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Week In Review: September 10, 2020

by Erin Bronner

Fnac’s Prix du Roman Winner Announced

Each year, Fnac, the prominent French bookstore chain, hosts a prize selected by both booksellers and readers called the Prix du Roman. This year's winner of the nineteenth annual Prix du Roman Fnac is Bettywritten by Tiffany McDaniel and translated from English to French by François Happe. Three other novels were in the running for the literary prize this year. Chavirer by Lola Lafon, follows the life of a Cléo who, as a young girl, was sexually exploited by an organization that promised her a dance scholarship. In an interview for Le Point, the acclaimed author of The Little Communist Who Never Smiled emphasized the importance of supporting sexual assault survivors whose traumas involve coercion but not always physical force. Lafon's Chavirer has also been longlisted for the Prix de Flore. Also in this selection, Buveurs de vent by Franck Bouysse, explores the life, in the Gour Noir hidden valley, of four children with an extraordinary connection to nature. Drawn to the novel’s dark, fantastical style, readers in a recent review praised the way the author portrays its characters. Bouysse’s previous title Né d'aucune femme sold 140 000 copies and his Grossir le ciel is currently adapted for the screen. Finally, another book translated from English to French was in the selection: L'autre moitié de soi by Brit Bennett and translated by Karine Lalechère.

Prix Le Monde Finalists Selected

In addition to Fnac announcing its prix du roman winner, Le Monde announced, on September 9th also, the winner of its eighth annual Prix Littéraire. This year, the prize goes to Elle a menti pour les ailes by Francesca Serra. This novel tells a harrowing and pertinent story for the digital age, of a Generation Z teenager who disappears after being harrassed on social media. On July 23, the esteemed newspaper had announced the ten titles it had selected to be in the running for the prize, 7 of which are written by women! They are: Du côté des Indiens by Isabelle Carré (Grasset), Saturne by Sarah Chiche (Seuil), La Petite Dernière by Fatima Daas (Notabilia), Les Démons by Simon Liberati (Stock), Comédies françaises by Eric Reinhardt (Gallimard), Le Pont de Bezons by Jean Rolin (P.O.L), Le Sanctuaire by Laurine Roux (Le Sonneur), Elle a menti pour les ailes by Francesca Serra (Anne Carrière), Une bête aux aguets by Florence Seyvos (L’Olivier), and L’Enfant céleste by Maud Simonnot (L’Observatoire). More literary prizes will be announced in the forthcoming days.

The Captivating Adventure of A Hundred Million Years and a Day

Over the summer, Gallic Books released Sam Taylor’s translation of A Hundred Million Years and a Day, the latest novel by author and film director Jean-Baptiste Andrea. In this epic poem, Andrea seamlessly weaves with vivid descriptions the exciting and terrifying nature of a 1954 expedition to scale the Alps in search of a dragon’s skeleton. Narrated by professor, paleontologist, and quite likable Stan, the account full of humorous quips is interspersed with touching flashbacks to his childhood. A Hundred Million Years and a Day has received several accolades, having been shortlisted for the Prix Joseph Kessel 2020, the Grand Prix de l'Académie Française 2019, and the Grand Prix des Blogeurs Littéraires 2019. The Sunday Times named it one of the best historical novels of July 2020 and calls it “poignant, short but powerful … explor[ing] ideas of comradeship, the persistence of childhood trauma and the nature of obsession."

New Translation of Bourdieu’s Work

August marked the 2020 release of the English translation of Uprooting: The Crisis of Traditional Agriculture in Algeria (Polity, tr. Susan Emanuel) by Pierre Bourdieu and Abdelmayek Sayad. The two sociologists analyze one particular tragedy of the Algerian War, which was the violent forced displacement and resettling of Algerian farmers by the French military, from 1954-60. Bourdieu and Sayad emphasize the long-term economic and cultural consequences this had on people from rural Algeria, who lost most of their land and crop output as a result. The farmers were forced to abandon their livelihood and assimilate to a non-agrarian, market-based economy, a change which led to widespread poverty. The book is a valuable source of information for anyone who is looking to learn more about the devastating effects of colonialism, and the ideology of the soldiers who referred to it as ‘pacification.’ In its description, Polity Books refers to the work as a “classic” sociological text. Anyone who appreciates the works of one of the most eminent twentieth-century sociologists will also look forward to having access to another one of his books in translation.

Note: An earlier version of this Week in Review was published on September 4 but has since been updated to include the winners of the two literary prizes mentioned.

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