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Disintegration

Emmanuelle Richard

(Éditions de l’Olivier, 209 pages, 2018)

  

She cannot recall the exact moment when things fell apart. She is now a published author no longer tormented by the need to justify her existence. Yet she cannot forget where she comes from: the bleak childhood in the gray Parisian suburbs, the dull and hardworking life of her parents, the endless series of mind-crushing odd jobs. There are many like her who know what it means to eke out a living mired in the never-ending state of precariousness—today’s new face of poverty. What turns such a person’s shame into hate? At what moment does anger overstep the boundaries of personal history and becomes a powerful indictment of a larger state of affairs?

Disintegration opens at a birthday party in an equestrian center. The nameless narrator and two of her friends celebrate their eighteenth birthdays. Her parents had originally planned something simple, but the party was co-opted by the other girls’ wealthy parents and turned into a grand affair. Filled with a distress that she cannot yet fully articulate, the narrator escapes the party and ends up in a brief and awkward sexual encounter with a stranger. She is new at this, but there will be many more occasions in later years when “the desire of the other [is] enough to trigger [her own].”

In Paris, she lives with roommates she abhors: the entitled progeniture of filmmakers, photographers, and other professionals of culture. She works in a men’s clothing store, and takes courses at the university vaguely hoping that a degree will provide her with something tangible. Eventually she settles with a young man in a comforting and stifling domesticity that does not keep the disheartening grind of daily survival at bay. All along, she writes. She meets a famous filmmaker to whom she had sent her first book and who miraculously responded. Nothing will come out of this striking encounter but, for the first time, she feels “seen.”

Covering a decade of her life, the novel tracks the narrator’s internal evolution from a diffuse sense of social alienation to an all-encompassing class hatred. At first, it is only a matter of escaping the stigma of what she describes as “familial melancholia.” “I fantasized,” she says, “mastering the codes of a variety of social groups so to be able to circulate in each of them without belonging to any.” But her experiences lead her to a breaking point where she can no longer sustain the neutral attitude she had adopted toward the privileged. How can she come to term with her seething rage and all-consuming hatred?

Richard’s indignation toward the mechanisms of social oppression and power relations never feels didactic. The incendiary energy of her prose and the uncompromising lucidity of her observations bring us up close to the violence of situations that she condemns. She never fails to point out the circumstances in which her own assets—as young, female, and blond—operate to her advantage. The narrator claims to have looked, without success, for something—a collective, an organization, a reinvented family—someone to tell her what can be done differently. She may not have found it, but Richard certainly speaks to the reality of “those who dreamed of being and those who are.”

 

Emmanuelle Richard, born in 1985, has written two previous novels: La Légéreté (Editions de l’Olivier, 2014) and the acclaimed Pour la peau (Editions de l’Olivier 2016; Points, 2017), which won The 2016 Prix Anaïs Nin as well as the 2016 Prix Marie Claire for the best novel written by a woman.

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An Evidence

Agnès Martin-Lugand

(Michel Lafon, 380 pages, 2019)

  

*** TRANSLATION SAMPLE AVAILABLE ***

*** 80,000 COPIES SOLD IN THREE MONTHS ***

*** RIGHTS SOLD TO russia (CORPUS), romania (trei),

czech republic (albatros), slovakia (albatros),

bulgaria (era), and THE NETHERLANDS (XANDER) ***

Reine is living the perfect life, dividing her time between raising, as a single mom, her seventeen-year-old son Noé and her work as the co-owner of a successful communication agency located in Rouen. But this happiness is based on a lie, which, if revealed, could shatter her world.

 With Paul, Reine’s best friend and business partner, she is working on a new project for a client in Saint-Malo. On her first meeting with one of the owners, Pacôme, she feels immediately attracted to him, and ends up spending the night with him. In the morning they realize that this was a mistake; Pacôme is the ultimate bachelor, loving his freedom more than anything else, and Reine wants to focus on her son’s education. She reluctantly goes back to her routine but thinks about Pacôme more than she should.

On returning to Saint-Malo to meet with the other owner, Nicolas, who is Pacôme’s best friend, she realizes with stupefaction that Nicolas is her long-gone first love—and the father of her son. Nicolas, now happily married to Heloise and a father of two, is ecstatic to see her.

 Now Reine must reveal the secret she kept from her son and his dad. She had decided not to tell Nicolas that she was pregnant and later told Noé that she didn’t know who his father was, and she accepted the consequences of these omissions. Facing them now, she gets the support of Paul, her indefectible ally, and her family, but gets rejected by Noé, Nicolas, and Pacôme, who all cut ties with her.

 Noé runs away from home and finds refuge in Pacôme’s apartment in Saint-Malo, where the two get closer amid the storm.

 Will Reine be able to get her son back? Will Nicolas find the courage to forgive her and open his arms and heart to his son? What will happen with Pacôme? Why has Paul all of a sudden grown so distant?

 An Evidence is a moving, gripping, and suspenseful novel emphasizing the importance of family. Martin-Lugand has the talent to give her characters the humanity that makes readers feel alive and hopeful.

Agnès Martin-Lugand is a French writer of several novels. A psychology major, she turned to writing and self-published her first novel, Les gens heureux lisent et boivent du café (Happy People Read and Drink Coffee, published in the U.S. by Perseus Books), via Amazon’s Kindle platform. Rapidly noticed by literary bloggers, she was approached by Editions’ Michel Lafon, who proposed to publish the book. It became an instant best-seller and an international phenomenon. Martin-Lugand has become one of the best-selling authors in France. She has been translated into 34 languages. An Evidence is her seventh book.

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Emma’s Taste

Emmanuelle Maisonneuve and Julia Pavlowitch

Color illustrations by Kan Takahama

(Les Arènes BD, 2018, 200 pages)

 

*** Rights sold to italy (Dynit Manga), spain (Ponent Mon),

Japan (Kodansha), China (Shanghai99), and

south korea (Image Frame) ***

 

At the age of thirty, having simply sent in her résumé, Emma sees her childhood dream come true: She is hired and joins the team of inspectors at the prestigious Michelin Guides. The only woman on the team at the time, she stands out among her colleagues for her youth and spontaneity. Blessed with an extraordinary sense of taste, Emma swiftly silences all snide remarks, and establishes herself as an unusual addition to this habitually discreet and highly demanding institution.

Emma’s inspection rounds take her on road trips across France to find not the great Michelin-starred restaurants—that remains the privileged role of the highest-grade inspectors—but to scope out more-modest establishments. She travels thousands of miles a year, visits eight different eateries per day, and eats nine generous meals a week. The young inspector consumes dishes at breakneck speed. Over the course of her journey, she experiences a plethora of cultures through their people and cuisine.

Yet Emma struggles to settle into her new way of life, causing her to question herself and her purpose. Why should she force herself to keep up this demanding pace? What is she willing to sacrifice to achieve her dream job? What is she trying to prove to others and to herself?

A sensory awakening and a quest for meaning, this unusual journey will dazzle, intrigue, and inspire.

 

Emmanuelle Maisonneuve discovered the art of fine cuisine through the work of Michel Bras, Alain Ducasse,  and Alain Passard. Passionate about writing, she published several books before becoming a Michelin inspector.

Always on the hunt for unusual stories, Julia Pavlowitch is a journalist, and has co-written several portraits of women.

Born in Amakusa, Japan, Kan Takahama specializes in contemporary art.

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The Birth of French Gastronomy

Antoine de Baecque

(Payot, 240 pages, 2018)

 

 *** Rights sold to china ***

During the tumultuous years of the French Revolution, political passion was paralleled only by an equally radical and novel enthusiasm for food and dining. A new type of establishment, the restaurant, prospered right next to the guillotine. French gastronomy was born in these new temples dedicated to the goddess of gourmandise. Throughout the nineteenth century, restaurants continued to proliferate throughout the capital, adapting their fare to serve an increasingly diverse clientele. In retracing this culinary revolution, Antoine De Baecque shows how the pleasures of the table became an integral part of French national identity and France’s international reputation as the land of gastronomy.

Restaurants had already existed in London, but in Paris serving food to the public was governed by the maze of regulations and privileges of the Ancien Régime. Taverns and inns could only offer basic meals, served on collective tables according to strict schedules. Only nobility could employ personal cooks to honor their guests. The French Revolution marks a decisive stage in the history of the French cooking. The break with the old world should have condemned the manners and the staff of the Ancien Régime, or so one would think. But the cooks of the aristocracy, who remained behind as their masters fled abroad, began to set up their own businesses. This is partly how, De Baecque explains, culinary tradition and savoir faire—recipes, cooking techniques, food presentation, and table manners—were transferred “from the aristocratic table to the restaurators’ table.”

In twelve fluid and lively chapters, de Baecque draws portraits of the key actors who shaped the future of French gastronomy. Mathurin Roze de Chantoiseau was the first restaurateur, and an early proponent of “the democratization of luxury.” Antoine Beauvilliers wrote one of the first classic memoirs of a chef. Alexandre Grimod de La Reynière can be best described as the first food critic. Antoine Carême was the first artist-chef, inventor of the toque famous for his incomparable craftsmanship. Brillat-Savarin was the first food theoretician and author of The Physiology of Taste; and Auguste Escoffier was the first modern chef who introduced martial efficiency to the kitchen. Escoffier’s association with the hotelier Charles Ritz gave rise to a French elitist cuisine served in the grand palaces of Europe.

De Baecque offers entertaining and illuminating anecdotes to explain why the evolution of the Parisian restaurant and the development of French food culture coincide with the deep social and political upheaval that marked the end of the eighteenth century and the decades that followed. A judicial battle over the “sauce poulette” (is it a mere sauce or a ragout?), pitting restaurateurs against roasters and caterers, exemplifies the decline of the Ancien Regime’s rigid corporatist system.

The Birth of French Gastronomy is both a highly enjoyable and intellectually stimulating book for anyone interested in the history of gastronomy and the origin of an institution as ubiquitous as the restaurant. The reader may even want to try the recipes offered at the end of each chapter: Escoffier’s famous Pêche Melba (an easy one), Alexandre Dumas’ Roasted Rabbit (not for the weak of heart), as well as other mind-boggling and painstaking recipes.

 

Antoine de Baecque is a historian and critic. He has been editor-in-chief of Cahiers du cinema and, later, of the cultural pages of Libération. He is the author of many books on a variety of subjects; as a specialist in eighteenth-century France, he has published La Révolution terrorisée (CNRS éd., 2017) and Les nuits parisiennes: XVIIIe – XXIe siècle (Seuil, 2015). His earlier work, The Body Politic: Corporeal Metaphor in Revolutionary France, 1770–1800, was published by Stanford University Press in 1997. He is also a well-known film historian and has written extensively on the relationship between cinema and history. He has published biographies on François Truffaut, Andreï Tarkovski, and Jean-Luc Godard. Two of his film director biographies have been translated into English: Éric Rohmer: A Biography co-written with Noël Herpe (Columbia University Press, 2016) and Tim Burton (Phaidon Press, 2011).

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The Great Deer Hotel

Franz Bartelt

(Seuil, 352 pages, 2018)

 

 *** Rights sold to Italy (feltrinelli) ***

 *** best-seller: 40,000 copies sold ***

“My method,” explained the policeman, “is that I don’t have one. What I want is to turn this village upside down. That no one understands anything. That we don’t know who is looking for who, who killed who, who did not kill. I want to treat everyone the same. I want to create panic. I’m bringing madness in town. In three days, I’ve been wreaking havoc in their minds. They know I’m crazy. But something in them tells them they have to be wary of me.”

The Great Deer Hotel

  Reugny, a small village in the Ardennes region of Belgium, is famous for its Great Deer Hotel. In 1977, movie starlet Rosa Gulingen died in her bathtub while shooting a movie with her screen partner Armand Grétry. Forty years later, a rich documentarian fascinated by Gulignen hires private investigator Nicolas Tèque to learn what caused her death. At the same time, inspector Vertigo Kulbertus is sent to Reugny to investigate a murder, two weeks before his retirement. Jeff Rousselet, the local customs officer hated by every inhabitant of the town for spying and documenting their secrets, was found decapitated. Soon afterward, Brice, the village idiot, is also found dead, and Anne-Sophie, the daughter of the manager of the Great Deer Hotel, goes missing.

 Kulbertus meets his suspects: Thérèse Londroit, the angry and nosy, paralyzed founder of the hotel and mother of the current manager; Sylvie Monsoir, the sad and courageous taxi driver; Richard Lépine, the uptight director of the local motivation center, whose parents were slaughtered for allegedly collaborating with the Nazis. Tensions rise as the investigation rapidly progresses. Kulbertus shakes everyone down with his imperious requests: he needs fries and wieners or meatballs, four times a day, every day, and pint after pint of beer. The scatterbrained inspector befriends Nicolas Tèque, the only one he can trust.

 In only seven days, with an unexpected and grandiose finale, Kulbertus connects the two investigations and explains everything. At the end of the Second World War, Rosa Gulingen (who was German) helps extradite from Germany her sister Anelore, the wife of a Nazi officer, and her baby boy. Unfortunately, they get into a car accident, and Anelore dies, while Baudoin, Thérèse Londroit’s husband, rescues her baby, Manfred.

A few days prior, Baudoin and two friends burglarize the Lépine property, as part of their plan to steal goods from abandoned mansions in regions under Nazi occupation. However, Edouard Lépine, his wife, and baby Richard had not left, and Edouard confronts Baudoin and his associates. Enraged by the war and jealous of his wealth, they slaughter him and his wife, accidentally killing the baby at the same time.

 Baudoin brings Manfred to Thérèse. In order to keep the stolen goods and money found at the Londroit’s, she suggests swapping the babies’ identities. With the money, she is able to fund her dream: the Great Deer Hotel.

 A few years later, still looking for her sister, Rosa Gulingen uses the pretext of a movie shoot to come to the region where investigators lost trace of Anelore. She sees the young Richard Lépine and recognizes her sister in his facial features. Filled with doubts, she confides in her hostess, Thérèse, who realizes that she might lose her hotel if Rosa discovers the reasons why the babies were swapped. An hour later, Rosa dies in her bath.

 In present day Reugny, Jeff Rousselet finds joy in investigating and uncovering everyone’s darkest secrets. He realizes that Elisabeth, Richard Lépine’s collaborator and wife, is having an affair with Jack, Richard’s protégé. Elisabeth also manipulates Freddy, Sylvie Monsoir’s abusive and alcoholic husband, into believing that his wife is having an affair with Richard Lépine. She hopes that in a moment of rage, Freddy will explode and kill Richard, so that she inherits the Motivational Center. When Jeff Rousselet discovers her affair with Jack, she fears that he will tell her husband. She has Jack kill Jeff to protect her secret. Anne-Sophie unexpectedly arrives on the scene of the crime and runs away from Jack. Jack murders Brice, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, then tracks down and murders Anne-Sophie several days later to tie up loose ends. Pushed by Elisabeth, Freddy kills Richard, blinded with rage and jealousy.

 Women are the masterminds in these two intertwined stories. They uncover and guard the darkest truths in order to get to what they want. As the mysteries unravel, the reader is pushed around between masterfully built colorful characters and their scathing stories. Franz Bertelt creates a high-tension situation with a bewitching narrative voice, topped with a disconcerting and brilliant humor.

 

Franz Bartelt has written many books. He has been translated in Italian, German, Greek, and Spanish.

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Women and Sacrifice

Anne Dufourmantelle

Preface by Charlotte Casiraghi

(Denoël, 304 pages, 2007; New edition 2018)

 

Women have been sacrificed in the name of nearly everything—morality, religion, politics, love, and motherhood—but they have also chosen to sacrifice themselves in order to defy the law, to be free to love, or simply to exist. In this provocative book, first published in 2007, the psychoanalyst and philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle brings her unique sensibilities to comment on the relationship between women and sacrifice, and why it remains a relevant topic today.

 Dufourmantelle starts with broader observations on the nature of sacrifice and the common association of women with sacrifice. She organizes her inquiry around the familiar trilogy of the young woman, the lover, and the mother, and revisits their most emblematic incarnations in Western literature, legends, and myths. Antigone, Iphigenia, Joan of Arc, Isolde, Heloïse, Anna Karenina, and Medea are icons because their acts of sacrifice turned their lives into tragic destinies imbued with lasting social and cultural significance.

 Yet sacrifice is not always heroic. It can lodge itself in the anonymity of what Dufourmantelle calls “white lives,” lives that leave no trace in our collective memory: the woman next door, the mother who routinely claims to have sacrificed everything for her child, the anorexic teenager, the young immigrant who prostitutes herself, the desperate lover. Dufourmantelle audaciously places heroic and “white” lives side by side to trace back the deep roots of women’s enduring relationship with sacrifice. Finally she turns to artists and writers such as Virginia Woolf to explore the theme of sacrifice and female creativity.

 Anne Dufourmantelle’s writing demands that we keep our minds open as we enter the unexpected and illuminating places she takes us. She stresses the urgency to identify contemporary expressions of female sacrifice, reminding us that “we are all beings haunted by what we ignore.” And if we ignore female sacrifice, we risk being overcome by its destructive force.

Anne Dufourmantelle, philosopher and psychoanalyst, taught at New York University and the European Graduate School. Her books in English include In Praise of Risk (Fordham, 2019), Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Being (Fordham, 2018), and Blind Date: Sex and Philosophy (University of Illinois Press, 2007). She co-wrote Fighting Theory (University of Illinois Press, 2010) with Avital Ronnell, and Of Hospitality: Cultural Memory in the Present (Stanford University Press, 2000) with Jacques Derrida. Anne Dufourmantelle passed away in the summer of 2017 at the age of fifty-three.

Charlotte Casiraghi is the president of Rencontres Philosophiques de Monaco and the author of L’Archipel des passions with Robert Maggiori (Seuil, 2018). Her preface pays deeply moving homage to Anne Dufourmantelle, her close friend and mentor.

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Hold Until Dawn

Carole Fives

(Gallimard, 192 pages, 2018)

 

*** Rights sold to Germany (Paul Zsolnay Verlag)

and Italy (einaudi) ***

Carole Fives observes without any judgment a drifting single mother, knocked around by the contradictory injunctions of society that deifies motherhood while condemning mothers that are not perfect.

L’Obs

She is a single mother, a “solo mom,” raising her two-year-old son. A graphic designer, she survives with a few contracts whenever she can, juggling between motherhood and paying the bills. During the day, she runs across town to drop off the child for a few hours at daycare to be able to get her work done. At night, when her son falls asleep, she goes out and wanders around for a few minutes. She also goes on Internet forums and looks up questions: “Do you ever leave your baby alone?” The answers vary from “You are completely irresponsible” to “I can’t believe we let people like her have children.”

 Each night she reads to her son Mr. Seguin’s Goat. In the story, all of Mr. Seguin’s goats run away to the mountain by his farm, tugging on their ropes to escape. The seventh goat he buys is just like the others; he warns her about the big bad wolf that lives at the top of the mountain, the big bad wolf that eats goats at night, but she does not listen. Just like the goats before her, she tugs on the ropes that hold her, eats away at them, and escapes to the mountaintop. At nightfall, she believes that if she can just hold out until dawn, she can beat the big bad wolf. Just like Mr. Seguin’s Goat, our protagonist constantly pulls on the ropes, wandering outside from a few minutes to an hour, gasping for air.

 Tension builds as life squeezes her tighter and tighter. One night, she leaves her home a little longer than usual. When she comes back, her whole building is on lockdown, sirens screaming. Only after being shamed for leaving her child unattended is she allowed to go up. Her neighbor killed his wife and son, before committing suicide. The headline on a news website says, “She tried to leave him, he could not stand it.” The narrator finally finds her voice and comments on the article, “It’s not the drama of separation, it’s a goddamn murder.”

 Carole Fives keeps her narrator anonymous, to represent all single mothers. She only observes her daily struggles and victories. She makes us feel her guilt, her feeling of injustice, her constant battle to not only be a mother, but a good one. Societal pressure overwhelms her, coming from each person she encounters, from her condescending pediatrician, to her judgmental neighbors, to the comments from strangers at the park when her son falls down, to the judgments and insults on online forums. 

 Hold Until Dawn is a rare homage to single mothers. Carole Fives neither condemns or glorifies her unnamed protagonist, but brilliantly describes her anxiety so that we feel it ourselves. Carole Fives says it best: “I do not want to rock my reader, I want to shake them.” She is an avenger of the forgotten, the taken for granted, the everyday fighter.

 

Carole Fives writes about hazy lives, with a visual and sharp language. This is her fifth novel.

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Let the Night Take Me

Isabelle Desesquelles

(Belfond, 208 pages, 2018)

 

*** Winner of 2018 Prix Femina des Lyceens ***

*** TRANSLATION SAMPLE AVAILABLE ***

 Clémence is eight years old, the cherished child of two parents who love each other intensely. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Alexandre and Rosalie Sauvage have created around themselves and their daughter a bubble shield of happiness. In their remote rural community, Alexandre is the local schoolteacher and Rosalie is a house caretaker. The two of them, each in their own way, instill in their daughter their joie de vivre and irrepressible capacity for wonder. While Alexandre introduces Clémence to the beauty of nature on their daily walks to school, Rosalie, an exuberant lover of songs and poetry, teaches her the power of books. They form a fusional trio surrounded by a few significant others: Mamoune, Clémence’s down-to-earth and willful grandmother; Lise, her sexually mature cousin; and Just, Clémence’s first crush.

 Yet, despite the enchanted and whimsical life the Sauvages create for their daughter, an increasing sense of unease creeps into Clémence’s disquietingly mature voice. Her hindsights and reasonings are not those of a young girl. The darkness that seeps into her words and thoughts forebodes the disruption of her blissful childhood. Mid-novel, the suspense abruptly ends. Clémence’s memories from then on cease to be hers alone. They become deeply entangled with those of a father trapped in the past and who would rather cling to pain than nothing at all.

 Desesquelles meanders effortlessly through different temporalities and a constellation of contrasting emotions. Written in a poetic and intoxicating prose, the novel oscillates between joy and sorrow, plenitude and absence, and weaves them into a poignant portrait of childhood, love, and loss. Let the Night Take Me offers a luminous reflection on the danger of happiness, the fragility of our closest bonds, the endurance of grief, and the formidable strength of memory.

 

Isabelle Desesquelles is the author of seven novels, two works of nonfiction, and three children’s books. Her most recent two novels—Les hommes meurent, les femmes vieillissent (2014) and Un jour on fera l’amour (2017)—were both published by Belfond. Let the Night Take Me was in line for the 2018 Prix Femina, and won the 2018 Femina Prix des Lyceens.

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Bear Street

Marie Desplechin and Serge Bloch

(L’Iconoclaste, 192 pages, 2018)

*** Rights sold to Germany (Kunstanstifter Verlag)

and Italy (Nave di Teseo) ***

The novelist Marie Desplechin lends her pen to the thoughts of Serge Bloch, a world-renowned illustrator, inheritor of a kosher butchers’ dynasty.

In the rue de l’Ours, Colmar, there is a kosher butcher’s shop. Butchery is the stock-in-trade of the Bloch family and is passed down from father to son. Serge Bloch describes his grandfather, and his parents who fled during the war. The 1960s. The rituals of the Jewish community. He describes a time of great happiness and childhood mischief. He brings to life a gallery of strong, attractive characters.

Although the butcher’s shop has now closed, the legacy remains: that of the art of movement, and its beauty. Care and attention, hard work and precision are the hallmarks of either craft. The knife is now a pencil: the legacy lives on.

Bloch’s past emerges from Marie Desplechin’s meticulous and sensitive pen, while Serge Bloch, with a stroke of his pen, sketches scenes that were buried deep in his memory. Two artists who share an infectious sense of humour unite to create this superb book.

Born in Colmar, Serge Bloch has illustrated more than 300 books; his editorial illustrations appear regularly in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, as well as GQ and National Geographic, and two of his books have been turned into animated series. Bloch's works have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, France and Italy. Bloch has received awards for his artwork and illustrations from around the world, including a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, the Prix Baobab, the Bologna Ragazzi Award and the Best Book Award in Taiwan.

After studying classical literature and journalism, Marie Desplechin worked in the press, in advertising, and as a teacher. She has also written young adult fiction for L’École des loisirs.

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The American Trap

Frédéric Pierucci with Mathieu Aron

(JC Lattes, 400 pages, 2019)

*** rights sold in china, japan, Taiwan ***

*** 6 weeks on the bestseller list ***

*** TRANSLATION SAMPLE AVAILABLE ***

On a professional trip to New York in April 2013, I was arrested and accused of corruption involving the multinational company that employed me. I never received a cent through this transaction but the American authorities locked me up for 14 months in a maximum security prison. I was a hostage and used as blackmail to force my company to pay the largest fine ever imposed by the United States. The consequences were a complete dismembering of Alstom, a company of highly strategic activities and a flagship of French industry. Alstom was forced to sell its energy branch (in charge of the maintenance of our nuclear power plants) to an American company: General Electric!

—from The American Trap

On April 14, 2013, federal agents board the plane and arrest Frédéric Pierucci, without explanation, just as he lands at JFK. He at first thinks it’s just a misunderstanding, but after checking his identity, they bring him to the FBI office in Manhattan. He is the one they meant to arrest! Pierucci soon realizes his detainment can only be related to his position in Alstom, a French power and transport group. And he is right: Federal prosecutors immediately interrogate him, demanding answers concerning an investigation into Alstom’s use of corruption in the Tarahan power project in Indonesia ten years prior. Alstom set in place a system to “prevent” bribery, wherein twelve individuals must sign to approve hiring a new consultant. These consultants, despite the antibribery system, bribed Indonesian officials to secure a contract for the power project. Though Pierucci held an executive position at Alstom, he explains that he had no authority to approve of and commit the crimes federal officials charge him with.

Pierucci’s nightmare is just beginning. For five years, the Department of Justice accuses and forces him to plead guilty to the worst economic crimes. He serves time in Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island, then in Moshannon Valley Correctional Center in Pennsylvania. Alstom fires him during his incarceration for failure to show up at work. His lawyers offer him terrible legal advice. He is abandoned and let down by his own company, his legal counsel, and even the French government.

In order to stay sane, he begins writing this book in Wyatt, describing his persecution and the conditions of his incarceration. He follows the investigation through the rare press clippings sent to him by his wife and friends, tracing connections between his case and the sudden sale of Alstom to General Electric. Soon Pierucci realizes he is the DOJ’s scapegoat, a tool they use to pressure Alstom’s CEO into selling the company to General Electric.

The American Trap reads as a thriller. Frédéric Pierucci dissects every step of the horrendous process he experienced, explaining the complicated U.S. judicial system in such a clear way that readers will understand its intricacies. His concise and thorough critique of the system shows how capitalism can grind all for profit.

 

Frédéric Pierucci worked for Alstom for twenty-one years. He came back to France a free man in September 2018, after spending two years in jail. In between the procedures, he met Mathieu Aron, a journalist and former associate director of the Nouvel Observateur and former managing editor at France Inter. Aron, who had followed his story since the beginning, co-wrote the book.

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The Rich Hours of Jacominus Gainsborough

Rebecca Dautremer

(Éditions Sarbacane, 2018, 56 pages with color illustrations)

 

*** rights sold in spanish, German, Chinese (Simplified Characters),

Greek, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Swedish ***

A unique fresco to celebrate the joy of being alive

This timeless and gorgeous picture book, reminiscent of Beatrix Potter, features 12 scenes of Jacominus Gainsborough’s life following the interchanging seasons, celebrating small things, great moments of joy but also sadness, doubts , and ordeals.

At first, the reader doesn’t know who Jacominus Gainsborough is. The fluffy rabbit is present in all the 12 scenes, amongst lots of other animal characters: his family, his friends from school, his adult friends, his friends from work. Our hero is not the strongest or the biggest, he might even be weaker than the others –thanks to a childhood injury. But he has a unique beautiful name!

Jacominus serenely goes through life, becomes a father, a grand-father then dies. But rather than being sad, the reader celebrates the luck of having been loved, the pride of having done one’s best, and the happiness of contemplating, at the dawn of life, one’s grand-children growing up.

This is Rebecca Dautremer’s first children’s book. A graduate from the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, she has published several best-selling picture books.

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The Pig’s Trial

Oscar Coop-Phane

(Grasset, 128 pages, 2019)

 

 Somewhere in the distant past, a creature wanders out of the woods into a sunny garden, and finds a sleeping infant left unattended in a wicker basket. On impulse, the creature chews off the baby’s tender cheeks and shoulder. The child dies and the killer is caught and brought to trial. But how can a pig—for pig it is!—face up to the law of men? Inspired by true historical events, Oscar Coop-Phane lays bare the passions and sentiments underpinning the wheels of justice. In this allegorical tale, the monster may not be who you think.

 The novel retraces the demise of the pig in four soberly titled chapters: “The Crime,” “The Trial,” “The Wait,” and “The Torture.” Quickly caught, the swine is thrown in jail. His assigned lawyer, the conscientious Hector Barbin, has never had to defend a criminal like this one before but is nonetheless determined to do his best. In the meantime, the “Cheeks Biter,” as the beast is now called, settles peaceably in jail, properly fed and protected from the elements. While the pig enjoys a taste of human existence, his fellow prisoners are routinely brought down to the level of animals.

 Presented in the terse format of a play, the trial begins: the laying down of facts, the stream of witnesses, the damning presentation of evidence. For the prosecutor, the remorseless culprit embodies the essence of evil, down to its repulsive stench. Mr. Barbin rests his case with a crafty bit of lawyering, but his efforts are in vain. As the judge carefully ponders the details—and the symbolism—of the execution, preparations have already been made.

 Enter now the actors whose role is to ensure the smooth functioning of justice: the men who will guide the convict to the scaffold, Jean the Executioner and Paul the Priest. The villagers rejoice at the prospect of a good spectacle. The pig meets a grotesque and cruel end in front a cohort of other pigs brought in so the guilty one can set an example. Which is more gruesome, the crime or the punishment, the violent bestiality of the Cheeks Biter or the monstrous inhumanity of Jean the Executioner?

 In the epilogue, Coop-Phane evokes a medieval game, a burlesque encounter that consists of bringing blind men into an arena together with a pig. They must try to strike the animal so as to be able to claim it. Coop-Phane leaves the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. With incisive limpidity, he distills the essence of a mechanism to better highlight its blind spots. Inspired by Michel Foucault and Franz Kafka, The Pig’s Trial is a strikingly original and powerful novel by a brilliant young writer.

 

Oscar Coop-Phane (born 1988) has published five novels, two of which have been translated into English: his acclaimed debut novel Zenith Hotel, which won the Prix de Flore in 2012, and Tomorrow Berlin, both published by Arcadia Books (2016). Additionally he has published Octobre (Editions Finitude, 2014) and Mâcher la poussière (Grasset, 2017). Since 2013, he also has been writing columns for the French version of Vanity Fair.

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Sky-Blue Men

Anaïs Llobet

(Éditions de l’Observatoire, 224 pages, 2019)

 

*** paperback rights sold to folio in france ***

*** rights sold to italy (fandango) ***

 Alice Zoubaieva is a Russian teacher at a high school in The Hague, Netherlands. Her real name is actually Alissa, a name she is hiding along with her origins for fear of xenophobia, as she is from Chechnya. As she gets ready to teach, a bomb explodes in her school, killing twenty-four people. The authorities institute a manhunt, suspecting one of Alice’s students, a Chechen boy named Kirem, to be the terrorist. They arrest his older brother Oumar, as well as their cousin Makhmoud. Feeling helpless and afraid, Alice offers to help with the investigation by translating Oumar and Makhmoud’s conversations.

 Through Alice’s translations, the police learn that Makhmoud and Kirem were radicalized by Islamic extremists. Oumar, conversely, integrated into Dutch society when he emigrated to the Netherlands and strayed from Islam’s principles. Just as Alice did, he changed his name, and became Adam, his gay alter ego. We learn of their violent upbringing in the midst of the war in Chechnya. In his new country, Oumar/Adam lives with Hector, his boyfriend. Taissa (Kirem and Oumar’s mother), Kirem, and Makhmoud follow after a few years. When his family arrives, Adam strips away from what his life has become and returns to being Oumar—at least during the day. The night before the attack, he meets Alex, a young man he supposedly went on a lunch date with when the bomb goes off at the school.

 As the investigation progresses, Alex confides in the police. He was indeed with Oumar that day, but Oumar arrived late, leading Alex to believe that he was used as an alibi. In the light of this discovery, the police leak the story to the press and reveal Oumar’s secret to the world. Oumar remembers when he first found out about homosexuality on television and explains how indecent it is in the Islamic and Chechan culture. There are not even words in Chechnya for it: they use “gay” from English or “golouboï” from Russian (“sky-blue”). As his secret explodes, Oumar understands that he is safer in prison than out fearing for his life, and pleads guilty to being the terrorist.

 Sky-Blue Men is a gripping and captivating novel with an unexpected plotline, filled with endearing characters full of humanity. They give a deep and full spectrum of opinions to express the lucidity of the oppressed. This powerful novel explores many important and current themes: immigration, assimilation and integration, specifically the difficult balance between maintaining one’s identity while adopting a new culture; terrorism and radicalization, where the person to blame is difficult to find; and gay rights and the fact that homosexuality is still punishable by death in many countries.

 

Anaïs Llobet is a journalist. In Moscow for five years for Agence France Press (AFP), she covered Russian news and particularly Chechen, where she denounced persecutions of gay people by local institutions. She also wrote Les Mains lâchées (Plon, 2016).

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Dear Allah

Saphia Azzeddine

(Stock, 192 pages, first published in 2008, new edition 2019)

 

*** 60,000 copies sold in France ***

*** Currently considered for adaptation into a series in the U.S ***

*** Rights sold TO

Germany (Wagenbach), Spain (Demipage), and Sweden (Ordfront) ***

 *** English translation sample available ***

 

A deeply moving long prayer Elle

 

How to become free when social circumstances destine you for a life of poverty and submission? Sixteen-year-old Jbara, one of eight children, tends the family’s flock of sheep in a remote Moroccan village. Jbara’s prospects are grim; there is no relief in sight from the daily grind of household chores, and the yoke of paternal authority. She has no one to talk to but Allah. It is to Him that Jbara confides and shares the story of her life in this raw and candid monologue.

Jbara is routinely pushed around, but what stirs up her indignation is the battery of interdictions to which she is subjected: “At home,” she says, “everything is haram—forbidden by Islamic law—including me.” While uneducated in most things, Jbara has enough sense to know that what she lets a local shepherd do to her in exchange for her favorite raïbi jamila—a delicious yogurt with grenadine—is most likely not haram. Inevitably, she becomes pregnant and her family exiles her from the village. On her journey she preciously carries along the pink Dior suitcase she found one day after it had fallen from an American tour bus. This Pandora’s box filled with exotic treasures—coconut lip gloss, a pearl G-string, and a roll of cash—signals the existence of another world that she is at last about to discover.

The city is an unforgiving place for a vulnerable young woman ignorant of the ways of the world, and too beautiful not to be noticed. Wherever she goes, she must contend with male lust. She progressively learns to turn the value of her body to her benefit. Yet she still hopes for a more respectable life, and takes a job as a maid in a wealthy household. The family’s son rapes her, marking a turning point in Jbara’s life. Weary of selling herself cheap, she embraces the life of a prostitute with determination, informing Allah that she is ready to pay the price. Now renamed Shéhérazade, she becomes the favorite of a rich Arab sheikh, and experiences, for a while, the mirages of freedom until a police raid lands her in jail. There, through study, she finds her way back to Allah. When she is released, Jbara takes on the name of Khadijah, the wife of the prophet. Against all expectation, she marries an imam and leads a virtuous life. But her trials and tribulations do not end there.

With unblinking directness, Saphia Azzeddine spares no details concerning the crude reality of Jbara’s sexual encounters. With equal delicacy and sensitivity, she captures the poignancy of Jbara’s moments of joyful discovery. Laden with fierce social commentary, Dear Allah speaks against the excesses of a patriarchal society. Jbara is a believer who lives her faith as she sees fit and prays to Allah in her own way: “What animates my faith is to love You,” she tells Him. “Loving You has allowed me to love myself and loving myself has allowed me to love.”

 

Saphia Azzeddine is a French-Moroccan writer, actress, screenwriter, and film director. She has written seven novels, including Sa mère (Stock, 2017), Bilqiss (Stock, 2015), Combien veux-tu m’épouser? (Grasset, 2013), and La Mecque-Phuket (Léo Scheer, 2010.) Mon père est femme de ménage (Léo Scheer, 2009) was adapted for the screen in 2011 and received the Europe 1 Audience Award at the Alpe d’Huez International Comedy Film Festival. After a theatrical adaptation at the Festival d’Avignon in 2008, Dear Allah was the subject of a second adaptation, this time in comics, published by Futuropolis in 2015.

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Make Me Anger

Vincent Villeminot

(Les Escales, 274 pages, 2018)

 

 

“I’ll be the weapon, the club, the scimitar, to hit and hit the land of human animals. I’ll be your justice, judge, and executioner. Make me the vengeful arm, brother, you who does not avenge yourself; and I can point my finger, my weapon on the forehead of those who blaspheme against you. Those who yield to rapacity, who are prey to the pit. Make me Anger. Your resplendent dog.”

Make Me Anger

 

On the banks of Lake Leman in Geneva, sixteen-year-old Ismaëlle becomes an orphan when her father accidentally drowns. With no one else to care for her, Ismaëlle takes on her father’s fishing business and tries to survive on her own. Soon human bodies begin to float on the lake. Suddenly dozens, if not hundreds, of naked, inexplicable dead people cover its surface.

 Ismaëlle then meets Ezekiel, the son of an African dictator called The Ogre, and who lived through countless civil wars. Ezekiel travels to Lake Leman to kill a Leviathan, Mammon, that he knows will arrive—sooner rather than later—deep in the lake.

 Together Ismaëlle and Ezekiel embark on a quest to kill Mammon. During their odyssey, the two explore their desires and their pasts, battling not only the monstrous Mammon, but also greed, lust, and tender, raw emotion.

 Make Me Anger is an epic, dreamlike tale told through the melding of Ismaëlle’s and Ezekiel’s voices. Vincent Villeminot gives us at once a breathtaking novel, a mythological story, a biblical allegory, and poetry. His compelling writing gradually places Ismaëlle and Ezekiel in an ethereal world, where the frontier between dream and reality blurs.

 

Vincent Villeminot is a prolific writer of young adult books. Make Me Anger is his first novel in adult fiction.

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Antarctica: A Lifetime Dream

Mike Horn

(Éditions XO, 286 pages, 2018)

 

*** Full English manuscript available ***

*** 70,000 copies sold ***

 

On February 7, 2017, South African explorer Mike Horn reached the end of Antarctica, completing the first solo, unsupported, 57-day trek north-to-south crossing of the continent. Antarctica: A Lifetime Dream is the extraordinary tale of this achievement.

 Mike Horn sailed for twenty-five days through one of the worlds’ most dangerous seas from Cape Town, South Africa, to Novolazarevskaya, a Russian Antarctic research station. At fifty years old, Horn set out on his skis towing a 440-pound sled behind him. Over the course of 57 days, he endured temperatures as low as –40 degrees Fahrenheit and winds as high as 187 miles per hour, traveled 3,169 miles, and lost 36 pounds. No one had ever traversed most of his route.

 Horn’s days consisted of sleeping for five hours, cooking and eating for five hours, and traveling the remaining hours. On some days, using kites to harness the winds, he was able to complete 120 miles, while on other days, he had no other option than to hunker down in his tent. He dealt with equipment failure and injury, such as breaking his shoulder and opening his big toe with a screwdriver to facilitate blood flow in his half-frozen foot. The worst part was when he lost his cook stove, cooking pot, and spoon. By following the rules of survival, he adapted. Horn had no choice but to keep climbing toward the pole; it was either that or die.

 Through his perilous journey, he stayed in contact with his team and his two daughters via satellite phone. In the hardest times, he listened to the playlist his deceased wife, Cathy, had made for his expeditions. He found solace, strength, and wisdom in remembering his childhood and life with his shining star, remembering her telling him before she died: “The most beautiful gift you could give me is to continue to live for me. Like before, like always, tomorrow even stronger than yesterday.”

 In Antarctica: A Lifetime Dream, Mike Horn shares with us the attainment of his dream. Through his story, we discover the resilience of the human body and mind against extremes.

 

Mike Horn is a South African–born Swiss professional explorer, and has his own TV show in France. He has written several books (totaling one million copies sold), and is currently undertaking his latest expedition, Pole2Pole, a two-year circumnavigation of the globe by way of the north and south poles.