Our guest linguist this month is an American, a Francophile, a literary translator, and the founder of Le French Book. This New York-based publishing house is dedicated to selecting, translating and publishing contemporary mysteries and thrillers from France, so as to bring them to readers across the English-speaking world. Anne lived in Paris for many years and now lives in Pibrac, a small town 15 kilometers west of Toulouse.
LMJ : What is your background?
I grew up between Ohio and the southwest of the US and for as long as I can remember I dreamed about traveling overseas. Maybe it's because my parents were linguists, or maybe it's because they spelled my first names à la française: Anne, with an e, and Valerie, with ie. When I was a teenager, I was reading Gourmet Magazine religiously and experimenting with Mastering the Art of French Cooking (by Julia Child). At the time, the best place to learn to make really good food was Paris. So, I studied French and went to Paris as soon as I could. I trained as a chef and continued to study French (and a little Chinese). It didn't take me long to begin translating and interpreting. Later, I worked in publishing in France, doing project management, and I did a long stint in corporate communications. As far as translation is concerned, I always considered myself a generalist, and I translated anything and everything I could get my hands on. Translating fiction is different from other kinds of translation. Every book is an adventure in and of itself. This kind of translation is rooted in something deeper and broader than foreign rights acquisitions and the mechanics of getting a work from one language into another—it's about building bridges between cultures. It is very important for me to build a relationship with an author. Translation is like getting into the author's head; I think it's polite to knock first. I also believe in relationships when it comes to editors and other translators. For a book to work, you need to give it everything you've got in translation, in editorial, and in marketing. That's what we are trying to do with Le French Book.
LMJ :What led to the creation of Le French Book?
What if you could discover France while reading French crime fiction in English? This simple question sums up the whole project behind Le French Book and probably also my vision of life as an American living in France for so many years. I always loved mysteries and thrillers and, I must admit, this is almost the only genre I read. When I discovered French crime fiction novels, I was amazed by the richness and creativity of a great number of French authors. So I read, I read, I read. Then, I realized that only very few of these books were available in English and the idea dawned on me: these books need a greater audience and I must help English-language readers to discover them. So, I put together a team, including co-conspirator Fabrice Neuman, aka The French Connection; Amy "Red-line" Richards, translation editor sometimes known as The Slasher; and Jeroen "Bleeding in the Gutter" ten Berge, cover artist. My co-translators include Julie Rose, Jeffrey Zuckerman, Sophie Weiner and Sally Pane.
Julie Rose Jeffrey Zuckerman
Sophie Weiner Sally Pane
LMJ : How do you choose the titles you translate?
I spend a lot of time reading, and getting everyone I know in France to tell me what their favorite books are. I attend book fairs and talk to the authors. But the choice comes down to feeling. Our motto is, 'If we love it, we translate it.' Le French Book is about sharing reading pleasure. For now, we only publish mysteries and thrillers published in France by French authors. We keep an eye out for titles that will have something American readers can relate to. For example, we are translating the series known in France as Le Sang de la Vigne, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, which we call the Winemaker Detective series. This works well because of the very strong link in people's minds between France and fine wine. We also are publishing the Paris Homicide series by Frédérique Molay, who won the Prix du Quai des Orfèvres with the first title The 7th Woman. In this series, the city of Paris is a character. We also look for titles that strike us as particularly interesting for whatever reason. White Leopard by Laurent Guillaume is set in Mali. The Greenland Breach and The Rare Earth Exchange, a climate thriller and a financial thriller respectively, are by Bernard Besson, a former top-level spy who is spot on when it comes to espionage and what is at stake in geopolitics today. David Khara's Consortium series makes a strong connection to WWII and today's scientific research and transhumanism. The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier has rolling countryside, hidden secrets and a quest for the truth. The Collector by Anne-Laure Thiéblemont has the merciless microcosm of Paris art galleries. And the Antoine Marcas series by Eric Giacometti and Jacque Ravenne gives an action-packed look into Freemasons, aside from having sold 2 million copies worldwide.
To sum up, we look for great stories, with that additional je ne sais quoi that makes us all dream about Paris or France, along with pace and suspense and good writing.
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1. Mission à Haut-Brion, Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen;
Librairie Arthème Fayard,
2. Le Collectionneur, Anne-Laure Thiéblemont, Editions Liana Levi, Paris
3. Le Frère de sang, Eric Giacometti & Jacques Ravenne, Fleuve Noir, Paris
LMJ : Do you think crime fiction sanitizes crime?
I think that good fiction changes the way we perceive the world, it shifts our awareness, at least for the period of time we are reading the book. I would say that crime fiction is one way to process and deal with senseless violence that is all around us. It's a little off topic, but I'm reminded of something one of our authors said. David Khara said, "The idea for The Bleiberg Project came to me after listening to a woman who survived the death camps. Three things struck me. The first was her sharp sense of humor. She said that prisoners inside the camp made jokes whenever they could. Humanity cannot be destroyed as long as laughter is possible. It becomes an act of resistance. The second thing was her will to survive, no matter the obstacles, no matter the horrors. And finally, she was living proof that to remember and understand History is the best, and maybe the only way, to avoid repeating our mistakes."
LMJ : What does the future hold for Le French Book?
We want to keep publishing entertaining books, serving as a bridge between creative contemporary France and the English-speaking world. We also want Le French Book to become the synonym for great books in the mind of readers; no matter which book you choose among the ones we publish you're sure to have a good time reading it. Upcoming titles include more in the Winemaker Detective series. The most recent one, just out, is Red-handed in Romanée-Conti, a tale of hail and murder during the grape harvest in Burgundy. The next Paris Homicide mystery is on the schedule for January, and it will be published by Amazon Crossing: Looking to the Woods. Soon, we will also be launching a new culinary mystery series called Gourmet Crimes, by Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot. The first title is Minced, Marinated, and Murdered.
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1. Flagrant-délit à la Romanée-Conti, Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris
2. Copier n'est pas jouer, Frédérique Molay, Amazon Crossing
[French and English versions available on January 17, 2017;
may be pre-ordered now.]
3. Petits meurtres à l'étouffée, Noël Balen & Vanessa Barrot, Points Policier