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Tonight

Joachim Schnerf

(Éditions Zulma, 160 pages, 2018)

***Winner of Le Prix Orange 2018***

 

“I wonder where Sarah would be right now. Without a doubt tiptoeing around the room, trying to get ready without waking me. Her feet would brush against the floorboards, caressing the floor flawlessly. I wonder, but I know that Sarah is everywhere. Sarah. I love murmuring her name, wrapping it in my thoughts so I don’t forget its roundness.”

 

During Passover (Pesach), the Jewish people celebrate their liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. Tonight, Salomon will lead his family in Passover Seder. Tonight, he will sit with his daughters, Michelle and Denise, their husbands, Patrick and Pinhas, and Michelle’s children, Samuel and Tania. This evening, he will recount the history of the Jewish people in an ordered fifteen-step feast with set rituals as written in the Haggadah. Tonight, he will once again assume his role as patriarch of the family. But for the first time in fifty years, Salomon must do so without his loving wife, Sarah, recently deceased, at his side.

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Alice says

"Heartbreaking. Oscillating between laughs and tears."

 As he braces himself for the celebration, waiting for Michelle to come prepare the Seder meal, Salomon chronicles his memories of previous Passovers. Through his dreamlike consciousness, Salomon invites us into the intimate history of his home and family: his release from Auschwitz, his first Passover with Sarah, the birth of their daughters, and family feuds incited by Michelle’s temper, his son-in-law’s offhanded insults, or his apathetic grandchildren’s questions. But the memories of his internment in Auschwitz haunt Salomon, invoked by his black Holocaust humor, much to his family and Sarah’s dismay. Tonight, as he has always done, Salomon will try to keep the peace between his family without Sarah’s love and guidance.

 In Tonight, Joachim Schnerf re-creates a beautiful and comedic story about family, tradition, loss, and unconditional love. Tender, moving, funny, and magnificently uplifting, Schnerf brings us on a sensitive journey to the intimate heart of family, through the memories of a man approaching the end of his life. “I wanted to write a comedy about Passover and also talk about love,” he says. “I ended up writing a novel about mourning. I wanted to laugh but there I was, ultimately confronting the Holocaust. I was overwhelmed by my characters and their humor. And it’s probably in this paradox that the essence of Jewish humor resides.”

 

Joachim Schnerf was born in Strasbourg, France, in 1987. After studying literature and publishing in Paris and New York, he launched his career at Éditions Gallimard, before joining Éditions Grasset in 2016 as an editor of foreign literature. He published his first novel, Mon sang à l’étude (Éditions de l’Olivier, 2014). He has also written Publier la littérature française et étrangère (Éditions du Cercle de la Librarie, 2016). Tonight is his second novel.

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The Ethics and Politics of Immigration

Benjamin Boudou

(Éditions EHESS, 263 pages, 2018)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes humanity’s fundamental right to move freely within a nation-state. Everyone has the right to emigrate—to leave any country, including one’s own—but the right to immigrate is limited. This fundamental asymmetry can have fatal consequences, as shown by the deaths of thousands of immigrants today. If national borders are meant to protect citizens and safeguard institutions based on values of freedom and equality for all, then the discriminatory and repressive policing at the frontiers betrays those same values.

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Pascale says

“An invigorating contribution to the debates on the current immigration crisis, and on how it challenges our democratic ideals.”

 Benjamin Boudou addresses this dilemma head on, and the burning theoretical and political questions it raises about the future of Western democracies. Boudou provides us with the tools to reimagine a world without borders—a not-so-ancient or abstract ideal—in order to make it, one day, possible. In The Ethics and Politics of Immigration, he invites us to reconsider the way in which we define borders, even the ones generally accepted as “natural” (for example, the Pyrenees mountains). Drawing on contemporary political philosophy, he reconstructs the conflicting arguments used to legitimize and reinforce the existence of borders, noting when they contradict democratic and liberal principles. Boudou then hypothesizes a world without borders, embracing a radical vision while acknowledging the urgent need for concrete proposals. One starting point, he suggests, would be to apply the “all-affected principle”—the idea that all parties affected by a decision have the right to participate in making that decision—to the issue of immigration. If we are able to establish or abolish existing borders and limitations on immigrant rights, the immigrants’ interests must also be taken into account. Acknowledging that we cannot immediately implement a system for a borderless world, Boudou advocates for more-open political representation for noncitizens by forming a parliament of immigrants.

 While he is aware that political theory may seem abstract, Boudou demonstrates its relevance by reminding us that thought and action are not opposed, especially in an increasingly polarized political climate. The challenging questions he asks in this stimulating and clearly argued book, and the tentative solutions he offers, are a great point of departure for addressing one of the pressing issues of our time.

 

Benjamin Boudou holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Paris. He is currently a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Germany in the Department of Ethics, Law and Politics.His work focuses on questions of ethics and politics of migration, hospitality, citizenship, and theory of democracy.In 2017, C.N.R.S. Éditionspublished his first book, Politique de l’hospitalité: Une généalogie conceptuelle. He is also the editor-in-chief of Raisons Politiques, a French peer-reviewed journal of political theory.

TALES OF THE ALARM CLOCK

Michel Bussi, illustrations by Éric Puybaret

(Delcourt, 320 pages, 2018)

Corentin is different from other people. While others can speak several languages, or maybe even speak to animals, Corentin cannot. He is an awkward little boy who does not always know how to communicate with the people around him, and he has a secret: He can speak to objects. With this skill, Corentin’s world expands to places others only dream of, and makes the ordinary extraordinary.

 

Throughout his adventures, Corentin encounters objects of all different shapes, sizes, personalities, and opinions. When his uncle asks him to paint a ladder, Corentin tries to appease six differently colored ladder rungs who do not appreciate the order in which he arranges them, concerned that their arrangement proves one colored rung superior to the other. When he writes letters to a girl he loves, he confides his feelings in his loquacious and gossipy mailbox. He encounters an atlas who has knowledge of every place in the world yet does not have the ability to travel to any of those places. He reigns over The Valley of Tears as king, meets a small family of flowers, and listens to their familial disputes, fears, and hopes. Corentin’s adventures are a source of inexhaustible imagination, and the objects he meets are more inventive than you might expect.

 

Famous for his wildly successful thrillers, Michel Bussi’s love for childhood’s dreamlike wonders and vivid imagery occupies a significant place in his novels, and Tales of the Alarm Clock is no exception. Through Corentin’s adventures, Bussi dives directly into the mind of a little boy whose imagination and fantasy have captivated him for years, displaying Bussi’s characteristic fantasy, humor, and irony: “Corentin is a childhood dream. He has been with me for a very long time. Corentin is melancholic and joyful in a cruel and fantastical world. He is a dream for children, even children who have since become parents.”

 

Michel Bussi is a celebrated French crime author whose work has been translated in thirty-five countries. He is a professor of geography at the University of Rouen, as well as a French political commentator. Tales of the Alarm Clock is his first book for children.

Éric Puybaret is the 1999 Bologna Ragazzi laureate, awarded to him at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. He is known for Cache-Lune (Gautier-Languereau, 2002), written and illustrated by himself, and Graines de cabanes. His American audience knows him for his work on Puff, the Magic Dragon (Sterling Publishing, 2007).

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LITTLE CHAMELEON'S BIG QUESTION

Caroline Pelissier, Mathias Friman - Gautier-Languereau

(Gautier-Languereau, 32 pages, 2018)

*** FULL TRANSLATION AVAILABLE ***

*** RIGHTS SOLD IN CHINESE, KOREAN, JAPANESE, ITALIAN AND RUSSIAN ***

Little Chameleon would like to discover just exactly who he is. Using portraits of animals, this album deals with the issue of appearance and personal identity in a straightforward, easy way.

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Antonio Gramsci: To Live is to Resist

Jean-Yves Frétigné

(Armand Colin, 320 pages, 2017)


Today, Antonio Gramsci is widely celebrated as one of the greatest social thinkers and Marxist political theorists of the 20th century. First published in the 1950s, his Prison Notebooks continue to exert a strikingly diverse and lasting influence. Jean-Yves Frétigné, a specialist in Italian history, believes that too often Gramsci’s legacy has been reduced to a series of key words. How do we to restore the richness and depth of Gramsci’s intellectual journey beyond the routine invocation of a few of his most well known concepts? Frétigné’s answer is to comb through the events of Gramsci’s life, and to scrupulously retrace the evolution of his thought and political engagements within the context of his times.

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Pascale says…

“A meticulously well-documented biography by a specialist of Late 19th and Early 20th Modern Italian History.”

 

Frétigné retraces the successive phases in Gramsci’s life: from his impoverished youth in Sardinia, to his student years in the political and social ferment of Turin, to his departure to Moscow in 1922, and ultimately to his death in 1937. We first discover Gramsci as a brilliant young man who endured years of extreme poverty, solitude, and physical suffering. Frétigné pays a particularly close attention to Gramsci’s early intellectual influences, and shows how his knowledge of marxism came relatively late, in the wake of  Russian revolution. While Gramsci did not have any oratory talent, he was a prolific writer, and first made a name for himself as a ‘marginal and original’ socialist journalist.  In the wake of the Russian revolution, Gramsci threw himself wholeheartedly into political activism, a path that would eventually lead him to become one of the co-founders of the Italian Communist Party.

 

Frétigné offers a comprehensive account of the complex relationships Gramsci had with both the official Moscow line and his supporters in Italy and abroad. With remarkable precision, Jean-Yves Frétigné reconstructs the material and intellectual conditions in which Gramsci composed his famous Prison Notebooks. He includes a detailed study of the correspondence and network that Gramsci maintained from the ten interminable years of his incarceration in Mussolini’s jails, up until his death, a mere few days after his release.


Antonio Gramsci: To Live is to Resist is the meticulously researched biography of a man committed to translating the Russian experience into a project of political renewal adapted to his homeland, Italy. In doing so, and under harsh and tragic circumstances, Gramsci left behind an intellectual heritage still relevant to this day.

 

Jean-Yves Frétigné is a French historian and associate researcher at The Center for History at Sciences Po.  He specializes in nineteenth and twentieth centuries Italian history. His most recent book is Histoire de la Sicile: des origines à nos jours (Fayard, 2018). His other publications include a critically acclaimed biography of Giuseppe Mazzini (Fayard, 2006) and Les Conceptions éducatives de Giovanni Gentile: Entre élitisme et fascisme (L'Harmattan, 2007).

Hind’s Fool

Bertille Dutheil

(Belfond, 400 pages, 2018)

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.