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French Books In The US - The 2019 Edition

This year, 515 titles in translation from French to English are scheduled to be published in the United States, on par with the record levels of 2018 (517), and a significant increase compared to the 2017 total (455).

The results of the annual survey undertaken by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy will be updated at the end of the year with final figures.

In fiction, 121 books translated from French, according to our latest tally, will have been published in the United States in 2019. Of these, half had been released in France in the last 5 years, which highlights the interest of American publishers for contemporary French-language fiction.

On par with last year, one third of the titles had been written by women. Among them, many have already been translated in the U.S. and come back with new titles, such as Delphine de Vigan and her thriller Loyalties (Bloomsbury Publishing), Maylis de Kerangal’s culinary fiction The Cook (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Ananda Devi’s historical and racial romance The Living Days (Feminist Press), Catherine Cusset’s literary homage Life of David Hockney (Other Press), Alice Zeniter’s French-Algerian fresco The Art of Losing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and the French-Rwandan author Scholastique Mukasonga’s collection of short stories, L’Iguifou (title to be announced in English, Archipelago Books).

Former winners of the Goncourt Prize, Leïla Slimani, with her new thriller Adele (Penguin), Laurent Gaudé, with his timely and provocative novel Hear Our Defeats (Europa Editions), and Pierre Lemaitre, with the second tome of his trilogy about the Péricourt family The Colors of the Inferno (Quercus Publishing), will try to repeat the feats of their first translated novels.

Some classics are slated for release in translations, such as Jean Giono’s A King Alone (New York Review of Books) or Georges Bataille’s Tomb of Heaven (University of Minnesota Press).

Major contemporary and beloved figures are also seeing their recent works published, such as the Haitian artist and poet Frankétienne (Ultravocal, Archipelago Books), the traveler Sylvain Tesson (Berezina, Europa Editions), Nobel Prize-winners Patrick Modiano (Family Record, Yale University Press) and Jean-Marie Le Clezio ("Mydriasis" followed by "To the Icebergs", Seagull Books), and members of the Académie Française Jean-Christophe Rufin (Le tour du monde du Roi Zibeline, title to be announced in English, Europa Editions) and Andreï Makine (L'Archipel d'une autre vie, title to be announced in English, MacLehose Press).

This year, several well-known poets among [our] 9 cataloged poetry collections such as Charles Baudelaire (Invitation to the Voyage, Seagull Books), Victor Hugo (Satan and His Daughter, University of Chicago Press) or Gérard de Nerval (The Prince of Fools, Black Coat Press), but also philosopher Edouard Glissant (Mahagony, University of Nebraska Press) or Moroccan thinker Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine (Scorpionic Sun, Cleveland State University) will see a book published in English.

172 non-fiction books are scheduled to be published this year, also on par with the record levels reached in 2016 (179) and 2018 (178). One fifth of them has been written by women, an increasing if frustratingly low number over the past three years.

With 51 titles, philosophy remains recognized as a French specialty. We’re glad to see that promising French language philosophers, trying to open new path in their field, are seeing their major works translated in the U.S. Among them let’s turn the spotlight on Charles Pépin (Self-Confidence, Other Press), Pascal Chabot (Global Burnout, Bloomsbury Publishing) or Elsa Dorlin (Self-Defense, Verso Books).

Once again, interest in towering figures such as Alain Badiou (who has eight titles in translation), Michel Foucault (four titles), Jacques Derrida (two titles) or Louis Althusser (two titles), sustained by the publication of their complete works and recent essays on their teachings such as Jacques le Sophiste: Lacan, logos et psychoanalyse by Barbara Cassin (Fordham University Press), is showing no sign of diminishing.

21 titles have been translated in History. Patrick Boucheron’s France in the World. A New Global History (Other Press), Steve Sainlaude’s France and the American Civil War (University of North Carolina Press) and Bruno Belhoste’s Paris Savant: Capital of Science in the Age of Enlightenment (Oxford University Press) focus and renew in particular our understanding of the role and influence of France in world history. Meanwhile in Vice, Crime and Poverty: How the Western Imagination Invented the Underworld (Columbia University Press) Dominique Kalifa recounts the untold history of the concept of the underworld and its representations in popular culture.

The Second World War remains a fruitful ground for research, as shown by Amos Reichman’s Jacques Schiffrin: A Publisher in Exile, from Pléiade to Pantheon (Columbia University Press), Jacques Semelin’s The Survival of the Jews in France 1940-44 (Oxford University Press), Christian Ingrao’s The Promise of the East. Nazi Hopes and Genocide, 1939-43 (Polity Press), and Olivier Wieviorka’s History of the Resistance in Western Europe, 1940-1945 (Columbia University Press).

Works revolve around the intersection between Religious Studies and Historical Researches, these being George Bensoussan’s Jews in Arabic Countries (Indiana University Press), Marie-Odile Goulet-Caze’s Cynicism and Christianity in Antiquity (WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co) and Jean-Christophe’s Fragile Moïse (Verso Books). In addition to these, seven directly religious texts originally published in French have made their way to the U.S. market.

Among the social and political essays which succeeded in crossing the Atlantic, Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics (Duke University Press), Yves Citton’s Mediarchy and Where Are We? An Outline of Human History by Emmanuel Todd (Polity Press) provide a fine analysis on contemporary issues, such as states’s “necropower” over the bodies, the failure of the social elevator or the hold of media on our democracies.

In Economics, Thomas Piketty and Stéphanie Hennette’s latest book How to Democratize Europe (Harvard University Press), to be released on April 12, on the crisis of governance in the Eurozone, will certainly be a point of lively discussions amongst readers.

Finally, we greet the arrival of promising new entrants in translation in the US, who will have debuted by way of their respective autobiographical works: French-Iranian author Delphine Minoui’s I'm Writing You from Tehran (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), actress Adélaïde Bon’s The Little Girl on the Ice Floe (Europa Editions) and journalist Philippe Lançon’s Disturbance (Europa Editions).

With 132 graphic novels translated in 2019 (against 146 in 2018 and 93 in 2017) confirms its interest for French comics.

Indispensable houses have ventured to invest in the worthiest latest French contemporary creations. Among them The Metropolitan Books, which will release in November 2019 the fourth volume of Riad Sattouf’s bestseller The Arab of the Future (more than 1, 5 million copies sold around the world) or Margaux Motin’s moving graphic novel Plate Tectonics (Archaia/Boom Studios), and the Seattle based publisher Fantagraphic Books, which acquired the rights of Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot’s graphic novels The Grand Odalisque and The Perineum Technique.

Meanwhile other publishers, in particular the British house Cinebook, carry on publishing the greatest classics of the Franco-Belgium Comics (Lucky Luck, The Regiment, Valerian, Gomer Goof, Blake & Mortimer, Marsupilami, Billy & Buddy).

Let’s conclude in noting the increasing number of illustrated biographies, a very trendy subgenre: David Blot and Mathias Cousin’s Song of the Machine: An Illustrated History of EDM from Disco to DJs to Daft Punk by (Black Dog and Leventhal), William Augel’s Young Mozart (Humanoids), Mauro Marchesi and Laurent Queyssi’s Phil, A Life of Philip K. Dick (NBM Comics), Kahil Marwan and Manuel Garcia Iglesias’s A. Einstein: The Poetry of Real (NBM Comics) and Renoir (Pegasus Books), Ceka’s The Rolling Stones in Comics! (NBM Comics), Jérôme Tubiana and Alexandre Franc’s Guantanamo Kid: The True Story of Mohammed El-Gharani (SelfMade Hero), Fabien Grolleau and Jérémie Royer’s Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage (Nobrow).

Last, but not least, thanks to the outstanding list of Twirl Books (24 titles), we have tallied 78 children books translated this year (against 66 in 2018 and 63 in 2017).

Enjoying a growing worldwide interest, books focused on the understanding of emotions, such as Tears by Sybille Delacroix (Owl Kids), Feelings Pull and Play by Alice Le Hénand and Thierry Bedouet (Chronicle Books) or Little Unicorn Is Scared/Angry by Aurélie Chien Chow Chine (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), and meditation for kids, including the French bestseller Sitting Still Like a Frog Activity Book by Eline Snel (Bala Kids) or Yoga Together! by Elisabeth Jouanne (Twirl Books), prevail this year as leading themes in childhood literacy.

Independent presses such as Le Rouergue, L’école des Loisirs, MeMo, Courtes et Longues, Hélium, Les Éditions des Éléphants, Rue du Monde were able to sell translation rights to forward-thinking American publishers.

French success stories such as Marc Boutavant, creator of the singular and tender Dumpster Dog, Isabelle Simlers’s poetic illustrations including My Wild Cat and A Web (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers), or Hervé Tullet’s colorful drawing experiences, including Draw Here or I Have an Idea (Chronicle Books), will have the chance to see several of their titles released, thanks to, among others, Enchanted Lion Books, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers and Chronicle Books.

Here is the 2019 French Books in the US list.

In the event that we have overlooked a publication or that your titles’ scheduled dates of publication are postponed, please email us at 972livre@gmail.com, and we will update our list without delay.

If you need more information about previous publications, here are the articles for 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

Several authors mentioned on this list will soon be visiting the United States (in their order of arrival): Florent Ruppert for The Perineum Technique (Fantagraphics Books), Delphine Minoui for I'm Writing You from Tehran (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Isabelle Simler for My Wild Cat and A Web (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers), Dominique Kalifa for Vice, Crime and Poverty: How the Western Imagination Invented the Underworld (Columbia University Press), Patrick Boucheron for France in the World. A New Global History (Other Press), Laurent Gaudé for Hear Our Defeats (Europa Editions), Yannick Haenel for Hold Fast Your Crown (Other Press), Jacques Semelin for The Survival of the Jews in France 1940-44 (Oxford University Press), Maylis de Kerangal for The Cook (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Please check our Authors on tour presentation for more information on author events.

We hope that these recommendations improve your future reading experience.

Noëlle Benoist

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