Tag Archives: Three Strong Women
As discerning international booklovers may already have seen, we’re thrilled to announce that Pierre Lemaitre has won the Prix Goncourt in France, for his latest novel Au revoir là-haut, which we will be publishing in 2015. The prize is widely regarded as France’s premiere book award, won in the past by such literary galacticos as Marcel Proust and Simone de Beauvoir.
English-language readers will obviously know Pierre for his outstanding English-language debut Alex, released this year in both the UK and USA by MacLehose Press, to widespread critical acclaim: “With quiet virtuosity, Lemaitre moves the narrative through its various levels toward a concluding act of retribution that is both ingeniously conceived and immensely satisfying,” said the Washington Post; “It enthrals at every stage of its unpredictability. Grippingly original” proclaimed The Times.
The next instalment of that trilogy – Irène – is on its way, and indeed is already setting pulses racing in the MacLehose office (opinions are divided as to whether one of its many twists outdoes anything in Alex, but it’s a close-run thing either way). However, Au revoir là-haut is part of a new direction in Pierre’s career, and is a remarkable literary tragedy set in the aftermath of the First World War.
It goes without saying that it has already received yet more rave reviews in France. Le Monde praises Lemaitre for “masterfully composing a fresco of post-war France”. Meanwhile Le Point argues the novel “confirms, as if it were necessary, the talent Pierre Lemaitre has demonstrated in crime fiction. Light, hyper-documented, the novel is built on a very effective plot . . . it feeds a network of characters always relevant and always alive”.
But if you can’t wait that long to get your hands on a Prix Goncourt winner, you’re still in the right place. Including this latest triumph, MacLehose Press will now be publishing three of the last five novels to win this prestigious award, starting with the 2009 winner, Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye. This extraordinarily powerful interweaved tale of three eponymous heroines is out now in paperback, and coming soon to ebook. Meanwhile next year we will publish Sermon on the Fall of Rome by Jerome Ferrari, a staggeringly good novel set in a small town in Corsica, from the author of Where I Left My Soul, which was a 2012 “Books of the Year” pick in no less than four British newspapers.
Until then though, it’s our warmest félicitations to Pierre!
Marie NDiaye has already made history by becoming the first black woman to win the Prix Goncourt (for Three Strong Women). Now she has been named as the youngest ever finalist for the Man International Booker Prize.
She joins nine other authors on the shortlist: U R Ananthamurthy (India), Aharon Appelfeld (Israel), Lydia Davis (USA), Intizar Husain (Pakistan),Yan Lianke (China), Marie NDiaye (France), Josip Novakovich(Canada), Marilynne Robinson (USA), Vladimir Sorokin (Russia) and Peter Stamm (Switzerland).
The winner of this the fifth Man Booker International Prize will be announced on May 22 at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
Just as Jérôme Ferrari was awarded the Prix Goncourt a few weeks ago, the Books of the Year round-ups began to appear in the press and his novel Where I Left My Soul (trs. Geoffrey Strachan) kept cropping up.
It was described by Michael Holroyd in the Guardian as “The most powerful novel I have read this year . . . a devastating story that shows how the victims of torture often become torturers themselves”.
He chose it again in the New Statesman: “a novel taking us from Buchenwald and Vietnam to Algeria, and leading to the conclusion that those who suffer most go on to cause most suffering.”
In the Spectator, Allan Massie found Ferrari’s novel “brilliantly and movingly done. The book, a prize-winner in France, has received less attention here than it deserves.”
Ferrari’s star is indeed rising, and a translation of his Goncourt-winning Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome is now in preparation.
In the Financial Times, Angel Gurria Quintana included it in the Fiction in Translation Books of the Year: “a devastating study of the effect of systematic torture on both victims and perpetrators. Though firmly rooted in the savagery of the Algerian struggle for independence, the novel has modern echoes that make it uncomfortable and illuminating.”
Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye (trs. John Fletcher) was selected in the Economist (“Three women whose lives are strung between Africa and Europe find the strength to say no, by the winner of the 2009 Prix Goncourt), a choice echoed across the Atlantic in Kirkus Reviews and the New York Times 100 NotableBooks of 2012.
Nicholas Shakespeare chose Elizabeth Hay’s novel Alone in the Classroom in the Telegraph: “by my favourite living novelist . . . a story of murder and obsessive love in prairie Canada, and better even than Alice Munro”.
In the Independent this last weekend Boyd Tonkin chose Angharad Price’s The Life of Rebecca Jones (trs. Lloyd Jones): “a gem of a short novel . . . The fictional voice Price gives to her great-aunt compels and captivates.”
And of Cees Nooteboom’s perceptive analysis of Germany he wrote “The year’s strongest literary portrait of a city came in Roads to Berlin (trs. Laura Watkinson), the great Dutch writer’s bittersweet tribute to the fateful capital that moulded his upbringing, and his imagination.”
Of our crime novels, Joan Smith has nominated Antonin Varenne’s Bed of Nails (trs. Siân Reynolds) as her Best Crime Title of the Year in the Sunday Times: “The crime novel that has stayed in my mind this year is from France . . . simply superb. It is an unexpected read right from the opening pages. . . Varenne handles dark themes of suicide and sadomasochism with a profound human sympathy.”
In the Independent Barry Forshaw picked out Paulus Hochgatterer’s The Mattress House (trs. Jamie Bulloch), “with dark doings in Austria as psychologically truthful as one might expect from this psychiatrist-cum-writer. Hochgatterer gives ammunition to those already whispering that the next big thing in crime (after Scandinavia) may just be coming from . . . Austria and Germany.”
But what about Italy? Valerio Varesi’s The Dark Valley (trs. Joseph Farrell and shortlisted for this year’s CWA International Dagger) was chosen by Laura Wilson as one of her Crime Books of the Year for the Guardian: “Finally, for those who enjoy foreign locations but are tiring of Scandinavia, Italian author Valerio Varesi’s The Dark Valley, set in the Appenines and featuring the excellent Commissario Soneri, is a rich, rewarding read.”
What was your MacLehose Press Book of the Year? Send us your comments!
Marie NDiaye’s astounding Goncourt-winning Three Strong Women (translated by John Fletcher) is being published by in America by Alfred A. Knopf, and this Sunday it has been reviewed in the New York Time Book Review. It was quite an in-depth review, but here are a few choice snippets:
Publishers in the United States [are introducing] American readers to a new generation of hugely gifted French writers who are reworking the boundaries of fiction, memoir and history . . . Among the recent crop of writers just reaching the top of their game, Marie NDiaye, born in 1967 and now living in Berlin, is pre-eminent.
A writer of the highest caliber . . . NDiaye is a hypnotic storyteller with an unflinching understanding of the rock-bottom reality of most people’s lives. This clear sightedness – combined with her subtle narrative sleights of hand and her willingness to broach essential subjects like the fate of would-be migrants to the rich North – gives her fiction a rare integrity that shines through the sinuous prose . . . NDiaye manages nonetheless to convey a redemptive realism about how the world works, and what makes people tick . . . Three Strong Women is the poised creation of a novelist unafraid to explore the extremes of human suffering.
And now is probably a sensible time to mention that Three Strong Women was also recently review in the Guardian by Maya Jaggi, who was similarly impressed:
A tenuously linked tripartite novel that is more than the sum of its parts is a hard act to pull off. Marie NDiaye, one of France’s most exciting prose stylists and playwrights, succeeds with elegance, grit and some painful comedy in Three Strong Women, which won the Prix Goncourt in 2009. Moving mainly between France and Senegal, this novel explores survival, inheritance and the feared repetition of history – within families, as between peoples. Its three heroines have an unassailable sense of their own self-worth, while their psychological battles have an almost mythic resonance.
It can take a while to acclimatise to NDiaye’s style, which incorporates a thread of hallucinatory symbolism about flowers and flight. John Fletcher’s translation rightly preserves long sentences that can, at times, verge on awkwardness. But the prose compels with its astonishing range and precision.
The full review can be found here.
Three Strong Women is available in Hardback . . .
There was a splendid short review of Three Strong Women in The Times last weekend, from Kate Saunders, who contributes the fiction round-ups:
“This beautiful novel tells the linked stories of three women caught between Dakar and France . . . NDiaye’s writing is extraordinarily powerful, and she is very well served by John Fletcher’s elegant, economical translation”
It’s worth mentioning that NDiaye’s novel has won literary awards in three countries so far. In addition to the Prix Goncourt, NDiaye and her German translator, Claudia Kalscheuer, were in 2010 awarded the International Literature Prize by Berlin’s House of World Cultures; and in 2011, along with her Dutch translator, she won the inaugural European Literature Prize, a new Dutch answer to the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
It deserves all the accolades, because it really is a wonderful novel — NDiaye has an astounding grasp on her characters’ mindsets and psychology, it is beautifully thought and felt as well as beautifully written. It has taken a little time to publish in English, but you will find it well worth the wait.
This month there are no fewer than three new books from the MacLehose stable, two fiction and one non-fiction, a Goncourt winner, an Italian novel about the Sardinian Robin Hood and travelogue about a country that no longer exists . . .
Marie NDiaye must be (or perhaps have been?) the most precocious author on the MacLehose list. Her first novel was published when she was just seventeen: the story goes that legendary French publisher Jerome Lindon waited at the gates of her lycee to sign her up when the school bell rang. Since then she has become the only author to have won the Prix Medici and the Prix Goncourt, and the first black woman to win the latter (for Three Strong Women). Three Strong Women, also the winner of the Berlin International Literary Prize, is a blisteringly powerful novel about three women who almost have it all, who come so close, but end up having to fight and scrap for their very survival.
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One for the ultra-boutique MacLehose non-fiction list this. Jean-Paul Kauffmann is probably best know over here for a book about St Helena called The Dark Room at Longwood. He has a knack for writing about the worlds most obscure and esoteric reaches. A Journey to Nowhere is about a journey Kauffmann made through Courland, a once-independent kingdom that is now a part of Latvia — except that many Latvians you meet will probably scratch their heads if you mention it. Kauffmann has always been irresistibly drawn to this buffer between the Germanic and Slav worlds — not least because a former love hailed from there.
Marcello Fois is a Sardinian author and a member of a groups of Italian writers and crime writers known as “Gruppo 13″, who are particularly interested in exploring the cultural roots of their respective regions. Memory of the Abyss follows the life of the historical and legendary figure of Samuele Stochino, a Sardinian bandit and outlaw who can be thought of almost as the Sardinian Robin Hood — with Mussolini as his Sheriff of Nottingham. Fois’ Stocchino is given two “s”s, and his story — which sees him go from colonial soldier in North Africa to fighting in the First World War, to falling foul of the richest clan in his village — is to some extent . . . embellished. Stirring stuff.