French Books USA: Week in Review

June 13, 2016 | By Amy Martin

The Passing of Maurice Pons

Author Maurice Pons passed away this week. Born in Strasbourg in 1927, Pons was a translator of English authors, such as Norman Mailer and Tennessee Williams, as well as a novelist. He was best known for his novel Les saisons (1965), a literary investigation of the roots of evil in which the narrator-author’s manifesto emerges: “through this horror, attain beauty, a beauty that will purify the world.” Pons was still living in the 15th-century Norman windmill and artists’ commune where he settled in the 1950s.

Rhythmic Reviews for Tram 83

While The Wire compared Fiston Mwanza Mujila to Beckett in its review “Waiting for Godot in the Congo,” his translator Roland Glasser recently wrote about his first experience reading Tram 83, a novel with the ability to physiologically transport the reader: “It was pure literary orgasm, engendering a raving, expletive-laden book report for Will Evans of Deep Vellum Publishing who later bought it.” Reading Glasser’s lyrical article, it’s clear he was the right choice to translate this rhythmic novel in which many conversations “do not make any sense unless read aloud. Out of nonsense emerges a narrative.”

Queer Issue VII of Words Without Borders

Words Without Borders published the seventh installment of its annual Queer Issue. It includes Lulu Norman’s translation of a passage from Tomorrow, God Willing, Khadi Hane’s novel about a Senegalese man who spends 25 years in prison for murder. It also features a text by Diego Creimer, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Canada and editor of the Latino-Canadian literary magazine The Apostles Review. María José Giménez translated his short story, “The Right Path,” a parable about “order, clarity, and efficacy.”

Interview with Translator Christiana Hills

Christiana Hills, translator of Michèle Audin’s One Hundred Twenty-One Days, talks in a recent interview about the life of the author and the mysteries of the Oulipo. She gives us a glimpse into the unique form used by the author and mathematician in this haunting novel: “eleven chapters, each in a different genre or a mix of genres, including a children’s story, a diary … and even a list of numbers that relate to the overall story.” Hills also relates the importance of winning a French Voices Award in making her translation available to American readers.

2016 French-American Foundation Translation Awards

The French-American Foundation awarded this year’s translation prizes last week at a ceremony in New York. The fiction winner was Christine Donougher for her translation of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. There were two winners for the nonfiction prize: Steven Randall for Bonaparte: 1769-1802 by Patrice Gueniffey, and Malcolm DeBevoise for Birth of a Theorem by Cédric Villani. Other finalists include Emily Boyce, Julian Evans, Bruce Fink and John Cullen, whose recently released translation of Patrick Modiano’s Villa Triste was featured in last week’s issue of Shelf Awareness.

A Blutch Classic

As this review in The Guardian points out, Blutch’s Peplum was one of the few works selected in this inaugural year of New York Review Comics, which aims to publish out-of-print masterpieces and new translations. This isn’t surprising in light of the artist’s classic status in France or the “epic quality” of this work set in the Roman empire: “Haunting and ambiguous, this is a brutal tale not only of endurance, betrayal and mistaken love, but also of a realm whose centre can no longer hold.”

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