Monday, 28 October 2013

Contemporary French Literature

With the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize, due to be awarded in the next few days, I thought it might be worth having a quick look at contemporary French literature. (For previous posts on French lit, click here, here and here.)

Last year's winner was Le sermon sur la chute de Rome by Jérôme Ferrari. I know that I am inclined to grass-is-greenerism but I can't quite imagine a prize-winning novel in the UK drawing its title and its chapter headings from St Augustine.

The year before the prize was won by Alexis Jenni with L'art français de la guerre. What drew most comment was the fact that Jenni was a schoolteacher who wrote this, his first novel, on Sundays when he had a bit of free time, but I couldn't also help but notice his deep-rooted Catholicism.

Another winner of the Prix Goncourt (though in a different category) is Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt with Concerto in Memory of an Angel, which features a story about redemption based around a reworking of the Cain and Abel story.

But it's not just the Prix Goncourt winners who stand out. Another really interesting author is Claire Daudin, who writes clearly in the French Catholic literary tradition. She is not just a novelist in her own right - Le Sourire was the winner of le prix 2009 des Journées du Livre Chrétien - but she is also something of an expert on Peguy, Bernanos and Mauriac.

What else you get in France more than in the UK are translations. So the novels of Catholic novelists like Martin Mosebach (Germany), Juan Manuel de Prada (Spain), Nguyen Viet Ha (Vietnam) and Fan Wen (China) are all much more readily accessible than they are over here.

And if that isn't enough to get you excited, there's a new Asterix book out too.

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