this past Thursday and will be taking the seat formerly held by another francophone author, Assia Djebar. Makine has published twenty books in French, four of them under the pseudonym Gabriel Osmonde. The new Academician writes in what he calls his “grand-maternal” language, which he spoke as a child with his grandmother, a French émigré to Siberia. He will be a guest of the PEN World Voices Festival at the end of April. Another academician, Dany Laferrière, will be in New York that same month. He will be at Albertine on April 11.

The Lives of Muriel Barbery and Her Elves

Muriel Barbery’s The Life of Elves has received much attention from The New York Times. Described as a philosopher who prefers fiction and a realist who stumbled upon fantasy, Barbery wrote her first novel, Gourmet Rhapsody, when she should have been writing her thesis. Soon after, she escaped “the crush of sudden fame”—due to the success of The Elegance of the Hedgehog—in Japan. Inspired by the country’s gardens, her new novel explores “the mystical connections between nature, art and the human heart with vividness and clarity.”  (Europa, 2016, translated by Alison Anderson)

Willem’s Artwork at the BNF

The author, cartoonist and former Editor-in-Chief of Charlie Hebdo Willem will join Astérix artist Uderzo at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. His original art, notebooks and letters have been purchased by the library. Beyond that, he will offer the prestigious institution all his future works. He recently remarked, "When a work is scattered, it disappears. The BNF will take better care of it than I will." The witty and provocateur artist continues to draw cartoons for French papers Libération and Charlie Hebdo.

Celebrating the Sea in Literature

The coastal city of Trouville-sur-Mer in Normandy will celebrate literature that depicts the sea and harbor cities with the new Trouville-Pavillon Augustine Prize. The award is a regional affair: local bookstores are co-sponsors, students at the nearby art school competed to design the first poster, and a restaurant in town will host the first ceremony on June 11. A vote by the public and a jury, including Arno Bertina, Véronique Ovaldé, will decide on the winner. Works by Agnès Mathieu-Daudé, Hubert Mingarelli and Alice Zeniter, are short listed for the inaugural award.

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