The OF Blog: French-language fiction (SF, mimetic, doesn't matter)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

French-language fiction (SF, mimetic, doesn't matter)

I've spent the past month or so working on learning enough French grammar to be able to read works written in that idiom.  Currently, I'm reading a collection of some of Balzac's shorter fictions and am finding myself understanding well over 75% of the words being said (in some places, it reads almost as naturally to me as English or Spanish).  Since Hubris is always looming over me, I feel like tempting fate.

For the well-read out there, what are some of the more excellent recent works written in French that might be easily available via Amazon?  I'm thinking now might be the time to try and tackle Elizabeth Vonerberg, but any other writers, SF or mimetic or all parts in-between, that I should consider?


Mihai A. said...

One of the French writers that I like quite a lot is Serge Brussolo and I don't know exactly how many of his works are available in English. His fiction is basically horror, but he has an interesting approach of this genre. And it is mainly psychological horror, the one I love the most.
I also wonder how do the Alexandre Dumas or Jules Verne novels look in their original language :)

marco said...

Authors writing in French I've read in recent years are:
Amelie Nothomb, Michel Tournier, Jean-Claude Izzo, Jean Echenoz, Patrick Chamoiseau, Fred Vargas, Ahmadou Kourouma, Maryse Condé, Louis-Philippe Dalembert,Daniel Pennac, Daniel Picouly, Yasmina Khadra.
I know Jean-Philippe Toussaint has been much praised.

Among fsf authors I've only read Brussolo - not much, but I liked what I've read. Pierre Bordage is a big name.

Hal Duncan said...

I can't read his work cause I'm an ignorant anglophone and all, but Pierre's a smart guy (and friendly with it). Both my panels at Utopiales have had Pierre on them, and he's always had a lot to say. Also pretty much everyone I've talked to at Utopiales rates his stuff really highly. So, yeah, if I could read French myself, he'd be top of the list to check out.

The Prix Européen Utopiales winner, Stéphane Beauverger's book, Le Déchronologue, sounded pretty bloody good too from what I heard of it.

Nephtis said...

Francis Carsac

I read him in Russian translation, some of my favorite space opera. He was really popular in Russia.

José said...

Among the young writers, Laurent Kloetzler's epic fantasy book "Le Royaume Blessé" has received much praise in the french specialized press. So have Jean-Philippe Jaworski's "Janua Vera" and "Gagner la Guerre" in the same genre. Plus, their style is considered as quite refined.
"Le Déchronologue", which indeed sounds excellent, has also just won the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire, possibly the main FSF french prize.

Unknown said...

Larry: I hate to appropriate your thread for my own sinister purposes, but I wanted to email you about Spanish fantasy/science fiction and can't find your email in my inbox or on here. Is there any way you could email me? Email is in my profile. It's a (I hope) relatively simple question, but you'd be doing me a great favor by offering your advice on something related to Spanish lit.


Matt Keeley said...

NYRB just released a bilingual edition of the eighteenth-century erotic novella No Tomorrow (Point de Lendemain). "Erotic," not "pornographic" - this isn't one-handed reading, it's literature. Alas, the novella is only about thirty pages, so I was easily able to read both the original French and Lydia Davis' translation in a few hours. Still, it's a pretty good exercise if you want to be able to "check" your progress.

I met the Canadian sf author Yves Meynard at Readercon. He's bilingual and wrote one book, The Book of Knights, in English. It's extremely good, and influenced Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight. Perhaps you could look into Meynard's French-language writing? He seems to be more prolific in French than in English.

Lsrry said...

So many good choices to choose from here! Thanks, everyone. Will be exploring these starting this weekend, I hope.

Fabio Fernandes said...

Maurice Dantec, perhaps?

And my all-time favorites: Georges Perec and Raymond Queneau. I really think you´ll love these guys.

Mimouille said...

Do you mean speculative fiction or french in general ? As being french and an avid reader, I can recommend a few.

In "classic" litterature, my all time favorites :

- Albert Camus (l'étranger and other works)
- Celine ("Voyage au bout de la nuit") - one of the darkest and most beautiful french novel ever written
- Romain Gary / Emile Ajar (twice Goncourt prize under different names - you can read anything by him, my favorites being "La vie devant soi" and "Les racines du ciel")

In more "speculative" litterature, you could read :

- Mathieu Gaborit (my favorite in french fantasy - "Les chroniques des crépusculaires" and Abyme are great)
- La forêt d'Iscambe from Christian Charrière (fantasy inside a colony of ants and a colony of termites)
- Alain Damasio, la horde du contrevent
- Lea Silhol, she is a great french fantasy writer, with a beautiful poetic prose. "La Sève et le Givre" followed by "La Glace et la Nuit" are beautiful (but do not expect much action...)
- René Barjavel is a classic french SF author from the 50's - 60's. You can read Le Grand Secret and La Nuit des Temps
- Bernard Werber Earliest work is ok (Les Fourmis). Lately it has turned to shit.
- You should definitely read Maurice Dantec (Les Racines du mal is great) as someone else advised

Let me know what you think of these !

Edward Gauvin said...

Old thread, I know, but just wanted to plug:
Serge Brussolo's English-language debut is coming up in January, with The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome, translated by yours truly. It blows my mind that this will be his first book in English, given that he's written over 200 books. It was a labor of love for me:
It's technically SF, but as Kim Stanley Robinson, who blurbed it, observed: it doesn't really care much about science. So... slipstream, maybe?
I tend to specialize in translating SFF and comics, so Damasio and Barjavel are on my shortlist to smuggle into English. Dantec is cool, a few books of his in English already. Translated some Jaworski once, but was unable to sell it.
I'm eager to connect with Brussolo fans, being one myself. I've read quite a few of his books in French, but hardly all, since he has over 200. I'd be interested in hearing about some of your favorites, since if Diver does well, I'd be in a position to pitch Melville another Brussolo book and keep him going in English.

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