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HIND’S FOOL

Bertille Dutheil

(Belfond, 400 pages, 2018)


*** TRANSLATION SAMPLE AVAILABLE ***

Lydia’s father, Mohsin, dies on December 9, 2011, in a retirement home in Saint-Ouen, France. To Lydia, Mohsin was a quiet and isolated old man who loved plants and quoting poetry, particularly the Persian love poem “Layla and Majnun.” But when Mohsin dies, he leaves a letter for Lydia in which he confesses to murdering an innocent young woman thirty years before—along with a mysterious box of photos of himself and a young girl that predate her birth, exposing a life Lydia didn’t know Mohsin had lived.

 

Having immigrated to Créteil, France, in the late 1970s from Algeria, Mohsin lived in Le Château, a decrepit mansion turned communal home, with three other families. Lydia seeks out the members of Mohsin’s former “family,” both living and dead, to discover the truth of her father’s past life. With the help of Mohammed, a florist; Ali, a financial analyst; Luna, a neurosurgeon from Seattle; Sakina, Mohsin’s old friend; and the old diary of a man named Marqus, Lydia meets Hind, Mohsin’s first “daughter.” As their stories unfold, each “family member” testifying to Mohsin’s past—and their own lives as immigrants conforming to French culture—Lydia uncovers more and more of Mohsin and Hind’s relationship, and the reasons for Hind’s notable absence.

 Brilliant and shocking, Hind’s Fool is a force to be reckoned with. Through the voices of several characters, whose memories are shrouded by their emotions and prejudices, Bertille Dutheil elegantly paints the story of an absent and voiceless heroine, exploring the questions of immigration, diaspora, and assimilation into an adopted culture while preserving your own.

 

Bertille Dutheil lives in Paris. Currently a graduate student of history at Université Paris 1, she has also lived in Beirut to conduct her research. Hind’s Fool is her first novel.

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ALL MEN BY NATURE DESIRE TO KNOW

Nina Bouraoui

(JC Lattès, 256 pages, 2018)

 

*** SHORT-LISTED FOR THE MEDICIS PRIZE ***


All Men by Nature Desire to Know is the story of the nights of my youth, of my wanderings, my alliances and my heartaches. It is the story of my desire, which became an identity and a struggle.

                                                                                    —Nina Bouraoui

 

From Algeria, where she spent her childhood, to Brittany, the birthplace of her mother, and Paris, where she came of age as a mixed-race gay woman, Nina Bouraoui retraces the source of her desire, and love, for women. A source that she knows can never really be found. What matters is the journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance that she now shares with us through the gift of her luminous language.

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Alice says

“The quest for the self never ends for Bouraoui. Luminous and poetic, intense yet subtle, writing is her true home…”

Bouraoui interweaves fragments of family history, recollections, and memories into brief chapters loosely labeled “Remembering,” “Knowing,” and “Becoming.” Most vibrant, sensual, and foundational are her memories of her Algerian childhood and adolescence. It is in Algeria that her appreciation of beauty was formed, where she first learned about violence—the violence of history, and the violence directed toward women. Bouraoui already knew that she was different. The expansiveness of those years in Algeria contrasts sharply with the constricted and prejudiced world of her maternal grandparents in Rennes. Violence is present there, too, but of a different kind.

Her family finally resettles in France in the early 1980s. A few years after their arrival, she discovers the Kat, a Parisian lesbian nightclub. Four times a week, and barely eighteen, she goes there alone, waiting, and searching for love. With poignancy but without sentimentality, Bouraoui evokes the women she encounters, so different from the ones she knew in her childhood, and her awkward first attempts at sexual intimacy. During this pivotal period of her life, still ridden with guilt, shame, and unfulfilled longings, she becomes a writer.

With All Men Naturally Want to Know, Nina Bouraoui continues to build on her critically acclaimed autofictional body of work. She sees herself as an architect who, book by book, gives form to a world of exquisite, painful, and deeply personal experiences that she knows are not just her own. Her self-quest remains open ended, beyond labeling, fluid like her prose.

 

Nina Bouraoui is the author of sixteen novels, including Forbidden Vision (Barrytown Press, 1995), which won the Prix du Livre Inter, Mes mauvaises pensées (Stock, 2005), winner of the Prix Renaudot, and Tomboy (Bison Books-University of Nebraska Press, 2008.) Her works have been translated into fifteen languages, and she has been named an Officier des Arts et des Lettres. After spending the first fourteen years of her life in Algiers (her father is from Algeria and her mother from Brittany), Bouraoui lived in Paris, Zurich, and Abu Dhabi before settling permanently in Paris. She is also known as a songwriter, composing for artists such as Céline Dion.

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BABYLON EXPRESS

Mathilde-Marie de Malfilâtre

(Le Dilettante, 250 pages, 2018)

 

***SHORT LISTED FOR THE PRIX DE FLORE 2018***

Luna is well on her way to a brilliant future in the service to the nation. A dutiful daughter with an impeccable CV, she is a lieutenant and political analyst in the elite Counterterrorism Bureau at France’s National Gendarmerie. Her specialty: ultra-left and eco-terrorism. Luna is more than ready for a career change when she encounters Marco Von Z, veteran drug dealer and vegan animal rights activist. From Berlin to Milan and Paris to Marrakesh, the two partners in crime embark on a frenetic drug-fueled ride spiced up with mind-blowing sexual ecstasies.

The lovebirds’ master plan is to gather a bundle of cash to start a new life in Morocco—one that Luna wishes would be of true benefit to society. Her ideal includes juice bars and naturotherapy for all. Operation #1 (and there will be more): Flood the City of Lights with top-quality Moroccan hash. From underground caves, music festivals, seedy nightclubs, and temples of the electro-trash scene, the Bonnie and Clyde of the new millennium zigzag across Europe to liquidate their merchandise. Luna relies on Marco’s professionalism and on her good star.

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Pascale says

“Brilliant, transgressive, and at times ferociously funny, de Malfilâtre’s explosive first novel is trippy in every sense of the word.”

Babylon Express is part transgressive initiation journey, part lyrical love story, and part sardonic portrait of the underground with, as a bonus, an impressive Michelin-like guide of psychoactive substances. Delivered with a breathless rhythm, and an astonishing prose bristling with a mixture of Italian, Rom, and Arabic slang, this dazzling first novel by Mathilde-Marie de Malfilâtre is already establishing her as a new voice to be reckoned with.

 

Mathilde-Marie de Malfilâtre was born in Normandy, and grew up in Japan. In 2008, she obtained a double degree in International Relations and Commerce. A graduate of the University of Bradford, England, she also holds a master’s degree in International Politics and Security. Like her heroine Luna, Mathilde-Marie then joined France’s National Gendarmerie in the Counterterrorism Bureau. Babylon Express is her first novel. 

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GRANNY LUGER

Benoît Philippon

(Les Arènes, 464 pages, 2018)

*** TRANSLATION SAMPLE AVAILABLE ***

Granny Luger definitely has some skeletons hidden in her closet. At 7:00 in the morning, in the Auvergne region of France, Berthe’s neighbor has been shot, the police have her cottage surrounded, someone has seemingly stolen her old Renault 4L, and her chamomile tea has gone cold. Brandishing her .22 rifle, the 102-year-old-woman launches verbal assaults at the cops until they break down her door, and take her in for questioning.

By 8:00, Berthe is in custody, her shotgun confiscated, and her car still missing. This morning proves the most mind-boggling experience of Inspector Ventura’s career. Never has he had to interrogate a smart-mouthed, squirrely, witty grandmother. Through a lot of miscommunication (mainly because of Berthe’s failing hearing aids) and jokes at his expense, Ventura finally gets Bertha to confess to hiding two fugitives, Roy and Guillemette, but what she tells him isn’t quite what he expects.

When the police find Berthe’s Luger, a forbidden Nazi artifact, she must explain why it’s in her possession. Bluntly she asserts that she killed a Nazi, and he’s buried in her basement. Sent to retrieve the body, the police find several other bodies buried throughout Berthe’s basement. And so, with nothing else to lose, Berthe explains the bodies, and, in turn, relates to Inspector Ventura her life story.

The Luger-strapped grandma’s account of her life is nothing short of explosive. If the law isn’t on her side, morality and circumstance would almost make her innocent, for her story intersects that of the twentieth century, and the struggles women endured to own their bodies and their rights. Benoît Philippon gives us, in Granny Luger, a formidable exchange exploring feminism, racism, and morality. Above all, he gives us a violently funny, charming, and strong old woman. She makes you laugh, but makes you cry as well, of emotion and admiration, for the incredibly free granny speaks volumes to our own contemporary history.


Born in 1976, Benoît Philippon grew up in the Antilles, then moved between France and Canada. He became a screenwriter and film director. After Cabossé, published as part of the Série Noire (Gallimard), Granny Luger is his second noir novel.

Deep End

Élodie Llorca

(Payot & Rivages, 144 pages, 2018)

 

When Per leaves Norrland in Sweden to live in France, his mother’s friend Ivar helps him settle in. By saying that Per was his nephew, Ivar got him a job as a janitor at the municipal pool where he worked, then helped Per pass the exam to become a lifeguard, like Ivar himself.

 

Alice says

"A pure touch of tenderness."

When Ivar unexpectedly dies, Per finds a piece of jewelry that used to belong to his own mother among Ivar’s personal effects. That raises questions in Per’s mind: Who exactly was Ivar? Did he know Sven, Per’s father, who disappeared in the Baltic Sea years before when Per was still a little boy? That’s when the young man makes a disconcerting decision: From now on, he will go by his mentor’s name.

 As Per-Ivar’s French gradually improves, he starts to feel more at home at the pool, where both his supervisors and the customers appreciate him. He maintains a faux relationship with an older woman, and makes friends with one of his customers’ granddaughters, who lost her parents. As he becomes more confident in both his personal and professional lives, he gets into the habit of collecting items lost by swimmers. This strange hobby will lead him through the icy Scandinavian landscape onto the trail of both Ivar’s past and his own memories.

 With power and insight, Élodie Llorca turns Deep End’s quest for an absent father into an exploration of the meanders of filial love.

 

A playwright, actress, and screenwriter, Élodie Llorca won the 2016 Stanislas Prize for her first novel, La Correction. Deep End is her second novel.