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Book Club: Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex ONLINE EVENT Albertine Books
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Bernard-Henri Lévy and Adam Gopnik ONLINE EVENT City Lights, San Francisco, CA

Week in Review: May 15, 2020

New Book from Simone de Beauvoir!

With features in the New York Times and the Guardian, a previously unpublished work by legendary feminist writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, The Inseparables (Ecco), has created a lot of buzz in the literary community. 

The aptly-titled story of her inseparable relationship with her childhood friend Elisabeth “Zaza” Lacoin, who died tragically at the age of 21, was deemed “too intimate” to release during her lifetime. But now, after 75 years, it will finally see the light of day.

The story of two rebellious young girls with aspirations of higher education and independence in the 1950s, it depicts de Beauvoir’s “personal battle against the conventional expectations” of the time, drawing her “intellectual and existential ambition.” 

It will be published in French in October, and in English next year with a preface by daughter Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir.


Museum from Home: Felix Fénéon, Unsung Hero of the Avant-garde

He shaped the development of modernism in art, and helped launch the careers of celebrated avant-garde artists like Henri Matisse, but you may have never heard of Félix Fénéon (1861–1944), a little-known but hugely influential figure in the avant-garde scene.

An art critic, editor, publisher, dealer, and collector, Fénéon was also a fervent anarchist who believed in the power of the art to champion harmony and egalitarianism during a time when social and economic disparities were evermore apparent.

Thanks to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), his work now has its first dedicated exhibition in the US—Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde—From Signac to Matisse and Beyond. Not in New York? No problem. MOMA has graciously rolled out Virtual Views, a “museum at home” experience for all to enjoy. Check out the exhibition here, and read more about Fénéon here


Tropic of Violence: The Importance of Sharing Stories

On the site Reading in Translation, you’ll find a fascinating list of “Translations Reviewed by Translators.” Nathan Dize, who translated Makenzy Orcel’s The Immortals (SUNY Press), writes one such review of Geoffrey Strachan’s work on Tropic of Violence (Graywolf Press) by Nathacha Appanah

Winner of the prestigious literary award, the Prix Femina des lycéens, Tropic of Violence centers around the island of Mayotte, and its infamous slum, nicknamed “Gaza.” Incorporating the perspectives of NGO volunteers, police officers, and residents of the island, the novel tackles issues like migration, the media portrayal of Mayotte and its inhabitants—many of whom are French citizens of African descent—and “voluntourism,” where volunteering is dictated by what looks good on a resume. 

In his glowing review, Dize praises the sensitivity with which Strachan translates words, dialects, and concepts that sometimes proved difficult to fully comprehend, even for French readers of the original work. Commending the story-driven message of the work, Dize writes:

“In an age where daily land, sea, and ocean crossings bring hopeful migrants across porous and artificial political boundaries, we need stories, real and imagined, that transcend the vacuous language of the news headline. In the production and support of these narratives, authors and translators alike are called to carefully hone their craft so that the lives of others are intelligible and compelling for broad swaths of readers.”

Read the full review here


2020 Renaudot Prize Selections Released!

On May 5th, the jury for the Renaudot prize, one of France’s most prestigious literary awards, released its list of nominees for the 2020 prizes for novels and essays after deliberation via teleconference. Consider it a list of potential French-language summer reads.