Albertine Prize 2020

November 10th, 2020

Our friends at AlLBERTINE are hosting their annual Albertine Prize. The Albertine Prize, presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and supported by Van Cleef & Arpels, recognizes American readers’ favorite work of contemporary Francophone fiction that has been translated into English and published in the US within the preceding calendar year. Vote here for your favorite of the five finalists, and be entered to win a set of all five nominated titles in English!

The nominated titles are available for order in both French and English.

Animalia, Jean-Baptiste Del Amo (translated by Frank Wynne)

The small village of Puy-Larroque, southwest France, 1898: Éléonore is a child living with her father, a pig farmer whose terminal illness leaves him unable to work, and her God-fearing mother, who runs both farm and family with an iron hand. By the 1980s, Éléonore has herself aged into the role of matriarch, and the family is running a large industrial pig farm, where thousands of pigs churn daily through cycles of birth, growth, and death. Moments of sublime beauty and powerful emotion mix with thoughtless brutality waged against animals as Animalia traverses the 20th century to examine man’s quest to conquer nature, critique the legacy of modernity and the transmission of violence from one generation to the next, and question whether we can hold out hope for redemption in this brutal world.

Hold Fast Your Crown, Yannick Haenel (translated by Teresa Fagan)

A man writes an enormous screenplay on the life of Herman Melville. Not a single producer is interested in it. One day, someone gives him the phone number of the great American filmmaker Michael Cimino, legendary director of The Deer Hunter and Heaven’s Gate. A meeting is arranged in New York, and Cimino reads the manuscript. What follows is a series of adventures through Ellis Island, the Musée de la Chasse in Paris, a lake in Italy. This improbable, insightful tale bridges the divide between cinema and literature in unexpected ways that are at once gratifying and profound.

From our bookseller Stéphanie: Un livre dont l'atmosphère et les personnages, comme leurs errances intérieures et extérieures, restent avec vous longtemps après avoir refermé le livre.

Kannjawou: A Novel of Haiti, Lyonel Trouillot (translated by Gretchen Schmid)

Kannjawou (pronounced Konn-yeh-woo) is the Haitian Creole expression for a wild celebration, a fandango. Set in Haiti's capital Port-Au-Prince in the early 2000s, this novel by acclaimed author Lyonel Trouillot embodies the nation's indomitable spirit through a journal kept by a deeply observant young male college student, depicting a country entering a new era after years of oppression, corruption, and most recently, the shambles left in the wake of foreign occupation.

"Muslim": A Novel, Zahia Rahmani (translated by Matthew Reeck)

“Muslim”: A Novel is a genre-bending, poetic reflection on what it means to be Muslim from one of France’s leading writers. In this novel, the second in a trilogy, Rahmani’s narrator contemplates the loss of her native language and her imprisonment and exile for being Muslim, woven together in an exploration of the political and personal relationship of language within the fraught history of Islam. Drawing inspiration from the oral histories of her native Berber language, the Koran, and French children’s tales, Rahmani combines fiction and lyric essay in to tell an important story, both powerful and visionary, of identity, persecution, and violence.

Vernon Subutex 1, Virginie Despentes (translated by Frank Wynne)

From our bookseller Stéphanie: Road trip immobile au coeur d’une ville en mutation, Vernon Subutex, ancien disquaire punk rock, nous entraîne avec lui dans son errance parisienne, s’accrochant comme il peut à ce qu’il reste aujourd’hui du Paris des années 80-90. Virginie Despentes dresse avec minutie et relief le portrait d’une société en crise et d’une génération désenchantée en quête de sens. Un premier tome vibrant et acéré, où se succèdent une galerie de voix uniques, difficiles à oublier longtemps après que l’on a refermé le livre.