French Books USA: Week in Review

May 16, 2016 | By Amy Martin
Georges Perec

Georges Perec’s First Novel

At 21 years old, Georges Perec wrote his first novel in only a few weeks—but lost the manuscript. Half a century later, Attentat de Sarajevo resurfaced. Published by Seuil, one of the publishers who originally rejected it, it is one of Le Monde’s favorite books this May. The romantic psychological thriller shows much of the signature sense of humor and brilliant intuition that make Perec’s books works of art.

Recent Book Reviews

According to Patrick McGrath at the New York Times, Marie NDiaye’s Ladivine “is a work of immense power and mystery.”  The novel’s complex story of four generations of women is “elegantly translated” by Jordan Stump. Although the story turns ominous as a dark curse visits each generation, the ending “is perfect, both ­poignant and strangely hopeful.”

Edmund White, also for the New York Times, reviews Jean-Paul Clébert’s Paris Vagabond, a portrait of Paris that eschews the common narrative of a rich capital city. Instead, his look at postwar street life among the desperate and defiant is “a remarkably vivid, detailed book … marked by a chaotic and cheerfully self-acknowledged spontaneity.”

The Surprise Prize

This year’s jury for the Goncourt du premier roman added a little drama to the prize when they selected Joseph Andras, who didn’t even know he was in the running! The author wasn’t on the list of four finalists for the award, and his first novel, De nos frères blessés, was still days away from being published. Andras thanked the jury for having enjoyed his book; however, he declined, since “his conception of literature is not compatible with the idea of a competition.”

On Growing Up Gay: Interviews with Édouard Louis and Abdellah Taïa

In a recent Paris Review interview, Édouard Louis remarked that “all authors are political, even if they don’t realize it. Being apolitical merely reinforces the status quo, supporting the powerful over the weak.” His book En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (Finishing off Eddy Bellegueule) “has ignited a debate on class and inequality.” Tackling exclusion, domination, poverty and homophobia, Louis’s account of life in Hallencourt, a village in the north of France, is slated for publication in the U.S. next year.

Rising star and recent PEN World Voices Festival participant Abdellah Taïa sat down with Bomb Magazine for an intimate and straight-forward interview about growing up gay in Morocco, choosing to write in French, and other aspects of his work as a director and author. On combining these arts to adapt his novel Salvation Army into a film he noted, “I didn’t even read it again … I just tried to find in me what is left of that story … The film is not at all faithful to the book.” His most recent novel, Infidels, is now available in English.

Publicity Internship

If you want my job, it can be yours! The Book Department here at the French Cultural Services is looking for an American communications intern to start July 1, tasked with writing and translating promotional materials, Tweeting like a pro, and updating our website, among other things. More details are available here.

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