French Books USA: Week in Review

June 30, 2016 | By Amy Martin

Sade on Sale

This summer, numerous artefacts of the Marquis de Sade are being auctioned off by his great-great-grandchildren—the largest number of his affects ever to go on sale at the same time. A Louis XIII armchair and a bust of Petrarch, along with letters and manuscripts, will finally be leaving the château in Condé-en-Brie where they have been preserved by the Sade family since 1814. Included in the lot is the marquis’s only fable, written while being held prisoner at the Bastille.

Author Passings

It is with great sadness that we note the recent passing of three authors: Journalist and iconic feminist Benoîte Groult (b. 1920) was a longtime jury member for the Prix Femina and a successor to Simone de Beauvoir. Pierre Pachet (b. 1937) was a literary scholar as well as a staunch anti-totalitarian who is well-known for autobiographical tales based on his family’s Jewish and Russian heritage. A noir fiction author with a style combining those of Céline, Dashiell Hammett, and Philip K. Dick, Maurice Dantec (b. 1959) was a punk musician and publicist before writing his first novel in 1994.

Einstein’s Graphic Biography

Swiss economist, historian and psychoanalyst Corinne Maier teamed up with French illustrator Anne Simon to explore “the quintessential modern genius” in Einstein. This is the third in their series of graphic biographies, after Freud and Marx. At Brain Pickings, you’ll find a preview of the book which, they write, “unfolds with elegant simplicity of language and intelligent playfulness that would have delighted Einstein” himself. Anne Simon will be on tour in the U.S. this October.

Marguerite Duras’s Abahn Sabana David

The recently released Abahn Sabana David, Marguerite Duras’s late-career masterpiece, “has the feel of a play- or film-script,” according to The Complete Review. The sparse existential conversations “exert considerable fascination—in no small part through how Duras uses language.” Kirkus Reviews calls it “a gripping meditation on the nature of fear, silence, and survival.”

Side-by-Side Translations

In a recreation of the Translation Slam event at this year’s World Voices Festival, PEN America published two translations of Abdellah Taïa’s short story “Un jardin, en attendant” by Chris Clarke and Emma Ramadan, along with the original French. While reading Taïa’s story of a struggle between the rich city of Rabat and the poor city of Salé played out in un jardin—either Clarke’s park or Ramadan’s garden—you are encouraged to pay close attention to the slight differences in these two versions of the same tale. Taïa's novel Infidels--about homosexuality in Salé, Morocco--was reviewed this week by the Wall Street Journal, proposed as a book to read in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting.

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