French Voices Award | Grantees 2013 - Spring session

November 19, 2013 | By FRENCH CULTURE BOOKS

Launched in 2006, the French Voices Award has supported the translation and publication of more than 60 French titles published in the United States. The original objective of the grant was to create what would become a collection of 30 books in translation over an initial period of three years. Seven years later, the collection has far surpassed its goal, and has contributed to promotion of many French authors in the U.S. The collection now includes a wide range of work, representing some of the best of contemporary French fiction and non-fiction.

The first-ever French Voices Award ceremony will be held this February. We are pleased to announce the first selection of 4 works that will receive the award this year. For the spring session, two non-fiction and two fiction projects have been chosen:

  • Les Faiseurs de montagne, Bernard Debarbieux et Gilles Rudaz, CNRS Editions
    To be translated by Jane Marie Todd, to be published by The University of Chicago Press

In this work, Bernard Debarbieux et Gilles Rudaz recognize that mountains mean different things to different people in different settings. The authors acknowledge but do not focus on the natural sciences, nor do they analyze social representations themselves, as literature has already examined mountains from these angles. Instead, they use these studies as a starting point to explore in greater depth how and why we have come to identify, categorize, and continually reconfigure our ideas of mountains. Our objectifications, they argue, stem from our need to resolve political problems within different historical contexts, with many social and cultural factors shaping our reality and determining how we intervene.

The committee underlined this book's unprecedented contribution to an ongoing debate among geographers, who have yet to agree on the definition of a mountain in all its complexity. This is the first study to comprehensively explore the development of our local, national, and global consciousness of mountains, showing us that mountains are both a geographical and social phenomenon worthy of our attention.

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  • Terre de vignes, Charles Frankel, éditions du Seuil
    To be translated by Charles Frankel, to be published by The University of Chicago Press

Terre de vignes is an accessible book about the geology and soil (terroir) of the best vineyards in France. Frankel deciphers the influence of the land on the aroma and quality of wines, while also demonstrating how geology has a notable influence on the vineyard, the flavors, and the qualities of the wine. The book takes the reader on a journey through France's landscape, tracing the ancient history of its soil and subsoil, beginning 445 million years ago up until present day France.

The committee recognized the potential of this title in the American market: it could easily find readers among food scholars, scientists, food and wine aficionados – anyone interested in French wine. Moreover, few works of this kind have been translated into English. Frankel’s work, filled with sparkling anecdotes, could easily become a key reference in this field.

  • Bon rétablissement, Marie-Sabine Roger, Editions du Rouergue
    To be translated by Louis Cancelmi, looking for an American publisher

Bon rétablissement tells the story of Jean-Pierre Fabre, sixty-seven, a solitary, peevish man, and self-described “widower, without a dog or children.” Nearly killed by a fall from a bridge one night, Fabre is rescued by a male prostitute and taken to a Paris hospital. He has no memory of the incident that landed him there, but as his stay in the recovery ward stretches on, he decides to write his memoirs. He claims to have grown up an “enfant terrible,” and initially presents himself to hospital staff and other patients as a simple, deranged misanthrope. As his new life in a hospital bed drags on, however, Fabre’s soft side starts to get the better of him, and he understands it’s never too late to reinvent oneself…

The committee emphasized the inventiveness of this book in terms of plot and writing style, witty and tasty.

  • "En pièces", "Récit sur rien", "Etudes", "Une vieille histoire", Jonathan Littell, Fata Morgana
    To be translated by Charlotte Mandell, to be published by Two Lines Press

The Prix Goncourt–winning author of the scandalous The Kindly Ones returns with a collection of four new novellas that offer startlingly fresh depictions of age-old obsessions: sex and love, desiring and gazing, and the memories that take a lifetime to process. Here, Jonathan Littell crafts unique narrative voices dominated by sensuality, whether the slippery promise of silk underwear, the dizzy intensity of abstract art, the languid torpor of a French beach, the shock of a bull’s goring horn, or the warmth of a fondled breast.

These novellas are as striking as a gust of frigid air, presenting a skewed reality in which the reader must discern who, or what, is telling the story, and why. These are stories about the transience of sex, the way that desire evaporates in satiation and then reappears when two strangers share a long look over a strong drink. Beguilingly easy to read but full of depth and mystery, these four novellas explore the in-between spaces: between thoughts, between bodies, between hungers and their satisfactions, between eyes and the things they look at.

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