The Colonial Legacy in France Fracture, Rupture, and Apartheid

Edited by Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, and Dominic Thomas
Translated by Alexis Pernsteiner
Distribution: World
Publication date: 5/2/2017
Format: cloth 500 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-02625-5

Debates about the legacy of colonialism in France are not new, but they have taken on new urgency in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. Responding to acts of religious and racial violence in 2005, 2010, and 2015 and beyond, the essays in this volume pit French ideals against government-sponsored revisionist decrees that have exacerbated tensions, complicated the process of establishing and recording national memory, and triggered divisive debates on what it means to identify as French. As they document the checkered legacy of French colonialism, the contributors raise questions about France and the contemporary role of Islam, the banlieues, immigration, race, history, pedagogy, and the future of the Republic. This innovative volume reconsiders the cultural, economic, political, and social realities facing global French citizens today and includes contributions by Achille Mbembe, Benjamin Stora, Françoise Vergès, Alec Hargreaves, Elsa Dorlin, and Alain Mabanckou, among others.

Deadly Aid, Michel Tarou

Jeanne Lebrec knows that in real life, criminals are rewarded and the virtuous suffer. As a social worker, she has dedicated herself to helping the poor, the desperate, and the down and out, but now it seems like all she sees are deadbeat dads and drug-addicted moms who use people and have no desire to better themselves.

One day, after a particularly heartbreaking case, Jeanne reaches her limit and does something unexpected—with deadly consequences. Before long, she’s secretly practicing her own twisted version of “social services.” In a world where bad guys win and good guys pay, is there a difference between justice and retribution?

Published by AmazonCrossing in July 2015: buy it here.

 

Bad Conscience, Michel Quint

One morning, a devastating earthquake shakes the residents of Aix-en-Provence out of their beds. When a group of college students decides to take advantage of the ensuing chaos by looting a destroyed jewelry store, they are quickly in over their heads. One by one people around them are dying. Bitter and desperate, survivors are fleeing town in search of a safe haven, complicating the escape path of these unlucky petty thieves.

What started as a get-rich-quick scheme reveals the complex plans of a dangerous criminal mastermind who has evaded capture for years. Professional criminals, amateur thieves, and deranged cops are all racing after jewels. With all their lives in the balance, who will be the last one standing?

Published in April 2015 by AmazonCrossing, buy it here.

Writing Exile

This month’s issue of Words without Borders, a monthly magazine publishing literature from around the world, focuses on the theme of exile.

Living abroad, working and thinking between languages and cultures, I am keenly interested in the ways in which encounters with the foreign shape our identities, transforming us into hybrid beings — caught somewhere between our roots and otherness. This experience, the startling disjunction between self and self-other, is perhaps most radical in cases of exile. Indeed, in the piece I’ve translated for this issue, Chadian author Koulsy Lamko compares exile to a nearly impossible act of grafting:

“Splicing oneself onto a strange root successfully is a miracle. Unless one possesses the properties of mistletoe and can grow on a tree whose roots are not one’s own. Slowly but surely, exile erases us from the memory of our land. And the day we try to go back to our country, to set foot there, by chance, for a sun, a moon, we realize that our land has abandoned us; it has turned its back on us, doesn’t recognize us anymore, has disowned us.”*

Reading the pieces in Writing Exile, I am reminded of a line in Maurice Blanchot asserting that a work worth translating is one that reflects a living language’s otherness with respect to itself (“Traduire”, L’Amitié). Here, it seems that subject and form are well matched, for in a magazine in which translation plays a central role, with writings by Venezuelan, Syrian, Iraqi, Chadian writers in exile, we are given a multiplicity of accounts and voices struggling with the shifting borders between self and other.

Click on the image to access the issue:

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*Citation from a translated excerpt of Les racines du Yucca, a story about an African author with a paper allergy who ends up organizing writing workshops in the Yucatán for exiles and survivors of war.

Punctum: Reflections on Photography

The Salzburger Kunstverein is opening an exhibit this July broadly centered around Roland Barthes’s idea of “punctum”, from Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, to reflect on the nature of contemporary photography. Curated by Séamus Kealy, “this exhibition takes this concept and term as a starting point for invited participants to select photographs that, for each of them, are emblematic of ‘punctum’, given today’s context for photography and our constant grappling with aesthetics”. I am delighted to have worked with French artist Suzanne Lafont on the English translation of a text accompanying her piece, which features twenty-four portraits of the actors from David Lynch’s iconic television series Twin Peaks. Reflecting on ambiguities between reality and fiction, on transgressions of the threshold that holds them apart, Lafont’s Josie Packard breaks the fourth wall, telling the audience: “The point (punctum) is the moment when the world attaches itself to fiction in order to find its coherence. Call me Joan Chen.”

Featured photograph from exhibit brochure: Spring Hurlbut, Deuil II: James #5, 2008, pigment print , 72.4 x 82.6 cm

July 27 – September 21 : Main Hall / Opening : Friday, July 25 at 8 p.m. / Accompanied by a lecture series

Hotelles

Hotelles, an erotic novel that takes place in the City of Love, came out in early April and is getting great reviews. I loved translating this book: Emma Mars knows how to craft an intriguing plot line; the sex scenes are hot; Paris — its glittering monuments, its cobbled streets, its Haussmannian grandeur — is described in lush detail; and the literary heritage of French Romanticism brings depth to the genre. This book is available in paperback, as an e-book, and in audio format.

Published in April 2014 by Harper Perennial, buy it here.

Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution

I am excited to lay hands on Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution! Published by Indiana University Press in November of 2013, this ambitious book gathers together articles written by  an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars, writers, and intellectuals. Colonial Culture in France treats of a multi-faceted historical system, mobilizing a term, colonial culture, to describe “the foundations and origins of the contemporary cultural, political, and social landscape” and the ways in which such a system continues to inform narratives of  identity, memory, and history. This collection, which opens on a discussion of abolitionist movements in the mid nineteenth century and ends with reflections on present day issues,  offers the reader a long and detailed view of the postcolonial situation in France, with articles on such diverse topics as education, science, exhibitions, cinema, sports, propaganda, and tourism — to name but a handful. Colonial Culture in France is available both in hardcover and as an e-book.

On Bookstore Shelves Now: African Lives

African Lives: An Anthology of Memoirs and Autobiographies is now available online and in bookstores. This collection features pieces written by authors from across the African continent and spanning several centuries. As editor Geoff Wisner says in his introduction, the book can be read straight through or by skipping around:

The selections are arranged to follow the map of Africa as
you would read a page in a book: top to bottom and left to right, beginning
with North Africa and continuing through West Africa, Central
Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa. Within each region, the selections
are in alphabetical order by country. Within each country, they are
arranged chronologically, according to the date of the events described.

Layout 1

By a happy accident, African Lives begins in childhood, with Mohammed
Dib’s memories of growing up in Algeria. It ends in maturity and exile, on
a note of leave-taking, as Chenjerai Hove writes to his mother in Zimbabwe
from his new home in Norway. Between these two voices, I hope you will
find many more to challenge, inspire, and enlighten you.”

This is such a wonderful book, and together with my co-translator, Antoine Bargel, I am delighted to make three newly translated pieces available to the anglophone world: Yasmina Khadra’s The Writer (excerpt); Christian Dumoux’ Childhood in Madagascar (excerpt); Tahar Ben Jelloun’s The Fraternal Bond (excerpt).

Armenian Print Conference

If you’re in Los Angeles during the weekend of November 9 to 11, I highly recommend checking out the Armenian Print Conference, hosted by UCLA’s History Department. I’ve just finished up work on some really interesting papers dealing with the transition from manuscript to print culture, book distribution in early modern Europe, and the trajectory of Armenian printing practices from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Follow the link for more details: http://www.history.ucla.edu/events/conference-2