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Week in Review: December 2, 2019

Poetry for Modern Times

Stéphane Bouquet’s poetry collection The Next Loves (Nightboat Books 2019, trans by Lindsay Turner) is a unique take on homosexuality, desire, loneliness, and love in an era of global inequality and fundamental precarity. Celebrating its beauty and timeliness, The New Yorker wrote, “Bouquet’s effervescent intellect lends a philosophical air to urban strolling and digital scrolling.” Full Stop praised Bouquet’s sensitivity, his attention “to the fact that language picks up where the act of love leaves off.” Join the masterful author and translator at Albertine Bookstore on December 18th or at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago on December 19th for a conversation about the work.


Continuing the ‘Climate Moment’: Political Ecology

Malcom Ferdinand, a panelist of this year’s 2019 Festival Albertine, received the Prize of the Foundation of Political Ecology in November for his Une écologie décoloniale (Le Seuil). Combining historical, sociological and literary approaches, Ferdinand has developed a theory of Caribbean postcolonial ecological thought, one that articulates the need to preserve nature and cultural heritage and reach political equality. His ground-breaking work connects the ecological stakes of environmental destruction to the challenges we face as a post-colonial society. By uniting these crucial issues, the young researcher reveals a new way for humans and non-humans to live together that may save both our planet and our human dignity. To continue reflecting on the Festival Albertine 2019, the Climate Moment; and learn more about the challenges our climate faces, check out our reading list.


The Best Books of the Year

Publisher’s Weekly’s list of the best fiction and mystery books of the year features 3 excellent French-language works in translation. First on the list is Black Forest by Valérie Mréjen (Deep Vellum Publishing, trans by Katie Shireen Assef), a book of mourning told through a coolly evocative series of life and death vignettes. A starred review in October, Mréjen’s “crystalline prose never grasps for sentimentality, and her meticulous, humane, and powerful volume unforgettably depicts the way the dead experience life after death in the traces they leave in the minds of the living.” She will participate in the panels on December 18th and 19th alongside Stéphane Bouquet. Next is Exposed by Jean-Philippe Blondel (New Vessel, trans by Alison Anderson), an “irresistible novel [that] flies by with gentle humor, but also poses complex questions about the meaning of art and sexuality.” Commenting on the unique relationship between the older muse and the younger artist, Ayten Tartici of The New York Times wrote, “Blondel’s delicate but suspenseful sentences exploit the shared erotic frisson of their renewed acquaintance to investigate how much of ourselves we are really willing to unveil.” Finally, This Poison Will Remain by Fred Vargas (Penguin, trans by Siân Reynolds) was featured, a mystery with a “sophisticated and rewarding plot” that “deserves a wide American readership.”


Upcoming Authors on Tour

In January, the Book Department will support five French-language authors as they embark on U.S. tours. Francophone Chinese painter and illustrator Chen Jiang Hong, who won the Prix Albertine Jeunesse in 2019, will present his work The Tiger Prince (The New York Review of Books, trans by Alyson Waters), described by Kirkus Reviews as “both emotionally compelling and thought-provoking.” Julia Billet will discuss Catherine’s War (Harper Collins, trans by Ivanka Hahnenberger), a children’s book about occupied France during World War II that makes readers “want to join the Resistance” and whose “characters are drawn so vividly that, long afterward, readers will remember their names.” Barbara Stiegler will explore her We Have To Adapt: About a New Political Imperative (Gallimard), which presents another interpretation of the meaning of life and its evolution, questions that are more than ever at the heart of who we are. Next, Philippe Lançon will present his critically acclaimed and poignant book, Disturbance: Surviving Charlie Hebdo (Europa Editions, trans by Steven Rendall). Recounting the experience of living through a terrorist attack, it “favors philosophy and wit over anger and polemic” and “shows how a writer’s rich powers of observation and reflection bridge a chasm of tragedy.” Finally, Mark Alizart will discuss Dogs (Polity Books, trans by Robin McKay), described by Le Monde as “a clever treatise of canine philosophy” devoted to understanding the miraculous joy of man’s best friend.


Article by Jessica Cohen