French Books USA: Week in Review

February 17, 2017 | By FRENCH CULTURE BOOKS

Paying tribute to Tzvetan Todorov

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1939, the great thinker, known to be as tough with dictatorship as demanding with democracy, passed away on February 7. The scholar and historian of ideas gained notoriety in the early seventies for his work on structuralism, a method of interpretation. A disciple of Roland Barthes, Todorov was influenced by cultural anthropology and focused on recurring patterns of thought and behavior. He published numerous works throughout his career, with subject matters ranging from fantasy in fiction to the moral consequences of colonialism, fanaticism and the Holocaust.  His passing was widely covered by the press: The New York Times paid tribute to the ‘Literary Theorist and Historian of Evil’; Le Monde pointed out Todorov’s influence on humanist thought and on the subject of totalitarianism, the latter also emphasized in an interview with the great thinker in 2000 by Télérama.


Édouard Louis’s novel lands a few punches

Neil Bartlett, from The Guardian, reviewed the 2015 Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman and worldwide sensation, ‘The End of Eddy Bellegueule’. Written by the young and talented Édouard Louis, this ‘arresting autobiographical novel pulls no punches; rather, it lands them on the reader as frequently as fists descend on its subject.’ In the review, Bartlett notes Louis’s talent to detach himself from his personal experience to offer a dark, but honest point of view and wonders ‘just how, exactly, did that traumatized child become the assured and beautiful young man who gazes so calmly from the author photo’.


Joyce Zonana receives a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant

Joyce Zonana’s translation of Tobie Nathan‘s ‘This Land That Is Like You’, was chosen alongside 14 other projects to be the recipients of the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants. It will receive funding to assist in its completion. Written in French by an Egyptian-born ethno-psychiatrist, and diplomat, the novel is set in the Jewish quarter of Cairo under British rule in the early part of the twentieth century. ‘This Land That Is Like You’ explores the mysticism surrounding Jewish and Arab Egyptians. Poetic, rebellious and decadent, the story portrays a country on the eve of a new era.


A walk around Paris, with Shakespeare and Company’s owner

On a walk around the streets of Paris, Sylvia Whitman, the owner of the iconic Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Krista Halverson, the editor of a new book on its history, and author Lauren Elkin recount undocumented stories from literary women associated with the early days of the shop. The store was founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919 who settled across the street from her partner, Adrienne Monnier, the first woman to set herself as a bookseller in Paris. On their stroll, the three book lovers talk about the fascinating history of the store, sharing anecdotes on Jeanette Winterson, Jean Rhys, George Sand and many others!

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