Today, July 14, is Bastille Day and tomorrow Les Bleus face Croatia in the finals of the World Cup. Mid-July belongs to the French. For your mid-summer reading pleasure, try a contemporary French novel in translation. Besides the classics of French literature, the library stocks a satisfying range of French writers of fiction, from France as well as from Francophone African and Caribbean countries. Some of these authors are also featured in our French language collection for you readers of French out there.
How about starting with a mystery or thriller? Read on for a small sample.
Georges Simenon, creator of the master-sleuth Jules Maigret, was a Francophone Belgian. He was wildly, wildly prolific, with more than 200 novels, another 150 novellas, and numerous other works written under his own name and under a bunch of pseudonyms. He’s best known, though, for the Maigret novels, of which there are 75, plus 28 short stories, published between 1930 and 1972. In addition to our many English editions of Simenon, he’s an author you could also read in French.
Another French mystery writer to sample is Fred Vargas. She has two series in print, her policier series featuring Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, and the Three Evangelists series with its trio of historians.
The popular thriller The Perfect Nanny, by Leila Slimani is based on an actual crime that took place in New York. It was the 2016 Prix Goncourt winner, the first time ever that the prize was awarded to a Moroccan-born woman.
Don’t like crime novels? You could read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, madly popular when it when it was first published in English in 2008. It’s the story of apartment concierge Renee Michel and a twelve-year-old girl, Paloma Josse, who lives in Renee’s building, told through their alternating chapters.
Did you have to read Camus’s The Stranger (L’Etranger) in French 4? I did. Well, we have that. In both languages. We’ve also got Algerian author Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation, a retelling of The Stranger from the point of view of the brother of the nameless Arab murdered by Meursault on the beach. This book won the 2015 Prix Goncourt for a First Novel.
Submission is a 2015 novel by Michel Houllebecq. It’s a political satire, imagining what could happen after a traditionalist Muslim party wins the French presidential election in 2022 in league with the Socialists.
Another French title from 2015 is Petronille by Annie Nothomb, a book the jacket blurb describes as a “literary Thelma and Louise.” Champagne, travel, friendship: what could be more fun?
In a more serious, psychological vein, Marie NDiaye’s Ladivine is another winner, the story of four generations of women and one big secret.
So read a book by a Francophone author. You’ll feel smarter, chic-er, and thinner. And you’ll read some terrific books.
Looking for your next great read? Try our service for readers, Book Me! Fill out an online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.