Les Meilleurs livres de 2016 (Best French Books in 2016) Posted by Elizabeth Schmermund on Jan 23, 2017 in Art, Culture, Literature
I’ve always been astounded, when walking into a French bookstore, at the amount of international literature (both translated and untranslated) featured on its bookshelves. Oftentimes, in the United States, American authors are highlighted to the exclusion of authors from other countries (although, of course, there are international authors who have enormous followings in the United States, including Zadie Smith and Elena Ferrante, among others). What this means is that, unfortunately, sometimes American book lovers can miss wonderful books from other countries–including from France.
So, here is a list of French books that have achieved both public and critical acclaim this past year in France. You may have heard of some of them already, and some may be completely new to you. Most of these books are not yet available in an English translation, however, they most likely will be soon. It’s also worth it to keep a look out for past books by these authors, which are more likely to have already been translated, if you are interested in reading them in English.
Repose-toi sur moi par Serge Joncort (Flammarion)
Two characters who seem to have little in common share the main plot of this story: Ludovic, a young widower who works in finance, and Aurore, a mother who feels pressure to keep up with her husband. They live in the same building and often meet to talk in the courtyard. But what will come of their meetings? Read the French review here.
La Cheffe, roman d’une cuisinière par Marie Ndiaye (Gallimard)
From the publisher’s website: Le narrateur raconte la vie et la carrière de la Cheffe, une cuisinière qui a connu une période de gloire, dont il a longtemps été l’assistant – et l’amoureux sans retour. Au centre du récit, la cuisine est vécue comme une aventure spirituelle. Non que le plaisir et le corps en soient absents, au contraire : ils sont les instruments d’un voyage vers un au-delà – la Cheffe allant toujours plus loin dans sa quête d’épure.
“The narrator tells the story of the life and career of The Chef, a cook who has had a very successful career, as his past assistant–and former lover. In this book, the kitchen is depicted as a place of spiritual adventure. It’s not that it is a place that is absent of pleasure or sexuality, in fact, quite the opposite: They are the instruments of a journey to the beyond–The Chef always going farther in his quest for refinement.”
Ce qu’il faut de terre à l’homme par Martin Veyron (Dargaud)
Based on Leo Tolstoy’s short story, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”, this graphic novel by Martin Veyron tells the story of the Siberian peasant Pacôme whose ambition for more land for him and his family begins an ambition that cannot be sated… Learn more here.