The French Muslim community numbers nearly 6 million, according to Joseph Downing, author of French Muslims in Perspective: Nationalism, Post-Colonialism and Marginalisation under the Republic. The largest in Western Europe, it has more often than not been under a harsh spotlight following years of terrorist attacks, national debates over the hijab, the burkini and the right to offend and blaspheme.
Most are modest Muslims leading normal lives, appreciative of laïcité (secularism) and its freedoms, while the number of violent extremists is estimated to be only in the few thousands – “less than 1% of the French Muslim population become jihadists” – though this reality is not that which is portrayed by the mainstream Media. Many are fashioning new Islamic institutions and developing new ways of listening, reasoning and teaching.
Continue reading Review | French Muslims in Perspective: Nationalism, Post-Colonialism and Marginalisation under the Republic, Joseph Downing | Palgrave Macmillan
Pierre Lemaitre, the Prix Goncourt-winning French novelist and screenwriter behind the Paris Crime Files a.k.a. Verhœven series, is brought to English-language readers by the publisher behind Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbø. So much for having a shrewd eye for genuinely original storytelling and talent-spotting big hitters from foreign climes, not just once but again and again and again . . . chapeau!
Rosy & John, translated by word wizard Frank Wynne, is published today. It is the fourth and last book in the Verhœven series. The opening description of an eight year old boy seeing “the body of his father soar into the air as though a giant hand has punched him in the solar plexus” when a bomb explodes in a Paris street, evoking the November 2015 Paris attacks, is both globally apocalyptic and highly personal. Continue reading Spotlight | Rosy & John, Pierre Lemaitre #FrenchNoir | MacLehose Press
In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales by Véronqiue Tadjo is a beautifully written and translated, stark collection of concise narratives about the Ebola epidemic of 2014. A short but unforgettable novel, it offers a poetic vision of sustained horror, fear, and excruciating pain. It questions the blindness of humanity in the face of potential catastrophic collapse as rampant greed, willful ignorance and avoidable self-destruction threaten to decimate planet earth.
Originally published in France in 2017, there is something prophetic about these tales in light of today’s coronavirus pandemic, and the grim topicality of potential or ongoing infectious disease threats.
Continue reading Review | In the Company of Men – The Ebola Tales, Véronqiue Tadjo | HopeRoad Publishing
Anne Serre is a remarkable and unusual writer; her pen a scalpel dissecting the human condition with painful precision. The Fool & Other Moral Tales – three novellas – is lyrical and disturbing, wonderful and terrible, arousing and devastating. The hallucinatory, and at times nightmarish quality, is beautifully rendered by translator Mark Hutchinson.
All three tales adventure through the multiple guises and meanings of The Fool. Is he a fallen angel, a grotesque carrier of vice and folly bringing wisdom in his wake as a consequence of blind faith, hopeless romance and reckless desire, or is he an abortive saint, a mistaken revolutionary? The ultimate shapeshifter, he can lead you to Heaven or Hell or, if you get stuck, into the abyss.
Continue reading Review | The Fool & Other Moral Tales, Anne Serre | Les Fugitives
The publication of La Familia Grande by Camille Kouchner reveals how incest is everpresent at the highest levels of French society, even among the most glamorous, powerful, bohemian, left wing intellectual Parisian élite, known as “la gauche caviar” (champagne socialists). In France, one in ten people say they are victims of incest according to Ipsos.
Camille Kouchner is the daughter of the late feminist, political scientist and lecturer Évelyne Pisier, and Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs under President Nicolas Sarkozy, having previously been a minister during Mitterand’s presidency. In 2010, the Jerusalem Post considered Bernard Kouchner the fifteenth most influential Jew in the world.
Continue reading Spotlight | La Familia Grande, Camille Kouchner | Éditions du Seuil