5 Jewels of Francophone Literature Now in Paperback!

In these times of rising inflation, the sweet low prices of French paperbacks remain a safe way to treat yourself! Over the summer, we’ll be selecting for you the very best of French and Francophone fiction at the sweetest prices.

For starter, here are 5 novels, 5 jewels would be more appropriate, of Francophone literature, Batouala by René Maran to whom this year’s Goncourt laureate was paying a tribute in La plus secrète mémoire des hommes, Les Impatientes, winner of last year Goncourt des Lycéens, two novels by major Guadalupe authors; Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle by Simone Schwarz-Bart and Là où les chiens aboient par la queue by Estelle-Sarah Bulle, and last but not least Solibo Le Magnifique by Patrick Chamoiseau. Enjoy!

Staff picks translated by Victor Grandet

Reading List

Batouala by René Maran

The first anti colonialist novel ever written by an African. Winner of the Goncourt Prize in 1921.

The great cook Batouala can no longer sleep like before in the quietness of the high bush. Numerous worries prevent him from joining “the sweet interior fire of slumber”: his ritual functions, the proximity of hunts, the obvious remoteness of his wife. And maybe what troubles him more than anything else is a muffled rumor which repeats that the white man burdens the black man and treats him worse than his dog. Could Batouala live happily by the great river Nioubangui?

Batouala is the first novel of the so called négritude movement, embodied by Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor. His author, a West Indian official of the ministry of Colonies, lifted, in 1921, a wind of scandal; and yet this same year, he took home the Prix Goncourt… The reading of this novel and its imperative foreword allows students to understand the context in which such a work and such a paradox. This allows to discover one of the first texts on négritude, a literary and artistic movement of the 20th century, which shaped Black culture and its consciousness.

Batouala by René Maran, Magnard,

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Les Impatientes by Djaili Amadou Amal

Winner of the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens 2020

Les Impatientes is a polyphonic novel that retraces the destiny of young Ramla, ripped from her love to be married to Safira’s spouse, while Hindou, her sister, is constrained to marry her cousin.
Patience! This is the one and only piece of advice which is given to them by their friends and family, since it’s unthinkable to go against Allah’s will. Like the Fulani proverb “At the end of patience, there is the sky” But the sky can also be hell. How will these three impatient women manage to free themselves?

Forced marriage, marital rape, consensus, and polygamy: this novel by Djaili Amadou Amal breaks the taboos by calling out the female conditions in the Sahel and delivers us a disturbing novel on the universal question about violence against women.

Les Impatientes by Djaili Amadou Amal, J’ai lu

Solibo, Le Magnifique by Patrick Chamoiseau

Fort-de-France during the carnival. In front of the mesmerized crowd, the storyteller Solibo Magnifique dies, struck down by a stab of speech. Auto strangulation? Or murder? All the assistance is suspected, notably Bateau Français, says Congo, manufacturer of cassava raps, and who may have poisoned Solibo with a candied fruit. Bouaffesse and Evariste Pilon, two detectives, lead the investigation, going as far as to hold into custody Patrick Chamoiseau himself. As for Congo, quickly turned into suspect number one, he will be laminated.

From one police interrogation to another, what our two detectives will however reveal is the obsolete world on the threshold of oblivion of the Masters of speech, of the great storytellers who owned, like Solibo, the gift of language.

Solibo, Le Magnifique, by Patrick Chamoiseau, Folio

Though you may be familiar with the splendid coastlines of Guadeloupe, how well do you know its past? If you’re drawing a blank, Sarah Bulle’s debut novel and its cast of strong and memorable characters will help get you up to speed.

When she learns that her aunt Antoine is dying from cancer, the narrator of Là où les chiens aboient par la queue starts interviewing her — as well as her father and her other aunt Luncinde — about growing up in Guadeloupe.
ite’s husband, a successful writer, poses on Hélène a glance of trouble and desire, the dice of the tragedy are thrown. Read more.

Là où les chiens aboient par la queue by Estelle-Sarah Bulle, Piccolo Liana Levi
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Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle by Simone Schwarz-Bart

Grand-daughter of a black woman with legendary beauty, Télumée tires her hands in the sugarcane plantation. Chased by an alcoholic husband, she takes shelter at Ambroise the wise and the appalled. Despite her condition and her exploited status, Télumée owns a priceless treasure: the love of her life.

Simone Schwarz-Bart’s tale makes the French language sing to the rhythm of Black museum. “If you gave me the power, it’s right here in Guadeloupe, that I would choose to be reborn, to suffer and to die.”

Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle by Simone Schwarz-Bart, Points Seuil.

Other recommendations by Albertine Team