Biography
 

EUGÈNE ATGET: THE INVISIBLE PHOTOGRAPHER

JACQUES BONNET

(LES BELLES LETTRES, 222 PAGES, 60 BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPHS, 2014)

In more than twenty years of work and personal initiative, I have collected photographs, 18″ × 24″ format, from all the streets of Old Paris. They are artistic documents of the beautiful architecture of the 16th to the 19th century: the old hotels, historic or unique houses, beautiful facades, beautiful doors, beautiful woodwork, door knockers, old fountains . . . This vast artistic and documentary collection is today complete. I can truthfully say that I possess all of Old Paris. —Eugène Atget

 Eugène Atget, a pioneer of documentary photography, has been widely recognized and is now displayed in institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the U.S. Library of Congress, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. He inspired and influenced photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Berenice Abbott. Yet, at his death, he was practically unknown; he left behind more than eight thousand photographs but little information about his education, his influences, or even his life. Almost a century later, Jacques Bonnet reveals, in this first-ever biography, an extraordinary man who didn’t live long enough to see the acclaim his work so deserved and finally received.

In The Invisible Photographer, Bonnet succeeds in showing the many aspects of a multifaceted artist. Eugène Atget studied drama at first, and worked as an actor in a traveling theater group in his twenties. He took his first photographs in 1888, at the age of twenty-nine, and did not stop until his death in 1927. He moved to Paris in 1890 and became a photographer, working for painters, architects, and stage designers. His architectural work brought him to the attention of the Carnavalet Museum and the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, which commissioned him, for a period of about eight years, to photograph all the old buildings of Paris. He continued this painstaking task for over thirty years, and this collection of photographs of Old Paris remains his most famous legacy—a body of work that showcases a nearly obsessive desire to document and highlight the architecture and people of Paris before they were lost forever to modernization.

In this well-documented biography, Bonnet uses details of Atget’s life to demonstrate his crucial choices as an artist. He explains Atget’s working methods, lifestyle, and major sources of inspiration. The author also describes Atget’s posthumous rise to fame, including the work of Berenice Abbott in bringing Atget’s photographs to MoMA, and his ever widening recognition. But Bonnet is most successful in his analysis of Atget’s work and his place in the larger history of photography at the turn of the twentieth century. With no fewer than sixty photographs and many quotes from artists, art critics, and other photographers, this biography encompasses an entire epoch that was pivotal to the future of photography as an art.

Jacques Bonnet is an editor, journalist, translator, and art historian. He has published, among other things, a memoir about his forty-thousand-volume personal library, Phantoms on the Bookshelves (Overlook Press, 2012; Denoël, 2008); a critical analysis of the work of Edgar Degas, Comment regarder Degas (Hazan, 2012); an homage to literary anecdotes, Quelques «Historiettes» ou Petit éloge de l’anecdote en littérature (Denoël, 2010); and a historical novel, À l’enseigne de l’amitié (Liana Levi, 2003).

Contemporary Culture and Politics
 

SMART

FRÉDÉRIC MARTEL

(ÉDITIONS STOCK, 408 PAGES, 2014)
 

***Translation sample available on request***
***Author’s previous best-selling book, Mainstream, translated into 20 languages***
***Spanish and Chinese offers received***

Despite common belief, the Internet, states best-selling author and researcher Frédéric Martel, is increasingly becoming a territorial instrument. Five years of research interviewing people in fifty countries on five continents provided Martel with the facts necessary to prove conclusively that the Internet is far from being a truly global phenomenon.

In Smart, a riveting exposé, Frédéric Martel explains that there is more than one internet. (He purposely does not use a capital I.) The core argument he offers is that the internet has been adapted and “Balkanized” in many more countries than we would expect. Depending on the political and economic structure of an area, the internet is used differently and represents another world from the one we, the industrialized western world, experience and suppose that others do, also.

In his introduction, Martel speaks about the Gaza Strip, Soweto, and Havana as examples of how varied internet experiences are and how little they may share. In Gaza, the internet represents the hope of emancipation; in Soweto, of coming out of penury; and in Havana, as surviving and perhaps overcoming a dictatorship. In each place he bases his conclusions on myriad interviews and hard facts, some of which are startling in their specificity and insight.

Martel goes further to explore the situation in China, where the censored internet hides behind the “Great Firewall,” wherein exists exact replicas of Western web giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. In Russia, he was daunted by the project of a “smart” city, Skolkovo, being built at astronomical cost outside of Moscow, and very behind schedule. It will be at once a technology incubator on the Stanford–Silicon Valley model and a residential city, connected to Moscow by high-speed rail. Other such cities are being built around the globe, at great cost, such as Konza Techno City in the semi-arid desert outside of Nairobi. Each place intends to become an innovator on the American model, but to reinvent itself locally.

The amount of information Martel has gathered and explained is enormous, challenging every assumption you might have about the internet and globalization.

Frédéric Martel is a researcher specializing in U.S. culture, and a best-selling author (his latest book, Mainstream, was sold in twenty countries). He is a columnist for France Info, and has spent the last eight years presenting Soft Power, a program devoted to creative industries and the Internet, which is the most important program on the subject on the radio station France Culture. He is the author of nine previous books. The Pink and the Black was published by Stanford University Press in 2000 (Le Rose et le noir, Seuil, 2008).

Fiction
 

AVERAGE

NINA BOURAOUI

(ÉDITIONS FLAMMARION, 283 PAGES, 2014)

A man lost in the masses, a country in crisis. As portrayed by Bouraoui, his story is haunting and poetic, in a style oscillating between traditional reserve and ultraviolent realism reminiscent of Michel Houellebecq.

Bruno has just turned thirty-five. He is neither married nor a father and he lives alone in a small apartment on the outskirts of Paris. Each morning he commutes into the city to Supelec, where he has been working for the last ten years. He assembles electronic components, a task he neither loves nor hates but which has the merit of staving off boredom. From time to time, he returns to his native Brittany to visit his recently widowed mother and his only friend, Gilles, whom he has known since vocational school. They talk about high school, better years when there were trips to nightclubs and the gorgeous Marlène. Ah, Marlène—Bruno would never forget her.

Day after day, Bruno is not really happy but not unhappy, either. He finds life is generally a chore brightened by a few pleasures—getting drunk on his couch and calling for phone sex. He knows he is part of a common herd, mostly unnoticeable, perhaps interchangeable, and increasingly worthless. Deep inside, however, he still hopes for a better life.

Then he learns that Marlène is back home and pulls himself together to try to take control of his life. Again, as in earlier years, he has hope. But his hopes come to nothing: His already dull life will fall apart as he has decided to love.

Nina Bouraoui is a French novelist and songwriter. She published her first book, La Voyeuse interdite, in 1991 (published in 1995 as Forbidden Vision by Station Hill Press), and has since published thirteen other books. Garçon manqué (Stock 2002) was published as Tomboy by Nebraska University Press in 2005. Bouraoui’s work has been met with critical acclaim from the beginning of her writing career. She is perhaps best known for being at the forefront of contemporary francophone North African writing (she is of Algerian descent), as well as contemporary lesbian/queer writing in French.

SPRING IN THE FALL

CHANTAL CREUSOT

(ÉDITIONS ZULMA, 400 PAGES, 2012)
 

***Sample translation available on request***
***More than 30,000 copies sold***

It’s the sort of novel that isn’t written anymore. Reminis­cent of Balzac in its x-ray vision of bourgeois life in the countryside, of Stendhal in its dissection of lovers’ torment, of Flaubert in its depiction of the relentless passing of time that scatters chances for happiness. —Le Républicain Lorrain 

A guaranteed pleasure to read, pure luxury contained in simple writing and masterful narration, with individual trajectories that intersect, collide, and pull apart. Chantal Creusot has an undeniable talent for describing the feelings, wounds, and desires of her characters. —Page

Captivating . . . As beautiful as one of the classics. —Le nouvel observateur

It all begins with Marie Granville, the guileless and dreamy servant at the local farm, and a walk through the woods with a German soldier in 1944. From there, like Russians dolls, stories open up one after another, from generation to generation, revealing lives of desperate desire, of love lost and found and lost again. Chantal Creusot’s one and only novel, Spring in the Fall, published posthumously, reads like a new classic with a narrative style that is deceptively simple and belies an acute and heartbreaking knowledge of humanity and its discontents.

In a small hamlet on the Cotentin peninsula in northwestern France, under German occupation, we discover a diverse cast of characters, each, like all of us, carrying their own secret histories and desires. There is Solange, who arrives naked and heavily pregnant at Marie’s door fleeing a bomb blast, an omen of Marie’s own near future. And there is Simon, her husband, who loved her so desperately until they were married and then promptly fell out of love. There is Marianne, who will do anything to shock and disgust her bourgeois parents; Darban, the public prosecutor and his philandering wife; and Laribière the lawyer, who tries to incorporate the Germans into village life.

Each story pulls the reader deeper into the depths of human longing and the unending yearning for happiness. Over the years the characters and their needs all overlap, cross, and diverge in unexpected and complex ways. Spring in the Fall is a masterful depiction of a region and a time in history, but even more powerfully a testament to the human spirit.

Chantal Creusot wrote Spring in the Fall between 1990 and 1995. In 1997 she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and spent the rest of her life either in a coma or a near total paralyzed state until her death in 2009. Her longtime friend and fellow author Hubert Haddad submitted her novel on her behalf, and it was published posthumously by Éditions Zulma in 2012. It continues to sell and grow in popularity thanks to the enthusiasm of her readers.

The Creole Battalion

Raphaël Confiant

(Mercure de France, 300 pages, 2013)
 

The war “over there” is always a greater mystery than the war we can see. And a war that took place before live video and instant replay is almost impossible to understand by those left at home. That is especially true when the soldiers are not fighting for their home country. How can a family in Martinique come to terms with the war their beloved sons, husbands, and brothers are fighting in Europe?

In The Creole Battalion, Raphaël Confiant gives voice to the thousands of young Martinican soldiers who gave their lives and limbs for France, their mother country; and to those behind in Martinique who awaited news or bodies of their loved ones. Confiant, a native of Martinique, blends reality with fiction using a series of nonlinear narratives that intersect poignantly, depicting the lives of the doomed youth of Martinique fighting in the notorious battles of the Somme, the Marne, and Verdun.

Man Hortense looks at the sky and tries to cope with the disappearance of her son, Théodore. She doesn’t understand why he wanted to enlist. What happened on that battlefield? How did he die? Lucianise wonders about her twin brother, Lucien, at the Battle of Verdun: Is he warm; does he have a comfortable bed? She pictures Lucien lost in the streets of Paris with a blonde-haired French girl . . . Euphrasie and her husband, Rémilien, exchange letters full of bravery and unexpected courage while he sits in a German prison camp. Confiant’s portrayal of Rémilien illustrates the racism endured by the Martinican soldiers. Does it matter that he speaks purer French than his Normand or Breton counterparts when they view him as the barbaric other? Confiant’s tragic characters are passionate and resilient despite it all, and never do they question their loyalty or dedication to France.

The Creole Battalion is a powerful illustration of the tragedy wrought by the colonial practice of sending foreign troops to fight for a country that is not fully their own.

Born in 1951, Raphaël Confiant is a Martinican writer best known for his contributions to Creole literature. Confiant was a leader of the créolité movement, and a proponent of the use of the Creole language, along with Jean Bernabé and Patrick Chamoiseaux. Together they wrote Eloge de la créolité. Confiant is a well-known writer in both Creole and French and is currently a lecturer at the University of the French West Indies and Guiana (UAG). His latest book translated into English is Mamzelle Libellule (Serpent à Plumes, 1994; Mamzelle Dragonfly Bison Books, 2001).

THE END OF THE WORLD IS LATE

J. M. ERRE

(BUCHET/CHASTEL, 416 PAGES, 2014)
 

***Sample translation available on request***
***Livres Hebdo best-seller***

The reader cannot help but delight in this modern tale about the power of a scary story. Warning, there’s a serious risk of dying of laughter. —L’Indépendant

Moments of hilarity are not rare and the story’s con­struction is so intriguing readers will be in suspense until the very end. —Le Soir

J. M. Erre delivers a rollicking novel that lambastes conspiracy theories and action-packed thrillers with the quick wit and good humor of P. G. Wodehouse and the grand social satire of Voltaire and Rabelais.

The End of the World Is Late begins at T minus four days until the end of the world, if everything goes according to plan. That’s entirely up to Julius and Alice, two amnesiacs in residence at the Saint-Charles Psychiatric Hospital; Captain Gaboriau, a police officer just five days away from retirement who deeply regrets his childhood fascination with detective novels and his ensuing career choice; and Tiresias, a secret organization that has been bamboozling humanity for centuries with a multitude of false conspiracies in order to conceal the real one, known as The Great Conspiracy Conspiracy (at least according to Julius’ blog, www.theendoftheworldislate.com).

Julius persuades Alice—who killed all 262 guests at her wedding in an accidental gas explosion, but who thankfully has retrograde amnesia that destroyed her ability to feel emotion so she doesn’t have to feel bad about it—to escape from the asylum and save the world. Julius knows just how to be the perfect hero; all that is needed is a romantic interest to distract from the quest, a good chase scene that ends with the appearance of a last-minute savior, and as many top-ten movie clichés as possible, such as, “This is where I leave you,” or “Go on without me,” or the more difficult but infinitely more satisfying, “Luke, I am your father.”

J. M. Erre is a high school literature and cinema teacher. He is the author of four other novels from Buchet/Chastel: Prenez soin du chien (2006), Made in China (2008), Série Z (2010), and Le mystère Sherlock (2010).

RIMBALDO

SERGE FILIPPINI

(ÉDITIONS DE LA TABLE RONDE, 160 PAGES, 2014)
 

***Longlisted for the Prix Renaudot***

Aden, Yemen, August 1880. Jules Suel, manager of the Grand Hôtel de l’Univers, has arranged for a photograph to be taken for publicity purposes. He is dapper in his elegant suit, looking pleased to pose among his faithful clients and friends. The photograph, discovered in 2008 in a thrift store in Paris, has been newly authenticated as including the French poet Arthur Rimbaud.

The now famous photograph inspired Serge Filippini to write the novel Rimbaldo. It brings to life the people captured in the photo, making them into full characters with their dreams, fears, and obsessions fully imagined. They all have volunteered, and are standing out in the oppressive heat and dust. Only the Bardey factory foreman (and arms and gold trader), a young fellow of twenty-six standing in the back, dressed in white, accepted rather reluctantly: the poet Arthur Rimbaud. The author imagines the hours leading up the moment the picture was taken. He brings together the lives of the seven characters, shopkeepers, explorers, and Rimbaud. There is only one woman among them, Emilie Bidault. Although she is married, she is infatuated with the poet and calls him “Rimbaldo.”

Serge Filippini is a writer, translator, and a screenwriter. He is the author of many novels, including L’Homme incendié (Phebus, published in English in 1999 as The Man in Flames by Dedalus).

DESTINATION BELZ

EMMANUEL GRAND

(ÉDITIONS LIANA LEVI, 368 PAGES, 2014)

At once an excellent Breton, Ukrainian, Romanian, mafia, and supernatural thriller. —Le Figaro

At times a sobering thriller, at others an inspired social novel, Terminus Belz deploys its beautiful architecture and musical style right to the last page. —Télérama

A detour to Belz is a must. —Livres Hebdo 

When Marko, an illegal immigrant from Ukraine, steps off the ferry on the island of Belz off the coast of Brittany, he knows he isn’t safe. The Romanian mafia is after him, but he soon finds that’s not his only problem. The islanders resent the inexperienced and often seasick foreigner for taking one of the few available fishing jobs. Emmanuel Grand’s atmospheric debut intertwines haunting suspense with local legend and contemporary social issues.

 Marko immigrates to France hidden in the back of a truck driven by two Romanian mobsters. Like his fellow clandestine travelers, he is in search of a better life and opportunities not available in his home country. The trip doesn’t go as planned, however. Once in Europe, the four hidden Ukrainians overpower their smugglers, set fire to the truck, and split up. The thoughtful and determined Marko continues west to Brittany. He might not be able to blend in there, but he might have a chance at a quiet life if he can remain under his pursuers’ radar. In Belz he takes a job on a fishing boat and quickly comes to view his boss as a father figure. He even begins to make friends—Venel, the eccentric bookstore owner; Marianne, the fiancée of his boss’s lost son—but on an island where everyone has a history, Marko remains an outsider.

While Marko hides in plain sight, the Romanian mafia hit man Dragos speeds across France in a stolen Audi, picking off the Ukrainian fugitives one by one.

Belz is known to some as “the island of the mad,” and it is only when one of his fellow fishermen is brutally murdered that Marko begins to understand why. Hounded by threats from the Romanian mafia; the French police; xenophobic islanders; the local legend of Ankou, the angel of Death; and his own past, Marko must solve the mystery of the islander’s death before he becomes a suspect—or worse.

Born in Versailles, Emmanuel Grand spent his childhood near the Atlantic coast and now lives outside Paris with his wife and four daughters. During the day, he is in charge of website design for a large company; in the early morning, he writes. Destination Belz is his first novel.

 THE NATIONAL WRITER

SERGE JONCOUR

(ÉDITIONS FLAMMARION, 390 PAGES, 2014)
 

***Sample translation available on request***
***Shortlisted for the prestigious Prix Renaudot***

An ode to the power of fiction. —Elle

The press for The National Writer, which has been uniformly superb, compares it to a novel by Georges Simenon or a movie by Claude Chabrol. What does it mean to be a writer? Joncour presents us with a clear portrait, in a novel that is at times dark, at times hilarious, and always suspenseful.

The national writer, as so brilliantly described by Serge Joncour, is a mid-list author from Paris invited to spend a month in the small town of Donzières, buried in the unknown middle of Burgundy. The mayor receives him with fanfare and arranges for his participation in writing workshops, readings, discussions, and any other possible literary events. In return, the national writer has agreed to write a short piece about his stay in the town, preferably glorifying the merits of its residents and beauty of the region.

Serge, the author in question (who shares a name with the author of this book), has just broken with his lover and believes any change will help him recover from the loss of her. When he gets off the train in Donzières, the weather is dreadful and the bookseller has forgotten to pick him up at the station. As he waits at the café, he is immediately struck by the front-page story in the local newspaper. Commodore, a controversial member of the community, who owns a large swath of the surrounding forests, has disappeared, and a young couple who rented a home from him is suspected of involvement. The man, Aurélik, has been arrested on suspicion of murder. The woman, Dora, a Hungarian immigrant, is pictured with him on the front page of the newspaper and Serge cannot take his eyes off her face. He is entranced; he tears out the page.

Against the warnings of the residents, Serge becomes a private investigator as much as a writer. The locals tell him he will become a suspect himself, but the writing workshops are depressing and the bookstore readings underattended. Looking too often at the picture from the paper, he spends much of his time pursuing, and at last catching, Dora, raising more than a few eyebrows in the town. To clear her name, he delves further into the story of Commodore’s disappearance, and he becomes less interested in the reason he came to the town and increasingly fascinated with the old man’s plight.

Joncour brilliantly illustrates how reality and fiction can become one in the mind of a writer. He also opens the door and sheds light on the inner workings of a writer’s mind and the mysteries of finding inspiration. The National Writer is a mixture of irrepressible humor and dark suspense.

Serge Joncour is the author of ten previous books, including U.V. (Transworld, 2005; Le Dilettante, 2003/Folio 2005; winner of the Prix France Télévision).

THE LAST GUARDIAN OF ELLIS ISLAND

GAËLLE JOSSE

(NOIR SUR BLANC, 176 PAGES, 2014)
 

***Sample translation available on request***
**2015 European Prize for Literature**
**Rights sold in Italy, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Spain, and Georgia**

Drawing her inspiration from real facts, Gaëlle Josse has written a novel as melancholy as it is moving. —Livres Hebdo

Ellis Island opened with a celebration on January 1, 1892. That day three large ships landed seven hundred immigrants. The island became the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station, and by the time it closed sixty-nine years later, twelve million immigrants had been processed. Against this background, Gaëlle Josse imagines the last guardian, John Mitchell, alone on the island for precisely nine days and nine nights. He starts to write a memoir of his life and the life of the inspection station.

The character of Mitchell writes movingly about his personal life: about Liz, his great love, who was only twenty-six when she died on the island where she was working as a nurse; and then about Nella, an Italian immigrant with whom he felt in love at first sight. The women had very different lives, but both had suffered and in their own ways tormented Mitchell.

Mitchell discloses the secrets and often forgotten ways of the immigrant inspection station. He tells of the arrival procedures, including the twenty-nine questions asked of the tired, weary, and confused immigrants and their need to prove that they had between eighteen and twenty-five dollars to support themselves. True-to-life portraits, both of immigrants and of agents, give us a fascinating and accurate idea of what was happening in such facilities at this time. Nine days and nine nights of recording memory give us a never-before-seen glimpse into what Ellis Island used to be.

Gaëlle Josse is the author of three books, among which Les heures silencieuses (Autrement, 2011) has been translated into several languages, and Noces de neige (Autrement, 2013) will be adapted to the cinema. In France, her work is studied in many schools.

STRANGER IN MARRIAGE

EMIR KUSTURICA

(J. C. LATTÈS, 270 PAGES, 2015)
 

Emir Kusturica’s six linked short stories are set in a commonplace but unique universe peopled with fabulous characters. Three young adults with a range of problems are growing up in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1970s. The rebellious teenagers are confronted with an adult world that they cannot yet see clearly.

In the first short story, a young man celebrates his birthday and hopes his father will remember the special day; in the second, declining temperatures serve as a pretext for political and philosophical issues; in the third, the Winter Olympics are taking place in Sarajevo—without snow. The fourth story could be interpreted as a reflection on reading; the fifth story links the dangers of snakes to those of love. In the final story, all the elements of the preceding stories are pulled together to make a surprising and beautiful whole.

In each story the author combines love and tragedy and shows sensibility and humor as he mixes reality with fantasy. Beneath the prodigious extravaganza of Stranger in Marriage are flickering reflections of our world: the mystery of death, the existence of a soul, the complexity of a nation.

Emir Kusturica is a famous Serbian filmmaker, actor, and musician. He has been recognized for several internationally acclaimed feature films and is one of the few directors to get two Palme d’Or awards, the highest honor at the Cannes Film Festival. 

WAR IS FOR THE ANIMALS

NICOLAS MATHIEU

(ÉDITIONS ACTES SUD, 368 PAGES, 2014)

Rarely is a debut thriller this ambitious so successful . . . —L’Express

Nicolas Mathieu’s engrossing and timely debut thriller, War Is for the Animals, explores the plummeting depths of human depravity in times of hardship and crisis.

A factory in Alsace-Lorraine closes, leaving many workers out of options and desperate, but none as desperate as Martel. After losing his job and blowing through the money he embezzled from the union in order to pay for his mother’s retirement home, he’s forced to ask for money from the local mob. They agree, but in return they ask him to kidnap a prostitute. As each successive decision turns sour—the factory administration calls for an audit of the union finances, the prostitute escapes, and the mob begins to circle—Martel is driven ever deeper into a web of lies and cover-ups.

Martel’s precipitous fall from grace ensnares many of his fellow townspeople along the way: Victoria, the kidnapped and escaped prostitute of unknown eastern European origin; Rita, the workplace safety inspector who rescues Victoria from the side of the road and plans to adopt her; Pierre, a former assassin for the OAS, a dissident paramilitary group that fought for Algeria to remain a French colony; and Bruce, his bodybuilder grandson, who persuades Martel to take the deal with the mob. Their voices intertwine and mesh gracefully to build a vivid and complex portrait of a blue-collar French town and the last gasp of hope for the manufacturing industry that once supported it.

Nicolas Mathieu currently writes for an online news website. War is for the Animals is his first novel.

OF AMBER AND SILK

NEDJMA

(ÉDITIONS PLON-PERRIN, 199 PAGES, 2014)
 

***Author’s former best-seller, The Almond, sold 120,000 copies in France***
***The Almond was translated into 25 languages***

Of Amber and Silk continues the autobiographical best-seller, The Almond, which describes the evolving sexual life of a Muslim woman in Morocco. Badra, a young virgin bride, finds she is as invisible to her husband as she is to the world. She escapes to Tangier and meets Driss, an older man, more experienced than she, and just returned from France. Her sexual awakening and blossoming and the resulting promiscuity is the subject of the book. The Almond caused a sensation because it was the first window into the erotic life of a Muslim woman who broke all taboos and risked death for leaving her husband to find a better life. The acclaimed author writes again of the same woman, now alone in the small Moroccan village of Imchouk.

In Of Amber and Silk, Badra is far from Tangier and, with Driss dead, completely adrift from her former life. Her first-person narrative of despair and solitude alternates with the first-person sexual exploits of Karim, a young Moroccan man returned from Paris, where he had gone to study in the late 1980s.

In Morocco, Karim had spent his young manhood, like so many of his friends, trying to find out what a woman looked like under her clothes and frustrated by his inability to find sex in his own country. Still a virgin at the age of twenty, his chapters relate in salacious detail his sexual exploits with a succession of French women, exulting in their every quirk and difference. But when Karim meets Malika, he finds a love that is more than sexual. Malika is not Karim’s usual type, but her fiery personality and liberated sexuality move him. The only problem is that she would rather be free; and to prove it to him, she sleeps with his friends. Karim loses his lust for women and life, and returns home, defeated by love.

Badra, having recovered from the affairs of her youth, has become a mature woman, wiser in the ways of love. She is the one Karim approaches to tell about his love and sex life, to somehow try to understand where it has all gone wrong. Ultimately these two misfits reach a deep if culturally atypical understanding of the opposite sex.

Nedjma is the internationally best-selling author of The Almond (Grove Atlantic, 2006), which stood out as the first erotic novel written by a Muslim woman. Nedjma is also the author of La traversée des sens (Plon, 2009). Due to a number of death threats when The Almond was published, she uses the nom de plume Nedjma.

THE CURSE OF THE MUSTACHIOED BANDIT

IRINA TEODORESCU

(GAÏA ÉDITIONS, 150 PAGES, 2014)

***Rights sold in Germany***
***Included in the Top 10 Best Picks: First Novels 2014 in Le Figaro Littéraire***

It demands to be read in one sitting, without breaks . . . It’s lively, original, full of life and the joy of language, but towards the end it also becomes more realistic, more emotional. A real success. —Livres Hebdo

This tragic and delirious novel is also a beautiful homage to the French language, with an elegant style and a percussive rhythm. It’s funny, picaresque, moving, frenetic. . . . An original book that reminds us that man is never very far from crazy. —Page des Libraires

In an exceptional debut novel, Irina Teodorescu takes readers on a wild and raucous ride through a hundred years of Romanian history, as one family stumbles from generation to generation under the weight of an ancient curse.

In a faraway land, there is a bandit with a mustache so long that it falls in his plate and bits of his favorite food, white beans in sauce, get stuck in there forever. His fetid breath and the ever-present flecks of white bean do not do much to inspire friendship in others, but that’s fine with him because he does his good work alone—stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. That is, until he meets Gheorghe Marinescu, a wealthy man from the village, at the local barbershop—Gheorghe is there for a mustache trim, the mustachioed bandit is there to steal a sharp blade.

Gheorghe, seeing an opportunity, offers shelter to the fatigued do-gooder in his basement and promises to return soon with food and water. The mustachioed bandit waits and waits, snacking first on the white bean flakes in his mustache and eventually, in desperation, on hairs of the mustache itself. Finally, Gheorghe offers one bowl of water in exchange for the location of the bandit’s remaining treasure—then abandons him in the basement for good. The mustachioed bandit eats the bowl and then drinks his sweat, tears, and piss. Then, with his last, starving, rancid breaths, the (still somewhat) mustachioed bandit curses Gheorghe Marinescu and his descendants until the distant year 2000.

Gheorghe is the first to fall victim to the curse, and after him all the firstborn sons in the Marinescu line share in his unfortunate fate. Left behind are the women who loved them: Maria the Younger, Maria the Stupid, Maria the Ugly, Elisabeta Who Never Saw the Sea, Ana the Pretty Masochist, and Margot the Viper. Each generation attempts to break the curse, beginning with prayers, priests, and pilgrimages, and finally even a sacrificing a daughter to a convent, but each effort is thwarted in turn by greed, lust, and arrogance. The misadventures of the Marinescu family, who may be prune-liqueur distillers, Siberian reindeer farmers, corrupt politicians, doctors, and poor drunk fools but always blue-blooded, will have the reader laughing out loud from the first to the last, until the year 2000.

Irina Teodorescu was born in Bucharest, Romania, but has lived in France since 1998. The Curse of the Mustachioed Bandit is her first novel, after the short story collection Treize (Éditions Emue, 2011).

PAULINE’S PRINCIPLE

DIDIER VAN CAUWELAERT

(ÉDITIONS ALBIN MICHEL, 296 PAGES, 2014)
 

Pauline has one principle in life: that love serves to build true friendship. Maxime and I are the living proof. We could have limited ourselves to loving the same woman, and to being friendly rivals . . . But no. In applying Pauline’s Principle, Maxime decided to become my guardian angel. And that’s how an outlaw with a catastrophic level of generosity took charge of a depressive novelist. —From Pauline’s Principle

Alternating between past and present, this is the story of a most unusual love triangle.

Quincy is a failed novelist. Maxime is a shady operator serving time in jail to protect his boss. They are both in love with Pauline, who deeply cares for them, and whose affection binds them together.

In order to preserve her love for them, Pauline limits it to her version of friendship. She takes leave of them when she moves to Oxford to pursue a degree in computer science. They receive no news from her for years, until an invitation arrives for her graduation. On graduation night, which is also the eve of her wedding to a fellow graduate, they have a one-night threesome. In Pauline’s mind, this seals the great love of her life.

As it turns out, none of the three will be lucky in love. Maxime and Quincy put their lives on hold hoping that Pauline will come back to them (or at least to one of them). Eight years after their one-night tryst in Oxford, almost by chance, Quincy meets Pauline again. She sleeps with him and then brings him to see what has become of Maxime. Maxime is suffering the onset of Alzheimer’s and has named Quincy as his legal heir. With money and sudden determination, Quincy decides to make the first move of his failed life. He travels to England and buys a house for the three of them to live in. Pauline agrees to marry Quincy, and Maxime agrees never to leave them.

Woven throughout the novel is the question of whether literature imitates life or creates it. The suspense carries right through to the last page.

Didier Van Cauwelaert is the author of the Goncourt-winning One-Way (The Other Press, 2005) and Out of My Head (adapted to the cinema as Unknown in 2011, starring Liam Neeson), among other best-sellers.
 

Memoir
 

THE JOURNEY TO PITCHIPOÏ

JEAN-CLAUDE MOSCOVICI

(ÉCOLE DES LOISIRS, 138 PAGES, 1995)
 

***More than 330,000 copies sold***

The children in the Drancy concentration camp were aware that their fellow inmates often disappeared on a one-way trip to an unknowable destination. They named it Pitchipoï, shorthand for both the hope that these journeys might reunite them with their parents and the ever-present dread that they might lead somewhere worse. The Journey to Pitchipoï is a classic text, taught throughout France, the true story of one remarkable man that illustrates the plight of so many Jewish children in occupied France during the Holocaust.

The author, Jean-Claude Moscovici, was six years old and his sister only a toddler in 1942 when his father was arrested. His mother tried to ensure the safety of her children by leaving them with Christian neighbors. On her own, she escaped by bike and later on foot to the south of France. The children waited at the neighbors’ for word from their mother, watching their eerily quiet and empty house across the street, until, under the guise of concern for their welfare, the mayor brought the children’s situation to the attention of the local German authorities. The response from SS Captain H. D. Ernst was clear: “The harboring of Jewish children in French families is undesirable and will not be authorized under any circumstances.”

The children were held in a local prison and then sent by train to Drancy, where they first heard the whispered rumors of Pitchipoï and the trains that headed ever farther east. Moscovici did his best to take care of his little sister, sharing bread from a friendly guard and washing her under the sputtering spigot in the large, open, communal toilet. A few women in the camp who were there with their children gave them what help and comfort they could, but his sister soon grew emaciated and sick and they were both covered with sores and fleas.

And then it was their turn to leave the camp. But Moscovici and his sister were not headed to the train station; they were not to penetrate the mystery of Pitchipoï. Under the auspices of the UGIF (l’Union Générale des Israelites de France), an organization established by the French government whose role was to represent the Jewish people, they were returned to Paris. The organization was allowed a small refuge for children, and from there Moscovici and his sister were able to regain contact with their mother and embark on a life in hiding together. Their father, and many members of their family, never returned.

Moscovici’s story is known throughout France. His painstaking work tracking down the documents associated with each step of his and his sister’s journey reveals the extensive cooperation of the French authorities with the Germans’ master plan.

Jean-Claude Moscovici has been a pediatrician in France since 1972.

Picture Books
 

SO YOU THINK YOU’RE THE LION NOW?

URIAL LANGLOIS

ILLUSTRATED BY LAETITIA LE SAUX

(ÉDITIONS DIDIER JEUNESSE, 30 PAGES, 2014)
 

***Spanish rights sold***

The lion sits on top of his throne, at the very top of the highest hill, bossing all his subjects around day and night. “Amuse me!” “Bring me something to drink!” “Scratch my bottom!” he roars. He even makes everyone call him Supremely-Powerful. That is, until one day . . .

The pigeon, or Good-for-Nothing, as Supremely-Powerful calls her, decides she’s had enough and goes down the hill to live on the beach where no one will boss her around. The lion is not worried; he knows she’ll be back. Then the sheep (aka Little-Pile-of-Droppings) follows the pigeon down the hill, and then the dog (Bag-of-Drool) goes too, and then all the animals—the cow (Poopy-Butt), the snake (Hissy-Mouth), the giraffe (Asparagus-Neck), and all the rest of the lion’s subjects.

When they get to the beach, some of the animals make the mistake of trying to be the boss. “Bring me a deck chair!” cries the sheep. “I hope my kennel is ready,” says the dog. “Bring me something to graze on!” shouts the mule. But the other animals have learned their lesson and they’re not going to let anyone boss them around anymore. All they have to say is, “So you think you’re the lion now?”

Meanwhile, the lion is left alone at the top of the hill. With no one around to make his food, or knit his clothes, or give him rides, what is a lion to do? So You Think You’re the Lion Now? is a funny modern fable about bossy-pants and how best to deal with them.

While growing up, Urial Langlois learned a number of diverse disciplines including gymnastics, classical dance, and electric guitar. He is now a teacher and enjoys helping his students discover new stories. So You Think You’re the Lion Now? is his first picture book.

Laetitia Le Saux has illustrated numerous picture books, including several for Didier Jeunesse, such as Boucle d’ours (2013), La culotte du loup (2011), and Le cha-cha-cha des thons (2010).

THE BLUE GOAT

MICHEL RAYMOND AND SCILLA, ILLUSTRATED BY PAULINE COMIS

PREFACE BY NANCY HUSTON

(ÉDITIONS LE POMMIER, 43 PAGES, 2013)
 

Fortunately, certain scientists, including the talented Michel Raymond, are eager to introduce children to the thrilling, suspenseful quest not for the Holy Grail, a treasure chest, or an invisibility cloak, but for scientific truth.

from the preface to The Blue Goat by Nancy Huston

In a time of poor harvests, seven villages are having a particularly hard time. A dwarf appears with a proposal for the villagers that will make life easier forever. The Blue Goat is a charming and original fairy tale that, like traditional ones, teaches while it entertains. The lesson here is the principle and benefits of natural selection.

Once again the harvest has been poor for the people of the seven villages, as bad as it was last year and the year before. The people are not just unhappy, they are hungry! What to do?

And then, in the main square of the biggest village, a dwarf appears. The people gather around to see what will happen next. The dwarf tells them that what they need to do to improve their lives is create and raise blue goats—goats twice as big as he is.

The next day, a committee of the wisest people in the village gather to discuss the problem. Create a breed of blue goats? But their goats are not blue. Make the goats big? But most of their goats are small. Some of the wise people think it isn’t possible to change the size and color of goats. But some of the people have ideas on how to do it. One wants to try stretching the legs of the young goats, another to only let the goats whose coats are closest to blue have kids, and yet another thinks that doing a “goat dance” would do the trick. The committee suggests six possible ways of breeding big, blue goats. Over the next years they try all of them, and finally after two generations of breeding, they succeed! And they all live happily ever after.

Michel Raymond is director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and works at the Institute of Sciences of Evolution in Montpellier. He is the author of Cro Magnon toi-même (Seuil) and Pourquoi je n’ai pas inventé la roue (Odile Jacob). The Blue Goat is his first children’s book.

Religion
 

POPE FRANCIS: AS HE DOES IT

CAROLINE PIGOZZI AND HENRI MADELIN

(ÉDITIONS PLON, 285 PAGES, 2013)
 

***A LivresHebdo bestseller***

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a surprise success in his native Argentina: achieving a degree in chemical technology before choosing the priesthood, joining the Society of Jesus, teaching literature and psychology, working in the slums, and finally being named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II. Now as Pope himself, he continues to surprise, intriguing and fascinating people both in and outside the Catholic Church. According to the news, we know he is bald, likes to talk to average people, and wants to change the attitude if not the structure of the Church. To learn who he really is, however, we need expert guidance. Caroline Pigozzi, a Vatican specialist, and Henri Madelin, a respected Jesuit priest, reveal different aspects of Saint Peter’s 265th successor.

Pigozzi followed Jorge Mario Bergoglio from his arrival in Rome to his election as Supreme Pontiff. She then traveled to the Pope’s native Argentina, where she interviewed the people and priests closest to him. She was one of the journalists to board the official jet during his inaugural trip to Brazil and had privileged access to the Pope and took the opportunity to question him about the Jesuits. At the Vatican, she has been a special guest for his private mass. Pigozzi provides unique insight into the procedures of the Conclave that brought him to office, the Pope’s career, and his long-term friends, but perhaps most interesting are her comments on his daily life.

In the second part of the book, Pigozzi interviews Father Madelin, who was a provincial superior for France for six years, about Francis’s background, his views on reformation, and his strong ties to the Society of Jesus.

These two complementary testimonies reveal Pope Francis to be an intensely moving, charismatic, and political person. Thanks to a thorough investigation in the field, Father Madelin’s bold confessions, a unique presentation of former Jesuit students, and an exceptional series of photos, we see Pope Francis as a man who is always surprising, even in private. And we understand him to a greater depth because of the inclusion of the astonishing historical adventure of the Jesuits.

Caroline Pigozzi is a senior writer for Paris Match and religion specialist for the radio broadcast Europe 1. She is the author of best-sellers, among them: Jean-Paul II intime (Robert Laffont, 2005, translated into eight languages), and Le Vatican indiscret (Plon, 2012, translated into Italian, Russian, and Polish).

Henri Madelin, a Jesuit priest, was a lecturer at Sciences Po, and teaches at the Centre Sèvres in Paris. After running the magazine Études, he is now an advisor for the Jesuit Service for European Issues in Brussels and in Strasbourg. He has also published many books, including Sous le soleil de Dieu (Bayard) and Les Chrétiens entrent en politique (Cerf).

Social Sciences
 

DISCOURSE AND THE PHILOSOPHICAL WAY OF LIFE

PIERRE HADOT

(LES BELLES LETTRES, 320 PAGES, 2015)
 

No text by this incomparable master should be overlooked. —Le Monde

The recent publication of a compendium of rare or previously unpublished texts by Pierre Hadot . . . gives us an opportunity to rediscover the originality of his thought. —L’Humanité

Hadot is famous for showing how the practice of ancient philosophy was not only an addition to theory and discourse, but a “way of life”. The collection of texts by Pierre Hadot in Discourse and Philosophical Way of Life highlights the philosopher’s major contribution to philosophy: the theory that ancient philosophy is more practical than it is theoretical.

In defense of his view, Pierre Hadot’s texts underscore that Greek and Roman schools of philosophy were first and foremost places of teaching and debates, based on the masters’ discourses. What students were taught laid the foundation for specific behaviors, leading to spiritual progress. Hadot thus identified some ancient “spiritual exercises,” clearly preceding Michel Foucault’s interest in such practices. Hadot’s work shows how crucial it is to remember the ultimate objective of philosophy: learning to live in a world characterized by unnecessary forms of suffering and disorder, which were caused by our ignorance. According to Hadot, the key to understanding this original philosophical objective is to be found in Socrates’ thinking about the living contact between human beings.

Hadot’s recurring theme is that philosophers should be judged by how they live their lives rather than by what they say or write. Most of his teachings are drawn from ancient schools of philosophy such as Cynicism, Epicureanism, and Stoicism, because, as he explains, they aimed primarily to form rather than only to inform. According to him, today’s scholars have largely lost sight of this aspect of philosophy, since they only sing praises of theoretical contemplation. Hadot’s conception of ancient philosophy and his historical narrative of its disappearance have been widely recognized and acclaimed.

Although many of Hadot’s previous books address the link between philosophical theory and spiritual practices, none of them deeply analyze it. This collection of selected texts by Hadot, some of which are previously unpublished, focuses on this remarkable theory while restoring its role and place in modern-day philosophy. The book ends with a short biography of Pierre Hadot, written as a tribute by Hadot’s friend and colleague, Philippe Hoffman.

Pierre Hadot (1922–2010) worked successively as a CNRS researcher, the Director of Graduate Studies at École Pratique des Hautes Études, and a professor at Collège de France. He was the first author to introduce Ludwig Wittgenstein’s thought in France. His body of work is impressive. Some of his books have been translated into English, including Plotinus, Or the Simplicity of Vision (1993, University of Chicago Press), Philosophy as a Way of Life (1995, Blackwell), The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (1998, Harvard University Press), What is Ancient Philosophy? (2002, Harvard University Press,) and The Veil of Isis (2006, Belknap Press).

ELEMENTS FOR AN ETHIC OF VULNERABILITY: HUMANS, ANIMALS, AND NATURE

CORINE PELLUCHON

(LE CERF, 352 PAGES, 2011)
 

***2012 prize from the Académie Française***

We think of the rather ill-defined notion of “ecology” in a positive light. And yet, politically people inflict violence on animals and on our land; we treat organized labor and disabled persons without respect. Corine Pelluchon notes that in terms of applied ethics we generally consider these vulnerable entities separately. In Elements for an Ethic of Vulnerability, she suggests that we link these fields in order to make the most needed changes in our view of ecology. The problem she poses is how to determine which ethic and which changes in democracy will make it most possible to take ecology into account in our daily lives.

Corine Pelluchon presents a rigorous concept of individual and societal responsibility linking fields of applied ethics that are usually studied separately: culture and agriculture, our relationship to animals, the organization of labor, and the integration of disabled persons. She promotes a new way of thinking ethically about the topic that produces a new kind of political organization in these fields.

Far from basing politics on ecology, the author shows that ecology cannot be taken seriously without revising our view of humanity, and thus she provides a new basis for liberalism. The ethics of vulnerability are concerned about what the law should be, and integrate a concern for preserving the planet and not continuing to impose a diminished life on other humans and species with core politics.

This revolutionary book shows how bioethics and ecology challenge the founding principles of humanism.

Corine Pelluchon is a professor at the university of Franche-Comté (Besançon, France). A specialist in the works of Leo Strauss and Emmanuel Levinas, and in moral and political philosophy, she has devoted much of her research and teaching to issues of applied ethics, such as medical and biomedical ethics and environmental ethics. She has taught medical ethics at Boston University and lectured in biomedical ethics at Columbia University. She has published many books, and won the François Furet Prize for Leo Strauss: une autre raison, d’autres lumières (Vrin, 2005, forthcoming in English in March 2014, SUNY Press).

Young Adult
 

IN SEARCH OF LOST PEACOCKS

ANGÉLIQUE VILLENEUVE

(ÉDITIONS DES GRANDES PERSONNES, 188 PAGES, 2011)

A joyful, funny, and imaginative text, full of discoveries, to be savored by parents and children together, like a rich and satisfying meal. —Les incorruptibles

Dive in to this crazy, but also touching, literary adventure—the principal theme turns out to be family—carried by a style both original and full of humor. —La revue de livres pour enfants

Do you remember where you were last Monday, around 7:00 a.m.? Mollux does. He remembers because that was before everything changed, before the peacock mysteriously appeared in his living room, and, even more mysteriously, his father disappeared. And certainly before he and his only friend, Procopius, saved the day.

Mollux is obsessed with dictionaries and encyclopedias. He’s read them all, preferably while eating chocolate pudding. If he could add a new entry to the dictionary, it would be for a word that means a “phobia of real names.” He gives everyone a nickname. He calls his mother The Bustard, after a bird that looks like a fat goose with big feet and a tiny head; and he calls his teacher Spermaceti, because he’s as white as the giant oil-producing organ in a whale’s head.

The nickname he gave his father isn’t in any dictionary, though. He named his father Only2times, because he can remember only two times his father ever spoke to him. Only2times works in some kind of garage, or a rearview mirror factory, or maybe a laboratory that studies used tires, Mollux isn’t really sure, but at home he spends most of his time watching boring documentaries on things like raincoat production in Renaissance times or wallpaper application in Costa Rica or the washbasin trade in antiquity. That is, until one afternoon Mollux leaves school a little early, thinking he’d have the house (and all the chocolate pudding) to himself, only to find his father in the living room—with a peacock. And if that isn’t weird enough, the next day, his father doesn’t come home.

It is up to Mollux and Procopius to save Only2times in an elaborate, farcical plot involving taxidermy, kidnapping, an incredibly steep street, several stops at a gas station for candy bars, angry redheads, secret rooms, wild boars, and lots and lots of chocolate pudding, all before the week is over.

Angelique Villeneuve is an award-winning author of novels for adults, picture books, and cookbooks. In Search of Lost Peacocks is her first young adult novel.