The Albertine Prize recognizes American readers’ favorite contemporary Francophone literature while encouraging the discovery of new literary voices, translated and published in the US in the past year. The selection presents a range of stories from many diverse locations and perspectives, reminding us of the importance of looking beyond one’s own borders.
You don’t have to read them all to participate! Read one novel or more from the list below, and vote for as many as you want!
Translated by Adriana Hunter (Other Press). At once sexy and feminist, ‘Couple Mechanics’ tells the story of a woman who decides to fight for her marriage after her husband confesses to an affair with a noted politician. With intelligence, honesty, and humor, the novel examines the forces at work in a marriage, the effects of the inevitable ebb and flow of desire, and the difficulty of being a man today.
Translated by Willard Wood (Other Press). This best-selling debut novel from one of France’s most exciting young writers is based on the true story of the 1949 disappearance of Air France’s Constellation, a new plane launched by Howard Hughes, and its famous passengers. Tying together the destinies of boxer – and fiancé of Edith Piaf – Marcel Cerdan, a musical prodigy, and others, the novel gives these thirty-eight men and women a new life by imagining their long-forgotten story.
Translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman (Deep Vellum). With brutal honesty and poetic urgency, Ananda Devi relates the tale of four young Mauritians trapped in their country’s endless cycle of fear and violence: Eve, whose body is her only source of power; Savita, Eve’s best friend; Saadiq, a gifted would-be poet in love with Eve; and Clélio, a belligerent rebel waiting for his brother to send for him from France.
Translated by Sam Taylor (FSG). ‘The Heart’ takes place over the 24 hours surrounding a fatal car crash and the subsequent heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a dying woman. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, the book examines the deepest emotions of everyone involved – grieving parents, doctors and nurses – as they navigate decisions of life and death. The book won the 2014 Grand Prix RTL-Lire.
Translated by Nick Caistor (Seven Stories Press). Lola Lafon’s award-winning novel offers a fictionalized account of iconic gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s life, from her rural Romanian childhood to her unprecedented perfect score in the 1976 Olympics and to her 1989 defection to the U.S. The book re-imagines a childhood in the spotlight of history, a woman adored by young girls in the West and appropriated as a political emblem in Communist Romania.
Translated by Natasha Lehrer and Cécile Menon, (Dorothy, a publishing project). Moving between fact and speculation, film criticism and anecdote, Suite for Barbara Loden came out of Nathalie Léger’s obsessive investigation into the mysteries of Wanda, the only film American actress Barbara Loden ever wrote and directed.
Translated by Jordan Stump (Knopf). Malinka’s pale beauty helped her rise above her dark-skinned mother’s life of servitude. The book follows her through years of living a lie, leading up to a shockingly violent act that leaves her own daughter yearning to understand who her mother really was.
Translated by Alison L. Strayer (Seven Stories Press). Set in Morocco, Infidels follows the life of Jallal, the son of a prostitute witch doctor, fresh out of boyhood and on the path to Jihad. Filled with a cast of supporting characters whose dreams unravel, the book is structured as a series of monologues, an emotionally relentless mix of confession, shouting match, and secret longing.
Translated by Edward Gauvin (Dalkey Archive). ‘Naked’ is Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s fourth and final novel about one of the most fully realized female characters of contemporary fiction, the haute couturière Marie Madeleine Marguerite de Montalte. With his customary nuanced reflection and nimble wit, Toussaint continues to follow Marie’s relationship with his unnamed narrator, navigating through jealousy and comedy, irony and tenderness.
Translated by J. T. Mahany (Three Percent). One of the funniest installments in Antoine Volodine’s acclaimed post-apocalyptic series, ‘Bardo or Not Bardo’ consists of seven vignettes set in a universe of failed revolutions, radical shamanism, and off-kilter nomenclature. In each one, a newly dead character bungles his way through the Tibetan afterlife, or Bardo, failing to achieve enlightenment, while the living make a similar mess of things.