Our Favorite French Fiction in Translation of 2019

This past year has seen many excellent French novels translated and published in the US. From Article 353 by Tanguy Viel to Life of David Hockney by Catherine Cusset to My Friends by Emmanuel Bove to Serotonin by Michel Houellebecq, selecting our favorites has been a tough job. But here they are!

Reading List

Family Record by Patrick Modiano

Modiano’s riveting vignettes, filled with a coterie of dubious characters—nazi informants, collaborationist refugees, and black-market hustlers—capture the drama that consumed Paris during World War II and its aftermath.

Written in tones ranging from tender nostalgia to the blunt cruelty of youth, this is a personal and revealing book that brings the enduring significance of a complicated past to life.

Family Record by Patrick Modiano, translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti, Yale University Press

A King Alone by Jean Giono

This novel about a tiny community at the dangerous edge of things and a man of law who is a man alone could be described as a metaphysical Western.

It unfolds with the uncanny inevitability and disturbing intensity of a dream. A masterpiece by one of France’s most popular modern writers

A King Alone by Jean Giono, trans. from the French by New York Review of Books Classic

Animalia by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo

Written in rich sprawling sentences, and abounding in details that would make both Emile Zola and Cormac McCarthy proud, Animalia is among the finest pieces of contemporary French fiction in translation that I have read in a long time. Read more.

Animalia, a novel by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, trans. from the French by Franck Wyn, Grove

Vernon Subutex, vol 1 by Virginie Despentes

Vernon Subutex reads like a Down and Out in today’s Paris and might well be the great French novel of the 2010s. With remarkable energy, and razor sharp wit, Virginie Despentes paints a vivid portrait of all the different layers of French society.
Think a feminist Houellebecq who still manages to believe in the redeeming power of community! Read more.

Vernon Subutex vol 1, by Virginies Despentes, trans. from the French by Franck Wynn, FSG original

Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel

French literature provides an impressive line-up of masterpieces on artists and the creative act. Unarguably, Hold Fast Your Crown is a brilliant addition to this rich lineage. So pack your suitcase with Melville’s books, Apocalypse Now, and Cimino’s movies; and brace yourself for a wild ride with Jean Deichel at the wheel! Read more.

Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel, translated from the French by Teresa Lavender Fagan, Other Press

Other recommendations by Albertine Team