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Week in Review: April 15, 2019

by William Weingarten


The 2019 Albertine Prize Launches in Grand Fashion
The evening of April 3rd saw the launch of the third annual Albertine Prize event, at the beautiful Payne Whitney Mansion, where Albertine Books is nested. The prize rewards the best literature translated from French into English in the past year. Making the shortlist are critically acclaimed works from a variety of voices : Négar Djavadi’s Disoriental (Europa, tr. by Tina Kover), Leïla Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny (Penguin Random House, tr. by Sam Taylor), Eric Vuillard’s The Order of the Day (Other Press, tr. by Mark Polizzotti), Gaël Faye’s Small Country (Hogarth, tr. by Sarah Ardizzone) and Nathacha Appanah’s Waiting for Tomorrow (Graywolf Press, tr. by Geoffrey Strachan). Feeling overwhelmed? Luckily, Literary Hub released a compilation of interviews with the five short-listers. The winner of the Albertine Prize being uniquely decided by readers’ votes rather than by a judging panel, it’s a quick way to get familiar with the nominees and their works before heading over to Albertine’s voting page to take part in the decision-making before the voting period ends April 30th. The winner of the Albertine Prize will be announced June 5th.

Reveal of Man Booker's International Prize Shortlist
Man Booker has unveiled its 2019 International Prize shortlist, retaining prolific French writer Annie Ernaux from its original longlist of more than twice as many titles. This year’s selection of six works notably features five female authors and six female translators. Ernaux’s The Years (Seven Stories Press, tr. by Alison Strayer), constitutes “a new kind of autobiography [that] emerges, at once subjective and impersonal, private and collective”. Bettany Hughes, Chair of the prize shortlist, made note of the “vigorous shortlist”, featuring works “Subversive and intellectually ambitious with welcome flashes of wit." The award winner will officially be announced May 21st, at a London ceremony.

Best Translated Book Awards 2019 Longlist Prominently Features French Writers
The 12th annual Best Translated Book Awards has released its 2019 longlist for Fiction and Poetry, published April 10th by The Millions. Titles that made the longlist for the BTBA—founded by Three Percent editor-in-chief Chad Post—”hail from 24 different countries, [by] authors writing in 16 different languages”. Among the nominees are 9 books originally written in French, including Négar Djavadi’s Disoriental (Europa, tr. by Tina Kover), which recently made the shortlist for the 2019 Albertine Prize, Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man (New Press, tr. by Linda Cloverdale) and Anne Serre’s The Governesses (New Directions, tr. by Mark Hutchinson). The finalists for the awards in Fiction and Poetry will be announced on Wednesday, May 15. A panel of 9 judges will choose the eventual grand prize-winner in fiction, with a separate panel of 4 judges to discern the winner in poetry.

The Literary Partnership Behind Riffraff, a Bookstore-Bar in Providence, RI
In anticipation of the long, long-awaited return of Spring, Literary Hub commenced its 'Shelf Life' series on April 1st, turning a spotlight on independent booksellers all over the US. To kick things off, Literary Hublooked at Riffraff, a bookstore-bar in Providence founded in 2018 by stellar translator Emma Ramadan and Tom Roberge, nomad of the New York literary scene, who has worked with everyone from Penguin Publishing to our own Albertine Books. Articulated in the Providence Journal was Riffraff’s niche appeal. The Ramadan-Roberge pairing has filled their bookstore and nighttime spot with about 5,000 carefully curated books. Among Riffraff’s best-sellers thus far is the work of experimental French author Anne Garréta, whose “landmark, genderless novel”, Sphinx (Deep Vellum), Ramadan herself translated. Given its distinct deviation from the classic bookstore-cafe combo, Riffraff ought to top night-owl readers’ list of weekend hot spots going forward.

Noir Literature on Display at the Quais du Polar 2019
The Quais du Polar, a French literary festival celebrating the Mystery/Thriller genre, ran for the 15th consecutive year this past March 29-31. The event, held primarily in and around Lyon, France, saw an influx of over 100,000amateur noir authors and fans from around the world. Le Monde detailed in one article the important role that France plays for American writers of noir fiction; while American publishers are wary of publishing Americans’ noir works, French houses welcome them “à bras ouverts”. A piece by Le Figaro, meanwhile, highlighted the notable presence of Japanese noir mangas at the festival, providing readers a list of obscure, worthwhile reads. Among Le Monde’s book recommendations was the work the prolific Frédéric Paulin, author of La guerre est une ruse, which oeuvre earned him the Quais du Polar Readers’ Prize.

The Spotlight Centers on Édouard Louis
Art critic Jason Farago’s profile of French literary sensation Édouard Louis, titled J’Accuse! (after Émile Zola’s famous exposé) was recently featured in the New York Review of Books. The piece praises Louis and his works, inextricably linked as they are. Elaborated upon in a New York Times analysis, Louis’s meteoric rise is as much a result of his outstanding two-part sequence of memoirs, The End of Eddy and History of Violence (both published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and tr. by Lorin Stein), as of his political outspokenness. The staunch leftist Louis has fast become a powerful, charismatic voice in French politics. Louis’s own ‘J’Accuse !’, Who Killed my Father (New Directions, tr. by Lorin Stein), offers English-speaking audiences suitably complex insights and arguments on often poorly represented regions and demographics in France, from a voice intimately familiar with them.

'Revenge of the Translator' Breaks New Ground
Authored by translator Brice Matthieussent and translated from French to English by Emma Ramadan, Revenge of the Translator (Deep Vellum, 2018) has been the recipient of lavish praise by critics who call it a landmark achievement in translated literature. Awarded the Prix du Style upon its original French release in 2009, this “metatextual” work proves one wherein Ramadan “escapes from the confines of the translator’s note to enter and interact with the text she is translating.” The LA Review of Books had to say of the novel: “It’s a work that amounts to a critical reinvention that aspires... to the unraveling of the very standards by which [the translated literary] canon is praised.” Matthieussent is currently on tour in the United States, primarily in Texas but with forthcoming appearances on the East Coast as well.