Happy Mother’s Day List

What will you offer Mom this Sunday? No idea? You’re in luck! Emmanuel Dongala has a new novel out–a sumptuous historical novel that offers a subtle examination of the role of race in Enlightenment-era Europe (Schaffner Press). We would also highly recommend James McAuley’s melancholic investigation of the tragic fate of Jewish collectors in turn-of-the-century Paris (Yale University Press), or Claire Malroux’s splendid collection of poems (Daybreak, New Directions). If you are still not sure, Julia Kerninon’s spellbinding My Devotion is our last winning bet! With that said: Happy Mother’s day!

Reading List

In the dramatic years between 1870 and the end of World War II, a number of prominent French Jews—-some familiar from the works of Marcel Proust and the diaries of Jules and Edmond Goncourt-—invested their fortunes in France’s cultural artifacts, sacrificed their sons to the country’s army, and were ultimately rewarded by seeing their collections plundered and their families deported to Nazi concentration camps. Read more.

The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France by James McAuley, Yale University Press.

The Bridgetower Sonata by Emmanuel Dongala

A terrific historical novel, as well as an impressive coming-of-age story, The Bridgetower Sonata embraces the history of music, slavery, and the black condition at the turn of the 19th century. We cross paths with Alexandre Dumas, Pierre de Condorcet, Prince George IV, Marie-Antoinette, and Voltaire as well. Read more.

The Bridgetower Sonata, a novel by Emmanuel Dongala, translated from the French by Marjolijn de Jager, Schaffner Press

My Devotion by Julia Kerninon

The English debut of Julia Kerninon is a subtle, captivating, and insightful exploration of the mysterious connections between love, submission, and creation.

Helen and Franck meet randomly in London after having been estranged for 23 years. Crossing paths with the first and greatest love of her life sends Helen into an emotional rollercoaster and forces her to surrender to an outpouring of memories. From their encounter in Rome in the 1950 to that terrible day in January 1995, Helen reconsiders their past together — a toxic, explosive mix of love and friendship– and investigates how she has been confined in the shadow of Franck’s international success as a painter.

With her enchanting storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Julia Kerninon tells a highly addictive story about a woman confronting the choices she has made for herself, her brilliant academic career, the nature of her relationship with Frank, and the origins of her seemingly total devotion to him.

My Devotion, a novel by Julia Kerninon, translated by Alison Anderson, Europa Editions
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Daybreak by Claire Malroux

Malroux is an unusual poet in France in that her work as a translator from English to French bears a heavy influence over what she writes. Having almost single-handedly introduced the greatest English-language poet of all time to French readers (of course I am talking about Emily Dickinson), she incorporates the oblique beauty of Dickinson into her own works, giving them an unearthly quality that sets her apart from her contemporaries. Like Susan Howe, her work even occasionally enters into conversation with that of Dickinson, offering up fascinating insights into poetic intertextuality. Read more.

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Other recommendations by Albertine Team