Rentrée littéraire (a seasonal pick)

In France the first weeks of September are synonymous with la rentrée - the end of summer holidays, going back to school and work. It is also a concentrated period of time where new books are released. A very intense period where books head the page-one of every newspaper.

581 new releases, including 390 by French authors. 81 first novels (there were 66 in 2016). Soon to come: the first selections of the glorious literary prizes like Goncourt and Medicis, and already a fine balance of masters and newcomers. Indian publishers will discover the great harvest during the Frankfurt Book Fair, where France is Guest of Honor.

To give you a glimpse of this tremendous time of French literary creativity, here is a selection of the “coups de coeur” by our French Book Office:  

L’Invention des corps, by Pierre Ducrozet (Actes Sud): a page-turner soon to be best-seller on digital age and trans-humanism. The heroes are rebels confronted with giants of technological innovation of California, USA. French fiction is addressing the biggest challenges of our time. A warning novel.

Belle merveille, by James Noël (Zulma): a first novel that you can read as a long prose poem, where the author is exploring Haiti during the horrible time of the earthquake in 2010, in a momentum of sadness and hope. A book which has the strength and lightness of a butterfly. And we all know what the Butterfly-Effect is, don’t we?

Minuit, Montmartre, by Julien Delmaire (Grasset): where you wander through Montparnasse in the early 20s, meeting Picasso, Apollinaire, anarchists, poets, lovers and many others on your way. The author is a poet, a dreamer and reminds us how much Paris is, over all, the capital of freedom.

Indian Paludes, by Jean-Claude Perrier (Belfond): a remake of one of the classics of French literature, where the author imagines André Gide on a visit to India to translate Kabîr. A travel to India, to poetry and to our deepest self. A very pleasant way to bring back to life a writer we like.

La partition intérieure, by Réginald Gaillard (éditions du Rocher): this novel is like an old spell of a voice, a voice coming from a small village in East of France, ignited by Catholicism, when a strange woman is acting like a fool, a witch or maybe a real saint.

Ton père, by Christophe Honoré (Mercure de France): the movie maker is painting himself, fictionalising a bit his own life through the lens of his daughter. The question is to the point: can one be both a gay man and a good dad? A very sensitive and sensible book about homosexuality today.

Climats de France, by Marie Richeux (Sabine Wespieser Editeur): a first novel about one of the greatest and most ambitious French architects in 1950’s France, François Pouillon. “Climat de France” is the given name to one of his building in North Africa. For us, in the time of Smart Cities and challenges of new urbanism, a very accurate novel to rethink the role and responsibility of an architect, and the influence he-she has on History itself.

Les Vents noirs, by Arnaud de La Grange (Jean-Claude Lattès): a great reporter himself, the author is offering us his first novel. A breath-taking novel where the reader follows the adventure of a bunch of soldiers, archeologists and mysterious men on the roads of Central Asia, at the beginning of 20th Century. Is this kind of an adventure be possible today? Let me question it.

Une chance folle, by Anne Godard (Les Editions de Minuit): The young Magda is telling us her own story, the story of a child who has been rescued from a terrible accident at home. And who step-by-step discovers a truth she may have preferred not to know. Are children always loved as they deserve to be?

Traité des gestes, by Charles Dantzig (Grasset): Encyclopedia to be read as a novel without a story. A very experimental and ambitious literary initiative which explores each and all of our gestures and movements, from ancient times to nowadays. My favourite? The sliding finger from left to right, from left to right, born with smart phones less than ten years ago, the most common gesture of boredom and contempt. A page-turner dictionary of language, about ourselves and much more.