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French Books In The U.S. - The Updated 2020 Edition

With half the year now gone, it’s time to look at the updated survey, conducted by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, of works translated from French to English in the United States.

This year, 449 titles in translation from French to English will be published in the United States. Due to the public health situation, many publications have been postponed to 2021. We will update you on forthcoming 2021 publications shortly!


In fiction, 107 books translated from French, according to our latest tally, have been published in the United States in 2020. Of these, almost half had been released in France in the last 5 years, which highlights the interest of American publishers for contemporary French-language fiction.

The list of fiction works published in 2020 includes works by 90 writers from no less than 27 different countries, confirming that French is one of the handful of languages that span the world and that publishers are catching on to this strength. French-language literature from Maghreb and the Middle East is increasingly popular, with authors like Tahar Ben Jelloun (The Punishment, Yale University Press), Mahi Binebine (The King’s Fool, MacLehose Press), Amin Maalouf (The Disoriented, World Editions) and Javad Djavahery (My Part of Her, Restless Books).

32% of the fiction books published in 2020 are written by women, a similar proportion to last year. Some of the authors, such as Annie Ernaux (A Girl's Story, Seven Stories Press) and Sandrine Collette (Just After the Wave, Europa Editions), are firmly established. For many others, however, these publications mark their English-language debut: Kaouther Adimi’s exploration of Algerian history in Our Riches (New Directions), Pauline Delabroy-Allard for her first novel They Say Sarah (Other Press) and Julia Kerninon with My Devotion (Europa Editions).

Many beloved contemporary authors earned another spot on American bookshelves, such as winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize Maryse Condé (The Fabulous and Unfortunate Fate of Ivan and Ivana, World Editions and The Belle Creole, University of Virginia Press), the critically acclaimed novelist Nathacha Appanah (Tropic of Violence, Graywolf Press), Nathalie Léger with Exposition and The White Dress (Dorothy A Publishing Project) and the Man Booker International Prize shortlisted 's Virginie Despentes (Vernon Subutex 2, Farrar Straus & Giroux).

Classics published in English for the first time include Alexandre Dumas’s Isaac Laquedem: A Tale of the Wandering Jew (Noumena Press), Yves Bonnefoy’s collection of short stories The Red Scarf, Two Stages and other stories (Seagull Books). Some classics have been released with a new translation as Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac (University of Minnesota Press).

This year, poetry was also published, with The Magnetic Fields by André Breton and Philippe Soupault (New York Review Books) and Claire Malroux's Daybreak (New York Review Books).


120 non-fiction books have been published in 2020.

Philosophy remains a French specialty: as in the past, there is a strong interest in prominent figures such as Michel Foucault (Intolerable: Writings from Michel Foucault and the Prisons Information Group (1970–1980), University of Minnesota Press), Alain Badiou (Migrants and Militants, Polity Press) and Jacques Derrida (2 books).

Among other anticipated publications, you’ll find Leïla Slimani’s collection of interviews with Moroccan women (Sex and Lies Penguin Random House), Hélène Cixous’ exquisite memoir (Oznabruck Station to Jerusalem, Fordham University Press)Paul B. Preciado’s bold essay that defies the “gender-sex binary system” (An Apartment on Uranus: Chronicles of the Crossing, (Semiotexte), and Felwine Sarr’s vibrant call for an African utopian philosophy (Afrotopia, University of Minnesota Press).

Several political and social science essays provided a detailed analysis on a variety of issues such as political unrest and disobedience with Frédéric Gros’s Disobey!: A Philosophy of Resistance (Verso), or economic inequalities and need for social justice: Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology (Harvard University Press), Lucas Chancel’s Unsustainable Inequalities: Social Justice and the Environment (Harvard University Press) and Giulia Mensitieri’s The Most Beautiful Job in the World (Bloomsbury). Works further exploring our current economic and political systems and how to change them are François Ewald's History of the Welfare State (Duke University Press), Julia Cagé’s The Price of Democracy: How Money Shapes Politics and What to do About It (Harvard University Press), and Mark Alizart's Cryptocommunism (Polity Press).

Significantly, American publishers have welcomed an increased number of books on environmental issues: Cataclysms: An Environmental History of Humanity, by Laurent Testot (University of Chicago Press); The Contamination of the Earth: A History of Pollution in the Industrial Age, by Francois Jarrige et Thomas Le Roux (MIT Press); How Everything Can Collapse: A Short Manual on Collapsology for the Present, by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens (Polity Press); and The Last Humanity: A New Ecological Science, by François Laruelle (Bloomsbury Publishing).

In another field, roughly 30 historical works have been translated, such as Machiavelli: The Art of Teaching People What to Fear by Patrick Boucheron (Other Press), Hiding the Guillotine: Public Executions in France, 1870–1939 by Emmanuel Taïeb (Cornell University Press), and Smells: A Cultural History of Odours in Early Modern Times by Robert Muchembled (Polity Books). Other publications explored the spiritual realm, such as Laurence Louër’s Sunnis and Shiites: a Political History (Princeton University Press), Jean-Luc Nancy’s Excluding the Jew Within Us (Polity Press), and Olivier Roy's Is Europe Christian? (Oxford University Press).


153 graphic novels in translation have been published in 2020, confirming publishers’ and readers’ interest in French comics.

Notable works include Emma's popular graphic novel on feminism, Emotional Load: And Other Invisible Stuff (Seven Stories Press), Aurélien Ducoudray's study on an experimental psychiatric clinic, The Third Population (Penn State University Press), Florent Ruppert, Jérôme Mulot and Jérôme Olivier’s Portrait of a Drunk (Fantagraphics) which has been nominated for the Harvey Awards 2020, and the beautiful The Red Mother with Child by Christian Lax (NBM Publishing).


Finally, 61 children books have been translated in 2020, featuringThe Witches: The Graphic Novel (Scholastic / Graphix) by Roald Dahl adapted by Pénélope Bagieu, Little Unicorn Is Shy by Aurélie Chien Chow Chine (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) and Emma Giuliani with In the Garden (Princeton Architectural Press).

American publishers are very interested in creative and talented French writers and illustrators: Germano Zullo's My Little One (Elsewhere Editions), Maria Dek’s Malo and the Merry-Go-Round (Princeton Architectural Press); Delphine Perret’s A Bear Named Bjorn (Gecko Press) and My Panda Sweater by Gilles Baum (Barefoot Books). Marc Boutavant, who toured the U.S. in March 2019 for Dumpster Dog, has released a new book, Vote for Me! (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).

In the event that a publication has been overlooked or a title’s date of release has been postponed, please email us at 972livre@gmail.com, and we will update our list without delay.

For more information about previous publications, refer to our articles for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

We hope that these recommendations improve your reading experience.

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