French Books USA: Week in Review
Literary prizes season in France
Leïla Slimani was awarded the Goncourt prize with Chanson douce (Gallimard), a thriller based on a crime committed in New York in 2012. The 35 year old French-Moroccan succeeds Mathias Enard who won the prize last year with his book Compass, coming out in the US in March 2017 at New Directions. Also based on a real-life murder, Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes (Seuil) by Ivan Jablonka was awarded the Prix Médicis. The Prix de l’Academie rewards Adélaïde de Clermont-Tonnerre for Le dernier des nôtres (Grasset), a history novel between 1945 Germany and New York in the 70s. American readers may be familiar with Yasmina Reza, for her plays Art and God of Carnage, adapted in a film by Roman Polanski. This year, her ability to unveil the cruelty underlying ordinary neighborhood relationships is rewarded by the Renaudot Prize for her new novel Babylone (Flammarion).
Riad Sattouf fever continues to spread
The bestselling graphic novel series The Arab of the Future, by award-winning French-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf, recounts the author’s childhood in France, Libya and Syria in the 1970s and 80s. When the first volume came out, The New York Times described it as “a disquieting yet essential read”. A more recent article by Sarah Boxer in NYRB describes the personal effect this series has on its reader. “When I finished reading these two volumes, I was struck by Sattouf’s precarious perspective and I feared for his life”. Boxer compares The Arab of the Future to Art Spiegelman’ Maus: “Both rely on one person’s memory to tell a traumatic history far larger than one person’s life”.
The third volume came out in France in October and will most likely be published in the US in 2017.
Giving voice to French Literature with Festival ‘Paris en Toutes Lettres’
From November 10th to November 21st, the 7th festival ‘Paris en Toutes Lettres’ invites fifty writers and artists to talk about the various art forms surrounding our lives today. Held in twenty locations around the city, it mixes literary genres and artistic forms. Gaël Faye, Laurent Gaudé, Philippe Vasset, Véronique Ovaldé, Yasmina Reza, Sylvain Tesson, Marie NDiaye, Javier Cercas & more host a literary ball, a night of poetry as well as readings, lectures and concerts. Explore Paris by feasting at a « houellebecquian Banquet », « get Lost in Paris » by letting yourself be led to an unknown location, take the bus with Vincent Josse, or listen to Jaurès at the Panthéon.
Short stories for All
When Short Edition, a publishing startup from Grenoble, launched their first “short story distributors” last year, little did they know that their innovative project would attract so much success. The concept is simple: passersby can print out a short story or a poem for free, to kill time while they wait or simply for the sake of reading something new. “The paper format provides a break from omnipresent screens”, said the company to The New Yorker. Today, no less than sixty short stories vending machines are installed all over France, in train stations, hospitals, gas stations. They expect to sell 500 machines worldwide by 2017. It’s no wonder they just won an award for French startups with the most potential! Short Edition is also a self-publishing platform: aspiring writers can have their own stories distributed everywhere. More than ever, France is a nation of readers and writers!