22 October 08 | Chad W. Post

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. (And hopefully this situation will be written up in the near future by someone with more info and journalistic skills.)

In addition to talking about Marguerite Duras at the Frankfurter Hof (as Ed mentioned below), Anne-Solange, the rights director for Gallimard, also spoke at length about Nobel Prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, his latest book, and her decision not to auction this to American publishers during the fair.

Although a number of French writers have won the prize over the years (fourteen, I believe), this was the first Gallimard author to win during Anne-Solange’s tenure. And Le Clezio is most definitely a Gallimard author–all of his forty plus titles are published there, beginning with Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation) in 1963. His most recent book is Ritournelle de la faim, which came out earlier this year.

His books have been translated all over the world, and a number of titles have even been translated into English and published in America. Most recently, Godine published The Prospector and Curbstone did Wandering Star. Nevertheless, American journalists shrugged their shoulders in confusion when he was announced as the Nobel winner last week, and at the fair, a very important American publisher referred to Le Clezio as “unknown” to Anne-Solange. (Coincidentally, Le Clezio’s Dutch publisher was there to speak up about the seven titles he has in print.)

That’s where this story gets interesting to me. Rather than jumping on the Nobel buzz and trying to auction the rights to the new Le Clezio book to a commercial U.S. publisher, Anne-Solange decided not to even try to sell the rights at the Fair. “When an American publisher asks me about the book I reply with ‘Why are you interested in this Le Clezio? What do you know about his other books?,’ ” she said, clearly getting some well-deserved pleasure out of the baffled responses. “I tell them that I’ll note their interest, but this is a new book, I don’t need to rush the sale, I’ll sell the rights later. Instead I want to focus on getting a lot of Le Clezio in print.”

That’s the crux of the situation: Simon & Schuster have the rights to four titles, but isn’t really jumping at the chance to make these available. This is in contrast with Le Clezio’s German publisher which put ten titles back in print (and in bookstores) three days after the Nobel announcement. As is common in the U.S. publishing scene, most publishers are only interested in the new book and hesitate to go back to do an author’s older work. (Which is ridiculous and emphasizes how the commercial market trumps quality in America.)

After speaking with her for a while, it’s clear that Anne-Solange wants to do right by Le Clezio’s work, rather than simply cashing in on his current fame. To me, this is a very valid approach, but one that most people will react badly to. (Anne-Solange has a bit of a reputation for criticizing American publishers and their resistance to French–well, any foreign country’s–fiction.) The desire to “create a context” for an author’s work is very admirable, and was echoed in my conversation with Carles Torner of the Ramon Llull Institut who wants a wide range of classic and modern Catalan authors translated into English rather than just a few contemporary books.

Whether or not Anne-Solange’s plan will work out and allow for a slew of Le Clezio books to become available to American readers remains to be seen. This is pure speculation, but I think it’s going to take some time and an independent press to bring Le Clezio to the U.S. market. Big presses have the ability to put books in print virtually overnight, but it doesn’t seem like they think of Le Clezio as a potentially profitable author. (Which seems strange, but there are those French Nobel winners–cough, Claude Simon, cough–who don’t sell very well in America despite the quality of their works.) They would also be adverse to translating some of the past books. An independent press might have a different viewpoint, although it would be more difficult for a smaller press to get a bunch of titles in print and in stores in a short period of time.

But all this could change come Monday when a Le Clezio story appears in the new issue of the New Yorker . . .


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

Read More >

Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

Read More >

Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .

Read More >

Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

Read More >

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

Read More >

Self-Portrait in Green
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .

Read More >

The Madmen of Benghazi
The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard de Villiers
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .

Read More >

The Four Corners of Palermo
The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza
Reviewed by Patience Haggin

The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .

Read More >

Writers
Writers by Antoine Volodine
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .

Read More >

My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

Read More >