French Books USA: Week in Review

May 31, 2016 | By Amy Martin
Makenzy Orcel

In the Chaos of the World

With a theme like “artists and writers in the chaos of the world,” it’s not surprising that Étonnants Voyageurs, the Saint-Malo International Literature and Film Festival, awarded its Prix Littérature-monde to Haitian Makenzy Orcel and Angolan Ondjaki, who both wrote about natural disasters. The international jury was composed of a diverse list of authors, including Académie Française member Dany Laferrière, whose The World Is Moving around Me also recounted the widespread destruction that followed the Haitian earthquake, and Mauritian author Ananda Devi, who will be visiting the U.S. this September for the publication of Eve Out of Her Ruins.


How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been

Pierre Bayard’s latest book, How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been, is called “a spiritual sequel” to his successful How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read in The Guardian’s recent review. The two books demonstrate that discussion is often about discussion itself and not as much about content. The author’s “mischievous tone” is praised: “You can’t help but be impressed by Bayard’s cheek, and if nothing else he makes you want to go back and read the source texts.”


The Style of Max de Radiguès

Belgian comics creator Max de Radiguès was nominated for an Eisner award earlier this year for Moose. First published in English as a series of zines, then published as a French-language book, it was finally released in the US in May 2015. Although a bit roundabout, the artist enjoys this system of publishing short snippets rather than one long story arc “for its improvisatory nature.” As a recent Paris Review profile shows, Moose is representative of Radiguès’s larger work: simple art that doesn’t get in the way of the story, and teenage protagonists dealing with the difficulties of adolescence.


Antoine Volodine’s Bardo or Not Bardo

The Lit Hub review of Bardo or Not Bardo by Antoine Volodine walks us through the complex “post-exotic black comedy” that adapts the Bardo Thödol (aka the Tibetan Book of the Dead) into the universe that Volodine has created across his twenty-something novels. The protagonists of this most recent novel stray from the path while wandering the strange space between death and whatever comes next. Going against the Bardo, they take on the rebel-dissident role so common in Volodine’s work. He will be one of our Authors on Tour, attending Litquake in San Francisco this fall.


Ladivine Reviews Abound

Since the May 5 New York Times review of Marie NDiaye’s Ladivine, her novel’s translation has gained much interest. In a roundtable at The New Inquiry, three journalists discuss the author’s penchant for transformations, absurdity, and her “crucial-detail-cloaked-in-incantatory-prose trick.” The roundtable’s participants have also reviewed the novel for the New Republic, the Chicago Tribune, and Okayafrica, and insist that such reviews can only gloss over the incredible complexities of Ndiaye’s writing. The reviewer at EverydayEbook called this a “rule-breaking new novel” and wrote, “I was never quite sure if what was happening was ‘real’ or a feverish dream, but I was riveted by the book.”



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