Readersforum's Blog

May 2, 2013

Georges Simenon might be the best French-language novelist you’ve never heard of.

georgeBy Matthew McAlister

Georges Simenon, author of over four hundred novels and inventor of probably the second-most-famous detective in literature, Jules Maigret, is now, despite the fame of his creation, largely and unjustly forgotten. You might find a couple of dusty reprints in a big-box bookstore with a beefy mystery section, but only if you’re really looking. He was widely read in his lifetime, though he was, and still is, recognized more for his persona (the obsessions, lies, and hatefully competitive disposition) than for his prose.

That persona was one of excess, which is why it so overshadowed his work. Excess in his writing, in his social life, and particularly in his romantic relationships. One of his greatest lies, if it was in fact a lie, was that he’d slept with more than ten thousand women. (Coincidentally or not, the same number claimed by Wilt Chamberlain.) Still, his writing had admirers, and reputable ones. In an interview with The Paris Review, when asked if he read mystery stories, William Faulkner replied: “I read Simenon because he reminds me something of Chekhov.” It is not surprising that Ernest Hemingway also was a fan—few writers more fully embodied his iceberg theory than Simenon.

 

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October 17, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey struggles to excite in France, the home of Sade

French critics dub EL James’s erotic phenomenon boring, cliched and without literary merit, despite huge print run.

By Kim Willsher

History has shown that when it comes to French-British rivalry and cross-Channel spats, few subjects are off limits. The euro, agricultural policy, European subsidies, Margaret Thatcher, football, the Olympics – all have the ability to spark a war of words between the two nations, whose love-hate relationship has smouldered for centuries.

So as French bookshops prepare to take stock of the British bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey – or as it is called in French, Cinquante Nuances de Grey – on Wednesday morning, our Gallic cousins would like us to know that they have nothing to learn from us Anglo-Saxons in matters of sadomasochism.

In fact our neighbours are deeply unimpressed with the so-called “mummy porn”, or, as the French have translated the term, porn de ménagère (housewife) trilogy by the British writer EL James.

It is perhaps not surprising that the country that spawned what one magazine called “the heavyweights of erotic literature” – the Marquis de Sade and the Story of O, coincidentally republished this week – should be sniffy about a mere bestseller of 40m copies in 46 countries.

But the critical mauling the British book has received is brutal.

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July 12, 2012

Erotica trend seduces foreign territories

12.07.12 | Joshua Farrington and Charlotte Williams

Rights in E L James’ Fifty Shades trilogy have sold to 41 foreign publishers to date, with the books already in print in seven foreign territories.

Foreign rights agency ILA, which handles the translation rights in James’ works on behalf of Valerie Hoskins Associates, is continuing to sign deals for the books, with the work in print in Dutch, Spanish, Italian, German, Romanian, Portuguese and Serbian so far.

According to the agency, Goldmann in Germany is already on their sixth printing of the first volume, having published it on Monday last week, with Mondadori in Italy having printed 1.39 million copies of all three books to date.

At least 27 international publishers will have published the books by the end of the year, with some still to confirm their schedules.

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July 1, 2012

The French Still Flock to Bookstores

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 11:31 am

Alice Dison for The New York Times
Browsers at a monthly exchange in Paris where a group of retirees display books, and customers may take as many books as they want if they agree never to sell or destroy them.

By ELAINE SCIOLINO

PARIS — The French, as usual, insist on being different. As independent bookstores crash and burn in the United States and Britain, the book market in France is doing just fine. France boasts 2,500 bookstores, and for every neighborhood bookstore that closes, another seems to open. From 2003 to 2011 book sales in France increased by 6.5 percent.

E-books account for only 1.8 percent of the general consumer publishing market here, compared with 6.4 percent in the United States. The French have a centuries-old reverence for the printed page.

“There are two things you don’t throw out in France — bread and books,” said Bernard Fixot, owner and publisher of XO, a small publishing house dedicated to churning out best sellers. “In Germany the most important creative social status is given to the musician. In Italy it’s the painter. Who’s the most important creator in France? It’s the writer.”

A more compelling reason is the intervention of the state. In the Anglophone book world the free market reigns; here it is trumped by price fixing.

Since 1981 the “Lang law,” named after its promoter, Jack Lang, the culture minister at the time, has fixed prices for French-language books. Booksellers — even Amazon — may not discount books more than 5 percent below the publisher’s list price, although Amazon fought for and won the right to provide free delivery.

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December 23, 2011

Google Books and ActuaLitté launch out-of-copyright library

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 6:43 pm

Google

23.12.11 | Barbara Casassus

Google Books and the French online publication ActuaLitté have launched a digital library of out-of-copyright books that have been scanned by the US firm.

All the titles in the Google Books catalogue will be available through actualitte.com/bibliotheque for free downloading in PDF or ePub format.

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November 22, 2011

French trade revolt over VAT

Filed under: Retail — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 2:53 pm

France

| By Barbara Casassus

The French book trade has reacted badly to the government’s decision to raise the reduced VAT rate on books from 5.5% to 7% on 1st January as part of a financial package to help shrink France’s mushrooming public deficit.

The French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE) and the French Booksellers Association (Syndicat de la Librairie Française, SLF) condemned the move, as did several members of parliament and the opposition Socialist party. The party warned the book sector was in imminent danger with “little hope” for publishers and independent booksellers. It said the budget-saving measure was ridiculous.

The SNE said it regretted the absence of consultation over the move while the SLF warned that it could cut average net profits from 0.3% of sales to 0.2% and lead to the closure of hundreds of bookshops. Alexandre Bompard, c.e.o. of French cultural products chain FNAC, was reported as saying that the increase threatened the fragile book sector, which was already under pressure.

He was backed by the Syndicat des Disributors de Loisirs Culturels (SDLC), which comprises Decitre, FNAC, Cultura, Le Furet du Nord and Virgin Stores. The rise would “generate large losses” on stocks acquired with 5.5% VAT, and “create insurmountable problems” in a market where prices are printed on books, he said. Already the decline in sales of books by bricks and mortar stores this year is undermining chains, which are having to absorb higher overheads, it added.

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September 28, 2011

Asterix the Gaul co-creator draws an end to France’s comic hero

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 7:42 am

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Albert Uderzo gets pragmatix, hanging up his pen at 84 for younger illustrators to carry on the legacy.

Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix the Gaul, is hanging up his pen at the age of 84.

But it is not the end of one of France’s greatest comic book heroes – Uderzo has found several successors to carry on his legacy.

The Italian-born artist, who dreamed up the indomitable warrior with his scriptwriter friend René Goscinny in 1959, said he was “a bit tired” after 52 years of drawing and that it was time to hand over his creation to younger talent.

The announcement on Tuesday came on the day that publishing house Hachette celebrated the sale of 350m Asterix books around the world, making the diminutive hero one of France’s biggest-selling exports.

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September 15, 2011

French Novelist Houellebecq Goes Missing Before Tour, Dutch Publisher Says


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By Catherine Hickley

Michel Houellebecq, the French writer whose novels address sex tourism, sado-masochism and cloning, failed to show up for a scheduled reading tour of the Netherlands and Belgium and cannot be reached by his publishers.

“We really don’t know what is happening,” said Barbara Simons, a spokeswoman for Het Beschrijf, the literary organization that arranged the tour. “It’s bizarre. There has been no news and he hasn’t arrived.”

Simons said neither Houellebecq’s French publisher, nor his agent, nor his translator knows where the 53-year-old writer is. Houellebecq, who won France’s most prestigious literary prize last year, lives a reclusive life in southern Spain, according to Het Beschrijf.

His trademarks are dark humor, biting social criticism, frequent philosophical allusions and a bleak vision of human relationships. Viewed as a prophet and genius by some, Houellebecq has been accused by others of misogyny, inciting racial hatred, moral bankruptcy and pornography.

He was scheduled to read from “La Carte et le Territoire,” the book for which he won the 2010 Prix Goncourt, on the occasion of its translation into Dutch. Readings were planned from Sept. 12 to Sept. 15 in Amsterdam, The Hague, and Brussels.

“The Map and the Territory” in English, the new novel is the story of an artist called Jed Martin who falls for a beautiful Russian named Olga, gains success with his portraits, and becomes entangled in a police investigation.

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September 5, 2011

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 5:18 am

French online-only publishers join forces

 | By Barbara Casassus

Twenty French online-only book publishers and other digital providers have joined forces for the first time to launch the new literary season.

The site larentreelitteraire.org was unveiled this week and will stay live until 15th November to offer readers information about more than 100 new electronic titles, their authors and reviews, according to book news website and partner Actualitté.

The site, initiated by enhanced e-book publisher Walrus, also includes articles explaining some of the issues and challenges facing the digital book sector that “have not yet received adequate media coverage”, and will be updated as the weeks go by, Actualitté said.

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August 3, 2011

Hachette Livre signs deal with Google

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 5:24 pm

|By  Barbara Casassus

The agreement for Google to scan out-of-print French language books for Hachette Livre has been signed, two months later than scheduled.

The five-year agreement should have been finalised six months after the memorandum of understanding was signed last November, but it was delayed until last week by technical hitches.

The pact confirms Hachette Livre will decide which titles should be scanned and which should be made available as e-books through Google and booksellers or for other commercial purposes, such as print-on-demand, the two companies said in a joint statement.

The scanned books, which potentially could total between 40,000 and 50,000, will also be entered into the database of the French National Library (BNF).

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