French Books USA: Week in Review

March 17, 2016 | By Amy Martin
Crédits : Philippe Matsas/Opale/Leemage

Alain Mabanckou's first Collège de France lesson

Last year, widely-acclaimed writer and UCLA Francophone literature professor Alain Mabanckou was appointed the annual Chair for Artistic Creation at the Collège de France. The first novelist to be elected to the prestigious institution, he delivered his inaugural lesson on "Colonial literature and African Literature" on Thursday to a packed room. It ended in a standing ovation.

36th Salon du Livre

Thursday also marked the first day of the 36th Livre Paris. With South Korea as a guest country and Pointe-Noire & Brazzaville as city guests, the annual book convention hosts more than 3000 authors. François Hollande spent a few hours picking books and meeting editors, while Dany Laferrière & Alain Mabanckou's dialogue on "American Mythologies" was eagerly awaited.

An Update for an Icon

The Presses Universitaires de France bookstore was a Parisian icon for most of the 20th century, a favorite of the Sorbonne students. A decade after its closing, the PUF opened again on March 12, featuring an Espresso Book Machine, called the Gutenberg of the 21st century. Customers can buy any book in the catalogue, even if it isn’t in stock—they only have to wait about five minutes while the machine prints and binds their selection, enough time to drink cup of coffee.

Awards This Week

The French-American Foundation has announced their 2015 translation prize finalists. The fiction shortlist includes five titles: the “brilliantly unsettling” Nagasaki by Eric Faye, Kamel Daoud’s remarkable debut The Meursault Investigation, The Foundling’s War by “outrageous storyteller” Michel Déon, Goncourt-winner The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre, and a “very modern translation” of Hugo’s Les Misérables. Authors on the nonfiction shortlist include young sociologist Sylvie Tissot and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

The inaugural Régine Deforges Prize was also revealed this week, awarded to Astrid Manfredi for her début novel La petite barbare.

Agents and Authors

On the eve of the 36th Salon du Livre in Paris, 11 literary agents, announced the Alliance des agents littéraires français, led by Laure Pécher, from the Astier/Pécher Agency. Agents are still not as well recognized in France as in the United States; the union aims to allow them more visibility, and to establish more clearly the rules of the profession. Another intention, to communicate with existing unions within the industry, will likely be well met by authors, who are paid increasingly less according to national reports.

Reviews Roundup

Keep your eyes peeled for these many upcoming books translated from French: I Love You Always by Astrid Desbordes is an illustrated book that teaches kids a “lighthearted lesson in unconditional love.” Adrien Bosc’s novel Constellation tells the stories of the victims of the 1949 airplane crash which killed boxer Marcel Cerdan, Édith Piaf’s lover. The second of Blutch’s graphic novels to be translated into English, Peplum is a masterwork of this “revered cartoonist.” And finally, Hunting for Mississippi by Camille Bouchard is an account, from a young boy’s point of view, of the 1684 René-Robert Cavalier expedition to settle Louisiana.  

Comics Collector Turned Publisher

For the CEO of the Centre Leclerc hypermarket chain, a lifelong appreciation of comics has now assumed the form of a new publishing house. With MEL Publisher, Michel-Edouard Leclerc sheds the light on underappreciated artists through print retrospectives and monographs. These weighty tomes, he hopes, will consolidate the lifetime work of great comics artists, such as Nicolas de Crécy, Lorenzo Mattotti, and Philippe Druillet

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