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Week in Review: April 5, 2021

Looking ahead: Ideas & Ideals

While March honored Women’s History Month, discussions about women’s rights, and issues such as sexism, sexual misconduct and gender-based violence, are far from resolved. The end of this April will mark the start of a relevant conversation series, Strong Female Voices, the inaugural program of Ideas and Ideals, a larger series of events from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Emory University examining how we inhabit our own bodies, identity, and the world at large. The first event, a conversation between Gloria Steinem and writer Vanessa Springora, whose memoir Consent is making waves in the U.S. and abroad, will focus on how we define and are redefining power and consent as a global society, and will be held online at 1pm ET on April 28. Readers can register here.


Making Noise in Marseille

Even as France enters its third nationwide lockdown, a new French publishing house is preparing to open its doors. The former head of international literature at Gallimard, Marie-Pierre Gracedieu, together with her partner, bookseller Adrien Servières, has announced the launch of a new publishing house, Le Bruit du Monde, an imprint of the Editis group, that will be based out of Marseille. Le Bruit will follow in the footsteps of publishers such as Arles-based Actes Sud that have migrated away from Paris, the traditional center of French publishing. Gracedieu explained that the publisher’s location is central to its operation: “Marseille was the beating heart of our adventure.” They aim to publish their first fiction titles by spring 2022, and are seeking works from diverse francophone voices around the world.


Paris Review  Names New Editor

On March 23, The Paris Review announced Emily Stokes as its next editor. A senior editor at The New Yorker since 2018, Stokes brings to the position her years of experience as an editor at T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, and the Financial Times. As the sixth editor since its establishment in 1953, Stokes expressed her enthusiasm for continuing the Review’s “tradition of discovery” and its sterling reputation as a source for literary interviews, which initially drew her to the magazine. Stokes stated in the announcement: “Over the years the Review has introduced me to new and established writers who have provided the most pleasurable kind of company.” In an email quoted in the Times, she went on to praise the Review’s commitment to promoting enduring content over the 24-hour news cycle, calling it, “a refuge, a space for the writing that we read for pleasure, to feel alive”. Stokes succeeds Emily Nemens, who recently left the review to focus on her own fiction. The Emily in Paris jokes were swift to follow.


Booker Prize Longlist Features French Voices

Multiple works by French authors made it onto the longlist for the 2021 International Booker Prize, an annual award for the best translated work of fiction. Among this year’s contenders are French academic and writer David Diop, for his debut novel At Night All Blood Is Black, translated by Anna Moschovakis and published by FSG, and Éric Vuillard’s The War of the Poor, translated by Mark Polizzotti and published by Other Press. Diop’s work, which was awarded the prestigious Prix Goncourt des Lycéens upon its initial French publication in 2018, tells the tragic story of a Senegalese soldier fighting in the French army during World War I, and incorporates issues of race, violence, and trauma. Vuillard, who won the 2017 Prix Goncourt for his book The Order of the Day, has written another arresting historical account in The War of the Poor, which recounts the sixteenth-century German Peasants’ War and draws parallels with today’s class inequalities. Congratulations to these authors, translators, and publishers, whose works allowed readers to cross borders, in a year when we otherwise could not.


Zabor  Garners Recognition

Acclaimed Algerian author Kamel Daoud’s latest novel, Zabor, or the Psalms, which tells the story of a young man whose raison d’être is French authorship—he believes his ability to write in French about his fellow community members is literally keeping them alive—is a book for booklovers, Francophiles, and general audiences alike. Its English translation by Emma Ramadan, who connected personally with the protagonist’s “crisis of language”, was published this spring by Other Press and has already since been featured on noteworthy book lists (of titles in translation and not) from The New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Readers can get their own copy of Daoud’s “ode to storytelling” in stores or online.


Poetry Month Kicks Off

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and there has scarcely been a better time than the present to immerse oneself in verse. Poets.org, the official website of the Academy of American Poets, which created the month-long holiday in 1996, offers 30 suggestions to celebrate for teachers or individuals while social distancing, including a plethora of educational resources, crafts, and virtual events. We encourage readers to revisit great poems in translation featured on the Cultural Services blog and others, and look out for eight new books of French poetry in translation, including Alice Paalen Rahon’s Shapeshifter and Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s The River in the Belly and Other Poems, which will be published throughout 2021.


Celebrating National Library Week

The American Library Association recognizes National Library Week from April 4-10, 2021, and this year’s theme, “Welcome to Your Library,” aims to promote open access and serviceability of library resources to all community members, whether visiting the library in person or virtually. Francophone actress Natalie Portman is this year’s honorary chair. Additionally, as this week’s festivities come to a close, the New York Public Library is gearing up for its own World Literature Festival, which runs from April 12-30. The festival’s program of public events includes a conversation with French writer-journalist Colombe Schneck about her writing process and latest book, Nuits d’été à Brooklyn.

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