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French Books USA: Week in Review

By Jasmine Bissete

Passing of Anne Wiazemsky

Anne Wiazemsky, the French actress and novelist who was for many years the muse of Jean-Luc Godard, has died at the age of 70. Among her written works are Canines, Aux Quatres Coins du Monde, and Hymnes à l’Amour; the latter was adapted into a film by Jean-Paul Civeyrac. Wiazemsky also penned the screenplay for Claire Denis’ film US Go Home.  Her prominent roles include Au Hasard Balthazar from director Robert Bresson and Godard’s La ChinoiseWeek End and One Plus One. Wiazemsky was the granddaughter of writer François Mauriac, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1952. Her My Berlin Child (Mon Enfant de Berlin) was published in English translation by Europa Books in 2011.

Remembering Robert Delpire

Art publisher, editor, and curator Robert Delpire has passed away at the age of 91. Delpire was a relentless advocate of photography and is largely credited with the elevation of the still image as an art form. He published the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Brassaï, Robert Franck, and Jousef Koudelka, among many others. Delpire founded the Centre National de la Photographie and served as its director for fifteen years. He was also active in the film industry, producing the Muhammad Ali documentary Float Like a ButterflySting Like a Bee. His wife, Sarah Moon, is a photographer.

Critical Praise for Ndiaye

French author Marie Ndiaye is known for novels set in familiar domestic spaces, her works often treading the fine line between fantasy and reality. Her latest book, My Heart Hemmed In, is a surreal, allegorical statement on our hidden pasts. Bookforum writes, “The novel transposes the racial, ethnic, and class-based divisions of modern French society into the register of myth, where specific, contingent exclusions are experienced as universal and mysterious laws….the fantastic elements… offer an alternative for probing the felt experience of an exclusionary world, suggesting one way for the novel to evolve if it wants to record the particular kinds of estrangement we face today.”

Boltanski Gets Rave Reviews Ahead of US Tour

In The Safe House, Christophe Boltanski relates his unconventional family history via a room by room description of his childhood home, where his grandfather hid from the Nazis. Kirkus Reviews writes, “Complex and meticulously plotted; this mystery house full of odd characters will make the reader consider storytelling as the building of a physical and mental space.” The novel also received a star review from Publisher’s WeeklyForeword Reviewscalls it “elegant, highly visual, alternatingly airless and soaring on the wind of inspiration.” Boltanski will be on tour in the US from October 23-30th, with an appearance at Albertine Books on October 25th and Columbia University on October 30th. Until then, here’s a clip of him giving a talk on his book, La Cache, at Duke University.

Homage to Pierre Michon

In an article for the New York Review of Books, Wyatt Mason reflects on his personal relationship with Pierre Michon as well as the author’s legacy. Mason has translated four of Michon’s works, including The Eleven and Small Lives, both published by Archipelago. Reflecting on Michon’s prolific oeuvre, Mason writes, “Glory; faith; belief; love; ambition; art; power; need; hurt; purpose; value: throughout Michon’s body of work, the reader encounters these words, in texts drawn from texts, and sees him hold them up for consideration, definition. The originality of his work is in his commitment to the reconsideration of such familiar things, and his success in finding forms that admit to the mixedness of the motives of all storytelling.”

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