France

France

The newest addition to literary travel guidebooks from Whereabouts Press is a banquet of stories that serve up the spirit of contemporary France, and reveal more about the culture than any travel guide could.

France: A Traveler’s Literary Companion serves 21 sumptuous stories that explore the various regions of France, beginning in Paris, taking us past the tourist spots of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Élysées, and into the soul of the city. The tour then takes us to the suburbs of Paris, then south, east, and west, completing the feast with a Tour de France: a lottery player’s dream of owning houses scattered across the French landscape.

This literary guide draws on stories that capture a sense of place, as well as the diversity of modern France. Among the contributors are well-known authors such as Colette, who writes about the grape harvest during the occupation, and the legendary detective novelist, Georges Simenon, who spins a mystery that take place on the barges on the Seine. Other writers include the likes of Egyptian immigrant Andrée Chedid, who explores the newcomer’s experience in a heartbreaking story about the connection between a war-ravaged child and a world-weary Frenchman. Several of the stories touch upon the vestiges of the war, including the fate of unsung heroes. And what would a book by French authors be without a few good dog stories, also tucked into this edition?

The collection contains stories that are funny, sad, and mysterious, all transporting us into the inner landscape of the concerns, obsessions, and intrigues of the people who inhabit these regions. The majority of the stories have never before been translated into English.

View the Preface | Interview with the Editor

A lovely book. The editing is illuminating and the selections are quite wonderful. Even if you don’t plan a trip to France any time soon, this is a book worth reading. Each piece is memorable, and all the translations are of remarkably high quality. And if you do intend to travel to France, the book is bound to enhance your experience in unexpected and exciting ways. This series is a splendid introduction to the culture of any country.

Edith Grossman, translator

If you want to delve deeply (and hauntingly) into an unfamiliar destination, check out the superb Traveler’s Literary Companion series (Whereabouts Press).

The Oprah Magazine

Each paperback is an anthology of short stories by fine local writers—a unique way to learn about a place.

National Geographic Traveler

  • Paris and its Suburbs
    • Christian Lehmann, The Book Thief
    • Frédéric Beigbeder, Down in the Dumps at Charles de Gaulle Airport
    • Cyrille Fleischman, Vanity
    • Samuel Benchetrit, An Ear for an Ear
    • Luc Lang, Dog Mind
    • Frédéric Fajardie, The Womanizer
    • Georges Simenon, Two Bodies on a Barge
    • Jacques Réda, Rue Laferrière
    • Andrée Chedid, Child of the Carousel
  • The South
    • Colette, The Grape Harvest
    • Pierre Magnan, Garcinets Pass
    • Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, Villa Aurora
    • François Maspero, When the Italians Came
  • The West
    • Jean Failler, The Ladle
    • Annie Ernaux, A Frozen Woman
    • Eric Holder, Just Like an Actress
    • Anna Gavalda, Junior
  • The East
    • Gabriel Chevallier, Clochemerle
    • Annie Saumont, It Was Yesterday
    • Marcel Aymé, The Dogs in Our Life
    • Didier Daeninckx, A Lively Little Tune
  • Tour de France
    • Dominique Jamet, The Lottery of France
  • William Rodarmor (1942– ) is a journalist, editor, and French literary translator. One of his many book translations, Tamata and the Alliance, by solo sailor Bernard Moitessier, won the 1996 Lewis Galantière Award from the American Translators Association. His most recent translations are Julien Parme, by Florian Zeller (2008), Diasporas, by Stéphane Dufoix (2008), and The Book of Time, by Guillaume Prévost (2007). He lives in Berkeley, California, and took over the editing of this book after Anna Livia’s untimely death.
  • Anna Livia (1955–2007) taught French and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a scholar, novelist, and translator, and also a dedicated feminist. Among her translations are Lucie Delarue Mardrus, The Angel and the Perverts, and A Perilous Advantagean, an anthology of writings by Natalie Clifford Barney. Her novel, Bruised Fruit (1999) was short-listed for a Lammy award. Two earlier books—Minimax (1991) and Incidents Involving Mirth (1990)—were short-listed for the same award.

Click here for an interview with the editor.

Contributors

  • Marcel Aymé (1902–1967) was a popular author of novels, plays, and short stories, whose politics—or lack of them— managed to irritate friend and foe alike. During the Occupation, for example, he made movies with a Marxist director while writing stories for collaborationist publications. Aymé wrote in the realistic vein of a Balzac or a Zola while leaving room for playful, ironic fantasy, as in his most famous work, Le passe-muraille (1943, tr. The Walker-Through-Walls).
  • Frédéric Beigbeder (1965– ) is a bad-boy writer and pundit whose surface frivolity hides a trenchant social observer that can be both provocative and self-critical. “When I have a cold, people think I’ve been snorting drugs,” he says. “That’s called having a reputation.” The featured story is from Beigbeder’s 1999 collection, Nouvelles sous ecstasy.
  • Samuel Benchetrit (1973– ) is a writer, actor, and movie director who grew up in the housing projects outside Paris. Born into a family of modest means, he quit school at fifteen to work at a series of small jobs, including photographer’s assistant and movie theater usher. After writing Récit d’un branleur (2000), a provocative first novel, he started a five-volume portrait of his neighborhood, Chroniques de l’asphalte.
  • Andrée Chedid (1920– ) is a celebrated poet and novelist. Born in Cairo to Lebanese parents, she has lived in France since 1946 and has been bridging cultures ever since. In addition to some twenty-two volumes of poetry, she has written sixteen novels, seven plays, and many short stories.
  • Gabriel Chevallier (1895–1969) will forever be associated with his 1934 comic masterpiece, Clochemerle. A tale of high and low jinks in a French village, the book has sold millions of copies and been translated into more than twenty languages. Though Chevallier’s classic holds his invented village up to ridicule, several French towns have claimed to be its model.
  • Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio (1940– ) is one of France’s best-known contemporary writers. In more than twenty novels and nonfiction works he lends his voice to the dispossessed, exploring such themes as alienation, immigration, poverty, violence, and the loss of innocence. A small sampling of his books includes Le procès-verbal (1963), La fièvre (1975, tr. Fever), and Le chercheur d’or (1985, tr. The Prospector).
  • Colette (1873-1954) was the author of many well-known novels, noted for their intimate style and sense of place. Widely translated into English, they include The Complete Claudine, The Vagabond, Chéri, The Last of Chéri, Gigi, and Green Wheat.
  • Didier Daeninckx (1949- ) is a prizewinning writer of novels, young adult books, graphic novels, and short stories. He has a fondness for detective stories rooted in history and political reality, and his take on daily life is tragic and ironic, but often enlivened by gallows humor. Daeninckx also works as an investigative reporter for an online daily, amnistia.net.
  • Annie Ernaux (1940- ) has made her reputation as a writer of a series of relentlessly honest autobiographical novels. They describe her childhood in Yvetot, Normandy (La honte, 1997, tr. Shame), her adolescence (Ce qu’ils disent ou rien, 1997), her marriage (La femme gelée, 1981, tr. A Frozen Woman), her abortion (L’événement, 2000, tr. Happening), and her mother’s death (Une femme, 1989, tr. A Woman’s Story).
  • Jean Failler (1940- ) is a very successful self-published writer of plays, short stories, and detective stories, nearly all set in different parts of native Brittany. Several of his thirty-odd Mary Lester mysteries have been made into movies, but only La cité des dogues (1998) has been translated into English, as Mayhem in Saint-Malo (2003).
  • Frédéric Fajardie (1947–2008) was one of France’s most prolific short-story writers. His Nouvelles d’un siècle l’autre (2000) includes 365 stories he wrote from the 1970s to the turn of the millennium. He was also a novelist, screenwriter, and detective-story author.
  • Cyrille Fleischman (1941– ) has managed to create a shtetl of the mind in the heart of the Marais neighborhood of Paris, drawing from the same well of Jewish irony, wit, and fantasy as Sholem Aleichem and I. B. Singer. In 2002, Fleischman won the Max Cukierman Yiddish Culture Award for his body of work.
  • Anna Gavalda (1970- ) is a journalist and award-winning novelist whose debut short-story collection, Je voud-rais que quelqu’un m’attende quelque part (1999, tr. I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere), sold more than three-quarters of a million copies in France.
  • Eric Holder (1960– ) was born in Lille, spent his youth in Provence, and now lives in Médoc, north of Bordeaux. His many novels include Bruits de coeurs (1994), Mademoiselle Chambon (1996), and Les sentiers délicats (2005), and often deal with the peregrinations of the heart.
  • Dominique Jamet (1936– ) is a writer and journalist who has worked as a reporter or editor at France Soir, Combat, l’Aurore, Le Figaro Littéraire, and Le Quotidien de Paris, among others, and played an important role in the creation of France’s national library. His novels include Antoine et Maximilien (1986), Le nouveau Candide (1994), and Un château sur le sable (1998).
  • Luc Lang (1956– ) is a prizewinning novelist who often immerses himself in the milieus he writes about: jazz musicians, ambulance drivers, power linemen, and neurosurgeons. He teaches esthetics at the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Cergy, and is a frequent guest at writers’ conferences in the United States.
  • Christian Lehmann (1958– ) is a medical doctor, writer, and political activist on health issues. Among other books, he is the author of the bestseller No pasarán, le jeu (1996, tr. Ultimate Game), its sequel, Andreas, le retour (2005), and Patients, si vous saviez (2003). His latest book is Sarkolangue (2008), a biting analysis of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s policies.
  • Pierre Magnan (1922– ) writes books deeply rooted in his native Provence. He published his first novel, L’aube insolite, at twenty-four, then spent decades writing on the side until scoring with Le sang des Atrides (1978), the first of his many detective stories. Six years later Magnan wrote his best-known book, La maison assassinée (1984, tr. The Murdered House).
  • François Maspero (1932– ) is an author and journalist and was a well-known publisher of leftist books in the 1970s. He has also translated books from English, Spanish, and Italian, including the works of Joseph Conrad and John Reed. His best-known books are Le sourire du chat (1985, tr. Cat’s Grin), Les passagers du Roissy-Express (1990, tr. Roissy Express), and Balkans-Transit (1997).
  • Jacques Réda (1929– ) is a poet, jazz critic, and flâneur who was the chief editor of the Nouvelle Revue Française from 1987 to 1996. His books include Récitatif (1970, tr. The Party is Over), Les ruines de Paris (1977, tr. Ruins of Paris), and Retour au calme (1989, tr. Return to Calm).
  • Annie Saumont (1927– ) is France’s best-known writer of short stories. She is also the translator of many books from English, including The Catcher in the Rye. In addition to J. D. Salinger, she has translated V. S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer, John Fowles, Michael Dorris, and Sandra Cisneros. Saumont won the short-story Prix Goncourt for Quelquefois dans les ceremonies (1981) and the Prix de l’Académie Française in 2003 for the whole of her work.
  • Georges Simenon (1903–1989) was one of the hardest-working writers in history. His oeuvre includes nearly 200 novels, more than 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and scores of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. But Simenon is best known for his 75 novels and 28 short stories featuring Inspector Maigret, the pipe-smoking Paris police detective.
  • William Rodarmor (1942– ) is a journalist, editor, and French literary translator. One of his many book translations, Tamata and the Alliance, by solo sailor Bernard Moitessier, won the 1996 Lewis Galantière Award from the American Translators Association. His most recent translations are Julien Parme, by Florian Zeller (2008), Diasporas, by Stéphane Dufoix (2008), and The Book of Time, by Guillaume Prévost (2007). He lives in Berkeley, California, and took over the editing of this book after Anna Livia’s untimely death.
  • Anna Livia (1955–2007) taught French and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. She was a scholar, novelist, and translator, and also a dedicated feminist. Among her translations are Lucie Delarue Mardrus, The Angel and the Perverts, and A Perilous Advantagean, an anthology of writings by Natalie Clifford Barney. Her novel, Bruised Fruit (1999) was short-listed for a Lammy award. Two earlier books—Minimax (1991) and Incidents Involving Mirth (1990)—were short-listed for the same award.
  • Jean Anderson teaches French at the University of Victoria, in Wellington, New Zealand. Since taking up literary translation in 2004, she has published two books translated from French to English and cotranslated three from English to French. She is the founding director of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation, launched with an anthology of translated prose pieces from more than twenty countries and a dozen languages into New Zealand English, entitled Been There, Read That! Stories for the Armchair Traveller (2008).
  • Neil Blackadder translates drama and prose from German and French. His translation from German of The Sexual Neuroses of our Parents by Swiss playwright Lukas Bärfuss was staged by the Gate Theatre in London in September 2007 and published by Nick Hern Books. His translation of Rebekka Kricheldorf’s The Ballad of the Pine Tree Killer was featured in the electronic journal The Mercurian; his work has also appeared in journals including Two Lines, Chelsea, Stand, and Absinthe. Blackadder is also the author of Performing Opposition: Modern Theater and the Scandalized Audience. He teaches theatre at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.
  • Linda Coverdale has translated many modern French classics. In addition to several books by Annie Ernaux, she has translated works by Roland Barthes, Emmanuel Carrère, Patrick Chamoiseau, Maryse Condé, Marie Darrieussecq, Hervé Guibert, Sébastien Japrisot, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Philippe Labro, Yann Queffélec, Jorge Semprun, and Patrick Volodine. In 2001, the French government awarded her the title of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
  • C. Dickson has translated Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio’s books The Round and Other Cold Hard Facts (1992) and Wandering Star (2004), as well as works by Gisèle Pineau, Mohammed Dib, and Shams Nadir.
  • Rose Vekony translates scholarly and literary texts from French and Spanish. A certified member of the American Translators Association, she is an editor at the University of California Press.

France: A Traveler’s Literary Companion

Trade paperback original

Travel/Fiction

5 x 7¼, 256 pp.,

ISBN 978-1-883513-18-4

Publication date: September 2008

From Pierre Magnan’s “Garcinets Pass”

Do you know Garcinets Pass? The road over it is so marginal, so indistinct and pointless, that the cartographer responsible almost didn’t bother putting it on the map.

The road runs from Selonnet to Turriers and Bellaffaire, and it’s laced with tortuous turns that bend over backward whenever they encounter the area’s few torrents. The road can’t seem to decide whether to follow them or cross them, just like the men who figured out the cheapest way to build it—following a mule track that for a thousand years was the only way to get into this godforsaken but magnificent part of the country.

The road cuts through crystals formed in fire fifteen million years ago, when the Pyrenees were casually spreading out and the Alps rose up to block their path. In the geological Gordian knot produced by that huge collision, the rock solidified into shards resembling long slivers of dead wood that look like so many sharpened daggers.

When only the moon and stars look down on Garcinets Pass, they’re reflected in millions of those daggers, and they tumble down the glittering water courses, illuminating the close, stream-whispering darkness like a riot of paper lanterns.

If you’ve never seen Garcinets Pass on a heavy November day with black clouds cascading silently out of a sky that threatens rain, you don’t know what loneliness is. Around here, three vehicles a day pass by: the milk truck making its pickups; the Seyne baker, who delivers as far as Bellaffaire; and the mailman in his yellow truck, who doesn’t linger in these forbidding surroundings.

From the first chapter of Le parme convient à Laviolette (© Editions Denoël, 2000). English translation © 2008 William Rodarmor. Translated and published by permission of Editions Denoël.

Posted on 24 February 2010


Responses are closed for this post.

Copyright © 2017 Whereabouts Press. 1618 Capistrano Ave, Berkeley CA 94707
design by clerestory