“Marguerite Duras once said that one of a hundred novels make it to publication. I’m keen to celebrate those that do, and of those, that even smaller number that make it into English”
Rachel Kushner, Honorary Chair
The Albertine Prize, one of the rare literary reader’s choice awards in the United States, unveiled today its 2020 nominees, five works of fiction in French that have been translated into English and published in the U.S. over the past year. As of today, U.S. readers nationwide can vote for their favorite book online until November 25, 2020. The $10,000 prize is shared between the winning author and translator and presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy with support from Van Cleef & Arpels.
The five nominated books address the most pressing issues of our uncertain times with distinctive literary styles, written by a diverse roster of authors who show the breadth of the French and Francophone contemporary scene.
Animalia by Jean-Baptiste del Amo (transl. Frank Wynne, published by Grove Atlantic/Editions Gallimard) is a powerful criticism of violence towards animals, and what we have to lose in our battle against nature; social violence is also at the heart of Kannjawou by Lyonel Trouillot (transl. Gretchen Schmid, published by Schaffner Press/Editions Actes Sud),which draws a portrait of Haiti that is both grim and full of love.
“Muslim”: A Novel by Zahia Rahmani (transl. Matthew Reeck and published by Deep Vellum/Editions Sabine Wespieser) questions the author’s relationship with her Kabyl and Muslim origins in a similarly conflicted yet poetic way.
Reflecting more broadly on the folly of our times, Yannick Haenel blurs the lines between cinema and literature in Hold Fast Your Crown (transl. Teresa Fagan and published by Other Press/Editions Gallimard) by following one man in his search for truth.
In Vernon Subutex 1 (transl. Frank Wynne and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Editions Grasset), Virginie Despentes creates a “social saga” of epic proportions that follow our homeless antihero in a violent journey filled with drugs, sex and punk rock in grimy Paris.
The voting period will be open and accessible to United States-based internet users on the Albertine website through November 25, 2020. The author and translator of the prize-winning book will be honored in a virtual ceremony in early December 2020, presented by the Prize’s Honorary Chairs, acclaimed American author Rachel Kushner and French literary critic and TV and radio host François Busnel. The author will receive $8,000 and the translator will receive $2,000.
Dedicated to introducing the very best of contemporary French-language literature to American audiences, the annual prize was launched in 2017.
“Reading translated literature is essential to broadening our understanding of the world, especially in a time when international borders are closed and travel nearly impossible,” said Gaëtan Bruel, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States. “The contemporary French literary scene has so much to offer. It is vibrant, innovative, and more diverse than ever––qualities that are reflected in this year’s selection. We encourage everyone to discover, read and vote for their favorite!”
The Albertine Prize selection committee is composed of Honorary Co-Chairs, the staff at the Albertine bookstore, and the Book Department at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Each year, the committee selects five titles to shortlist from among the French-language fiction titles that were translated into English and published in the U.S. within the preceding calendar year.
All nominated titles are available for purchase in French and English at Albertine Books on Fifth Avenue and 79th Street or at Albertine’s online store. We thank LitHub as our media partner for this year’s edition of the Albertine Prize.
To vote for the Albertine Prize, please visit www.albertine.com/albertine-prize-2020
Complete List of Nominees
- Animalia by Jean-Baptiste del Amo, transl. Frank Wynne (Grove Atlantic/Editions Gallimard)
A small family farm marked by misery evolves into an industrial pig farm in this powerful fresco that questions violence towards animals and the downward spiral of humanity intent on dominating nature.
Jean-Baptiste Del Amo won the Goncourt First Novel Prize for his novel Une éducation libertine in 2008. Animalia, his fourth novel, won the Inter Prize in 2017, and was translated into 10 languages. As a vegan, he is involved in animal rights groups.
Book alike: Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
- Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel, transl. Teresa Fagan (Other Press/Editions Gallimard)
Melville meets Cimino and Coppola in this incandescent tale of a man’s search for truth. Blurring the lines between cinema and literature, this deeply original work is a true reflection about the sheer folly of our times.
Yannick Haenel is a columnist and the author of many novels and essays. He is the editor of the avant-garde magazine Ligne de risque, which he co-founded in 1997. His novel Hold Fast Your Crown was a finalist for the Goncourt Prize and the winner of the Médicis Prize.
Book alike: The Nix, Nathan Hill
- Kannjawou by Lyonel Trouillot, transl. Gretchen Schmid (Schaffner Press/Editions Actes Sud)
Five childhood friends enter adulthood in search of a better future in a place marked by the violent relationship between rich and poor. At once a grim picture of the consequences of Haiti’s international community’s occupation and a love song to the country.
Lyonel Trouillot was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and spent his teenage years in the US, before returning home to join the fight against the dictatorship. He is the author of 11 novels, two essays and a book of poetry. His La belle amour humaine was shortlisted for the Goncourt in 2011 and he was awarded the Wepler Prize for Yanvalou pour Charlie (2013).
Book alike: The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, Maryse Condé
- “Muslim”: A Novel by Zahia Rahmani, transl. Matthew Reeck (Deep Vellum/Editions Sabine Wespieser)
A young Kabylian woman immerses herself in her memories and questions her identity in a poetic reflection on being uprooted from home and struggling to understand what it means to be Muslim.
Zahia Rahmani is a writer and art historian, in charge of global art history exhibitions at INHA. Born in Algeria to a Harki father and a Kabylian mother, she moved to France in 1967. “Muslim”: A Novel is the second volume of a trilogy that also includes Moze, published in 2002, and France, Story of a Childhood, published in 2006.
Book alike: Citizen, Claudia Rankine
- Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes, transl. Frank Wynne (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Editions Grasset)
In a true “Human Comedy” of our times, tinged with drugs, sex and punk rock, a failing record store owner finds himself homeless, left only with the video legacy of a rock star.
Virginie Despentes is a writer and filmmaker. Her trilogy Vernon Subutex, published between 2015 and 2017, earned great success, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and adapted into a television series. She is the author of more than fifteen other works, including Apocalypse Baby, Bye Bye Blondie, Pretty Things, and the essay collection King Kong Theory.
Book alike: Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado
Albertine is a bookshop that brings to life French-American intellectual exchange. A permanent venue for free events and debates, the space offers more than 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from over 30 French-speaking countries around the world. Visit www.albertine.com.
About the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, intellectuals and innovators to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts. www.frenchculture.org.
About Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels was born in Paris’ Place Vendôme in 1906, following Alfred Van Cleef’s marriage to Estelle Arpels in 1895. Always striving for excellence, the Maison has become a worldwide reference through its unique designs, its choice of exceptional stones and its virtuoso craftsmanship, offering jewels and timepieces that tell stories and bring enchantment to life. Literature and poetry from famed authors such as Shakespeare, Jules Verne and Charles Perrault have inspired collections that go beyond the world of High Jewelry, allowing friends of the Maison to escape to mythical lands filled with magic and fairies, and to explore new horizons, from the mysterious depths of the ocean to the heart of the galaxy.
About Lit Hub
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