French Books USA: Week In Review

April 25, 2017 | By Matthew Kent

Shortlist Announced for the Man Booker International Prize

French author Mathias Énard’s book Compass is shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize! This comes after it received the Prix Goncourt, France’s highest literary honor. Filled with historical and artistic accounts and anecdotes conveying the strong yet complex romance that the West shares with the East, the novel is according to the Washington Post “magnificent” and “provides another welcome look at the kinships that bind the Middle East to Europe”. The Man Booker International Prize rewards the finest literary works of translated fiction. It originally recognized a career, but in 2015 it was reconfigured to acknowledge a single book with the prize money distributed to both author and translator. The winner will be announced on June 14th.

In Remembrance of Miguel Abensour

Influential French Philosopher Miguel Abensour, a former President of the International College of Philosophy and professor of political philosophy at l’Université Paris VII-Denis Diderot has passed away. Abensour devoted much of his work to the concepts of utopia and emancipation. His works include Democracy Against the State: Marx and the Machiavellian Movement (Polity Press) and Rire des lois, du magistrat et des dieux. He is also well-known for his work Utopia from Thomas More to Walter Benjamin, where he examines two different and very important moments of utopia’s trajectory. It was released this January by Univocal Publishing. 

New accounts of France’s History

An 800 page historic tome covering 40,000 years of French history edited by Collège de France professor Patrick Boucheron came out in January. Histoire mondiale de la France (Global History of France) published by Seuil was composed by 122 historians with the goal to offer an opinion-free book to be discussed for years to come. The book covers subjects ranging from scientific discoveries to colonial conquests. It was described by the New York Review of Books as an effort to reach the public “with a view of French history that would take into account contemporary debate about the effects of globalization.” According to Le Monde the book’s play on echoes of history draws out serious perspectives that engage readers. In December of the previous year, was also released Histoire Mondiale was published, Les luttes et les rêves, Une histoire populaire de la France de 1685 à nos jours by Michelle Zancarini-Fournel. Zancarini-Fournel’s book takes a step outside of the standards of the historical framework examining historical faults, the history of those forgotten, and the wrongdoings of the nation.

Proust’s Complaint about his neighbor’s love affair sold amongst a collection of French treasures

collection of diaries divulging the secrets of some of France’s well-known literary figures went on sale April 26th in Paris. Correspondence and letters written by Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, and Marcel Proust were among the many lots that were sold along with the first edition of Galileo’s Discourse. All of these documents belonged to the “greatest collector of French literature,” Jean Bonna. Within the collection is a letter from Proust to his landlord complaining about the love affair between his next-door neighbors. Stay tuned for more gems on the subject: Proust’s Letters to His Neighbora collection of letters to the upstairs tenant, Marie, will be released in August by New Direction, with a translation by Lydia Davis.