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French Voices Award | Grantees 2013 Fall Session

In 2013, the Cultural Services’ French Voices grant has become the French Voices Award. This year, thanks to the large number of outstanding applications, 12 titles (instead of the usual 10) have been selected by an independent committee of professionals to receive the translation prize. These 12 recipients represent new trends in French fiction and underrepresented perspectives in French non-fiction.

On February 6th, the French Voices Grand Prize will be awarded to the best of these 12 titles.

We have already announced the committee’s first selection of 4 works, chosen during the spring session, which can be found here. See below for a list of the fall session’s 8 grantees.

Citoyen sujet, et autres essais d'anthropologie philosophique, Etienne BalibarPresses Universitaires de France, 2011To be translated by Steven Miller, to be published by Fordham University Press

This book sets out to answer the question: “who comes after the subject?” Far more than a collection of essays, the work systematically explores Balibar’s most important contribution to philosophical and political inquiry: the necessarily antagonistic relationship between the categories of citizen and subject. His argument moves from the disentanglement of the individual subject to the forms of sociality proper to the citizen, from individuality to the universal, examining the contradictions that haunt this process.

Philosopher Etienne Balibar’s work is widely renowned in France, but he is also a prominent figure among American universities, and serves as a reference for several contemporary authors concerned with postcolonial studies or political theory. The committee found Citoyen sujet to be Balibar’s most important work. With this book, Balibar reworks his previously published articles in a coherent and ambitious synthesis of his ideas.

Énigmes et complots, Luc BoltanskiEditions Gallimard, 2012To be translated by Catherine Porter, to be published by Polity Press

Enigmes et complots is an important work, written by one of the most celebrated « post-bourdieusian » sociologists in France. This new book is a highly original study that uses detective fiction and spy novels to explore the development of modern societies and the modern state in the 19th and 20th centuries. Boltanski’s work is based around three concepts: riddles, conspiracies, and investigations. He analyzes these themes through the study of literary works, and explores their influence on psychoanalysis, political philosophy, and sociology.

Un mage en été, Olivier CadiotEditions P.O.L, 2010To be translated by Anna Fitzgerald, seeking an American publisher

In Un mage en été, Olivier Cadiot deftly and playfully weaves water, film and magic with bits of his own biography to create this fleet and refreshing novel. The project seeks to build on the expert translations, notably by Cole Swensen, which have already brought this exuberant author to English-language readers.

Un mage en été demonstrates the diversity of Olivier Cadiot’s artistic talents. He proposes a very personal work that is simultaneously natural, joyous, and exuberant. The committee recognized Cadiot’s experimental writing, and is convinced that this work will be successful on the American literary fiction market.

Viviane Élisabeth Fauville, Julia DeckLes Éditions de Minuit, 2012To be translated by Linda Coverdale, to be published by The New Press

Viviane Élisabeth Fauville is an engrossing murder mystery and a gripping exploration of madness, a narrative that tests the shifting boundaries of language and the self. For inspiration, Deck read the work of another Minuit star, Samuel Beckett, because, as she says, “he positions himself within chaos, and gives it coherence.” This breakthrough novel, nominated for the Prix Femina, the Prix France Inter, and the Prix du Premier Roman, follows suit through its arrestingly inventive style. Sure to become a contemporary classic, its author “now belongs to the most exclusive and prestigious family of French literature” (Le Nouvel Observateur).

Meticulously constructed, Deck’s novel brilliantly paints a complex woman losing touch with reality. The committee feels that Julia Deck is a promising new novelist, and wishes to support her literary endeavors.

Une partie de chasse, Agnès DesartheÉditions de l'Olivier, 2012To be translated by Christiana Hills, seeking an American publisher

Une partie de chasse tells the story of Tristan, a sensitive young man who has been persuaded by his wife to go on a hunting trip in order to “fit in” with the men of their town. Tristan accidentally shoots a rabbit, but upon discovering that the animal is still alive, he hides it in his bag with the intention of setting it free when no one is looking. However, this proves difficult amid the virile atmosphere of guns, blood, and aggressive masculinity.

Mixed with coming-of-age flashbacks and the philosophical musings of a rabbit, Une partie de chasse follows a sensitive individual as he tries to make sense of the violence around him, both in nature and among his fellow human beings. The French Voices committee has chosen Une partie de chasse for its captivating plot, complex, layered characters, and often experimental writing style. Desarthe’s work has never before been translated into English, despite having won several literary prizes in France (Wepler, Livre inter).

L'Aigle et le Dragon, Serge GruzinskiLibrairie Artheme Fayard, 2012To be translated by Jean Birrell, to be published by Polity Press

In this extremely well-researched  new book, Serge Gruzinski explores the differing ways in which Mexico and China have experienced and dealt with the Europe’s  global expansion – in the case of Mexico, it led to the annihilation of the Aztec eagle, whereas the Chinese dragon repulsed the intruders. Gruzinski argues that these events mark a milestone in our history as it is the first time that people originating from three different continents could meet, clash or crossbreed. Gruzinski shows that this meeting of previously separated civilizations has been a subject of fascination for five centuries. In so doing, he provides a highly original exploration of the world of the Renaissance. He also shows that globalization is by no means a new phenomenon and that its origins can be traced back to the 16th century. This book will therefore be of great interest to historians and to anyone interested in globalization and the growing interconnectedness of the world.

Deux jeunes artistes au chômage, Cyrille MartinezBuchet Chastel, 2011To be translated by Joseph Patrick Stancil, seeking an American publisher

Like a work of contemporary art, Cyrille Martinez’s Deux jeunes artistes au chômage is rich in self-reflection and commentary on the very nature of art, writing, literature, and the commercialization thereof. In a beguiling style, devilishly light and funny, Martinez invents an absurd world where things seem to fall into place in the service of the language itself. Each sentence builds on the hilarity of the last, one by one leading you in unexpected ways to places you never see coming. Very loosely based on the real lives of Andy Warhol and John Giorno, Deux jeunes artistes au chômage takes one small snippet of reality and weaves it into a surreal and wacky landscape in which Martinez can happily—for both writer and reader—play with language, humor, story, art, and artists.

The committee appreciated Cyrille Martinez’s inventiveness and impertinence, and found that as a work that is both experimental and accessible, it would be a fitting addition to the French Voices collection.

Notre-Dame du Nil, Scholastique MukasongaEditions Gallimard, 2012To be translated by Melanie Mauthner, to be published by Archipelago Books

The powerful voice of this francophone author illuminates a subject that American readers seldom find in fiction or non–fiction: the situation in Rwanda just before the Tutsi genocide. In Rwanda, a school for young girls lays perched on the banks of the Nile, close to its source in the mountains. Their families hope that in this isolated haven, situated far from the temptations of the capital, these girls will remain “pure” for their marriages, negotiated in the interest of lineage. Nevertheless, transgressions soon threaten this beautiful school baptized “Our Lady of the Nile,” where a rigorous “ethnic” quota limits the number of Tutsi students to 10%.  In this existential microcosm, Mukasonga reveals an atmosphere standing ominously on the edge of genocide.

Scholastique Mukasonga was born in Rwanda and moved to France in 1992, two years before the Rwandan genocide swept through her country. Her work bears witness to the humanity and horrors of the history of her homeland. Notre-Dame du Nil is the winner of the 2012 Prix Renaudot, the 2012 Prix Ahmadou Kourouma, and the 2013 Prix Océans.