French fiction in translation

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A Hundred Million Years and a Day by Jean-Baptiste Andrea (transl. Sam Taylor): The folly of a dream

I’m not entirely sure I would have read Jean-Baptiste Andrea’s novella with its rather wordy title had it not been for the enthusiasm of the small indie publisher who approached me to review it which would have been a shame. A Hundred Million Years and a Day was a huge literary hit in France last …

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The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos (transl. Sam Taylor): Tailor made

David Foekinos’ The Mystery of Henri Pick marks the beginning of a collaboration between publishers Pushkin Press and Channel 4’s Walter Presents, a streaming service which provides a good deal of my TV entertainment with its subtitled European drama. Even without that, I’d have been interested in this book whose blurb promised a novel about …

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The Cheffe by Marie NDiaye (transl. Jordan Stump): A culinary enigma

Several things attracted me to Marie NDiaye’s The Cheffe: I’ve a weakness for novels about food, given its author and subject I expected a healthy streak of feminism and there was the promise of an unreliable narrator. My liking for those may be even greater than my predilection for foodie fiction. NDiyae’s novel is the …

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Older Brother by Mahir Guven (transl. Tina Kover): A tale of two brothers

Apart from Karim Miské’s Arab Jazz I don’t think I’ve read anything set in Paris’s banlieues which is partly what drew me to Mahir Guven’s Prix-Goncourt-winning debut. Older Brother explores life in these areas, synonymous with poverty and dissent, through two brothers and their Syrian taxi-driving father, still grieving his French wife. Despite the carefully …

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Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano (transl. Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis): Interconnected lives

I’m sure I’ve already made this observation here but I’ve yet to read a dud from Peirene Press. Their books are always thought-provoking and often beautifully expressed, a tribute to both writer and translator, or in this case translators. Clearly, Meike Ziervogel has a very discerning editorial eye and her own writing is quite remarkable, …

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The Braid by Letitia Colombani (transl. Louise Rogers Lalaurie): Take three women

Letitia Colombani’s The Braid is one of those elegantly structured novellas that manages to pack a great deal into fewer than two hundred pages. Three women’s stories intersect in a way that none of them can imagine when the book begins. They will remain unknown to each other yet each will have played a crucial …

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Loyalties by Delphine de Vigan (transl. George Miller): Silence is not always golden

I read Delphine de Vigan’s Based on a True Story around this time last year and knew it would be one of my books of the year. I was delighted, then, when I spotted Loyalties on the publishing horizon. It tells the story of a young boy, caught up in the fallout from a bitter …

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The Tree of the Toraja by Philippe Claudel (transl. Euan Cameron): Death, grief and hope

If you haven’t yet come across Philippe Claudel’s books you may know his work from I Loved You So Long starring Kristin Scott Thomas. Ranging from Parfums, a sensuous fragrance memoir, to Monsieur Linh and His Child, one of the saddest pieces of fiction I’ve read, his writing is as elegantly understated as his movies, …

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Madame Bovary of the Suburbs by Sophie Divry (transl. Alison Anderson): A Flaubert homage

It’s been a very long time since I read Flaubert’s tale of a doctor’s wife, bored to tears by provincial life and seeking diversion in adultery, but not so long since I read Sophie Divry’s slightly eccentric debut, The Library of Unrequited Love which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s always a risky business when an author …

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So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood by Patrick Modiano (transl. Euan Cameron): Memory and the tricks we play on it

This is the first novel I’ve read by the famously reclusive Nobel Prize-winning Patrick Modiano. He’s been on my list since I read Victoria’s excellent piece on him at Tales from the Reading Room. He also made a little cameo appearance in The Red Notebook which I read a little while ago and when So …

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