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
The White Dress is the final part of a trilogy of works by Nathalie Léger that began with Exposition, translated by Amanda DeMarco, and published by Les Fugitives in 2019.
Brides on Tour: peace not war
On 8 March 2008, Pippa Bacca, a 33-year-old Italian feminist artist, decided to hitchhike from Milan to Jerusalem wearing a white wedding dress to symbolise “marriage between different peoples and nations.” Her aim was to promote world peace and she intended to document her experiences by video. However, on 31 March, having temporarily separated from her fellow bride on tour, Silvia Moro, Pippa was picked up by Murat Karataş in Gezbe, Turkey. He raped and strangled her and dumped her body in a shallow grave among some bushes. Léger /Léger’s narrator meditates on Bacca’s sorrowful journey and interweaves the story of a mother and daughter’s relationship. Natasha Lehrer’s perceptive English translation was notably published on the twelfth anniversary of Bacca’s death.
Continue reading Guest Review | Lucy Popescu | The White Dress, Nathalie Léger | Les Fugitives
Henrietta Foster is an established journalist, TV producer and film-maker. Her latest film Beyond the Grace Note (Sky Arts) looks at some of the most remarkable and resilient female conductors, and the joys and challenges of the profession in the male-dominated world of orchestral conducting. Her previous work includes Art & Islam with Hari Kunzru for the BBC (2004), and Millennium Minds with philosopher, Alain de Botton, for Channel 4 (1999).
In January of this year when the world was quite normal with open functioning cinemas there was one film I really wanted to see: Le Mystère Henri Pick. I’d liked the other films based on David Foenkinos’ novels and even better this one starred the marvellous Fabrice Luchini. Sadly I missed both screenings at the Ciné Lumière in London because in those far off days there was more than one thing to do in the evenings. I went to the Institut Français library and checked the novel out but just before lockdown someone else requested the book and I had to return it unread. Henri and Henrietta seemed fated not to meet.
Then to my great joy I saw that Pushkin Press was publishing a translation of the novel and in conjunction with Walter Presents no less. Walter Iuzzolino and his collection of continental European television dramas are the only real reasons to watch Channel Four now that Homeland is over. Putting aside my guilt about not reading the novel in French, I asked Pushkin Press for a copy to review.
Continue reading Guest Review | Henrietta Foster | The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos
I was delighted to be invited along to some of the key talks held at this year’s Beyond Words French Literature Festival at the French Institute in South Kensington. Beyond Words has become ‘The Big Event’ in London for the promotion of French books translated into English. The festival features bilingual live literature events, writers’ talks, musical performances, screenings of recent literary adaptations, staged readings and books galore – both classic and contemporary.
This is the first of two posts about just some of what was up for discussion at the #BeyondWordsFest
Translation: a success story
Since I researched and wrote Boom not Bust: A new chapter in the story of translation in the UK in March 2015, translated fiction has become an ongoing success story. Brexit fatigue has led to a surge in the sale of translated fiction in the UK – an unexpected boon. Reading writing from elsewhere is ever more crucial as Little Englanders tighten their grip on this offshore island which looks set to sink beneath delusions of grandeur, short of a miracle . . .
Continue reading Spotlight | Jonathan Coe, Olivia Rosenthal, Claudia Durastanti & Others | Beyond Words French Literature Festival 2019
The Governesses by Anne Serre | Translated by Mark Hutchinson | Les Fugitives
Published 25 March, 2019 | PB 120 pages ISBN 978-978-0993009396
“Experience had shown you, however, that no pact lasts forever. You knew that the members of the household would once again be shuffled together like playing cards, and that when the next hand was dealt the alliances would fall out differently.”
The Governesses is a most unusual erotic fable about sex and power, illusion and eroticism, beautifully translated from the French into supremely elegant, languid prose. Its atmosphere is reminiscent of Alain Fournier and Julien Green.
Inès, Laura and Eléonore are governesses, responsible for four boys. The “mistresses of games and pleasure” they radiate a wild and frisky innocence, and have the run of the upstairs salons in the country house of Monsieur Austeur and his wife, Julie. “The excessive silence of the households they wait upon” may be “conducive to reading thinking and raising little boys who are champion hoop rollers, and to the elderly gentleman’s repose, and the waning love of Monsieur and Madame Auster,” but it is stultifying. Their employers’ home is “a boundless void.” The young women have nowhere to go, and there are no distractions. Continue reading Book 2 Review | The Governesses, Anne Serre & Now, Now Louison, Jean Frémon | Les Fugitives