French Books USA: Week in Review

March 10, 2016 | By Amy Martin

Two from Patrick Modiano

Two of Nobel Laureate Patrick Modiano’s best novels are now available to American readers. In the Café of Lost Youth and Young Once follow unwilling adults through postwar France, while the author interrogates the validity and weaknesses of memory and observation. Community Bookstore in Park Slope will celebrate these publications with translators Chris Clarke and Damion Searls on March 17.

Man Booker International Prize 2016           

Congratulations to Marie NDiaye’s Ladivine, Maylis de Kerangal’s Mend the Living (also available in the US as The Heart), and Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83! Francophone literature is well represented on the longlist for the 2016 Man Booker International prize, with three out of thirteen slots. The English edition of Tram 83 also won a French Voices Award in 2014.

Céline at the Cinema

In the new biopic Louis-Ferdinand Céline, director Emmanuel Bourdieu centers on the interaction between the infamous author of Journey to the End of the Night and an American academic during the author’s exile in Denmark. Respected for his revolutionary writing style and despised for his politics, never before has Céline been the subject of a film. Denis Lavant portrays the title character, incarnating the exclamations and energy characteristic of the writer’s style. Lavant was unsurprised to find himself cast in the role despite his much shorter stature and deeper voice than the man he plays; he recently noted that in his career, “Céline pursues me.”

Morocco without Borders

This month, Words without Borders features translations from Morocco revealing “the richness of this underrepresented literary culture.” Among those texts, you’ll find the tale of a diplomat who loses his pants by short story Goncourt-winner Fouad Laroui and poetry from Ahmed Bouanani, both translated from French by guest editor Emma Ramadan. Laroui and Ramadan will celebrate this issue of Words without Borders with a reading and discussion of their work at the Graduate Center on Monday, March 21.

Remembering Perec

March 7th would have been the 80th birthday of Georges Perec. To celebrate, the ever-changing logo dropped an “e” for the day and L’obs asked old friends to remember him in their own words. Perec is well known for A Void, a 300-page novel written without the letter “e,” which he wrote while a member of the experimental literary group Oulipo. He was also an optimistic man who didn’t confine himself to any one genre, and who described himself simply as “a happy writer.” You can celebrate Perec too, by reading Life: A User’s Manual, W or the Memory of Childhood, or one of his many works.  

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