Our Favorite World Fiction in French

As we celebrate, this month, the richness and diversity of cultures within the French speaking world, we’ve listed our favorites among the recent world fiction written in French. Despite the fact that Sylvain Pattieu is a French novelist, we took the liberty to include his latest novel, Une vie qui se cabre (Flammarion), since it is a joyful uchrony that imagines how France could have settled the accounts of its colonial past, and reduced the inequalities that have resulted from it, in other words, a politically feel good fiction of sorts!

Let us know which one has made your own list!

Reading List

This intricate literary novel is set between Senegal, France, and Poland. While it engages with a lot of philosophical questions and explores Serer mysticism, it’s a succinct book that is simply and evocatively written. The main plot, a love story that takes a tragic turn, feels like the driving mechanism of the book, and it never feels overly dense. Read more.

Les Lieux qu’habitent mes rêves, a novel by Felwine Szarr
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Eunice by Lisette Lombé

Winner of 2023 Le Grand Prix du Roman de Belgique.

19-year-old Eunice has the body of an athlete and a broken heart! Her lover just dumped her, and her mother suddenly died while out with some friends. In an attempt to uncover the reasons surrounding her mother’s disappearance, Eunice searches for clues in her mother’s red diary. Throughout her investigation, she discovers not only parts of her mother’s life that she was unaware of, but a completely different version of her family history. On the brighter side, he meets the beautiful Jennah, who helps her find self-acceptance.

The most striking part of Eunice from the start is the voice of Lisette Lombé, a fellow artist and slam poet. Powerful and rhythmic, Lombé brings the reader into this 2020 story. Eunice is a vibrant testimony to the impact of loss. Over 20 years separate Lisette Lombé from her narrator, and this is hard to believe, because Lisette Lombé is such a gifted author!

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Eunice by Lisette Lombé, Seuil

Une vie qui se cabre by Sylvain Pattieu

If, like me, you read the news these days with growing anxiety, then Une vie qui se cabre, Sylvain Pattieu’s latest novel, might offer you a welcome breath of fresh air. In this fast paced, political “feel-good” fiction, Pattieu imagines that in the immediate aftermath of WW2, the Lamine Gueye law, granting equality to every citizen of the French Empire, has not only been voted in by the French Parlement, but also applied. Read more.

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Une vie qui se cabre by Sylvain Pattieu, Flammarion

Le Vieil Incendie by Elisa Shua Dusapin

Agathe, a screenwriter living in NYC, must return to empty out her childhood home following the death of her father. She is alone with her sister Vera, who stopped talking when she was 6. Is Vera’s silence a consequence of stroke? or was it her own conscious decision after their mother left the family home when they were kids, leaving them in their father’s care? As the sisters pack, sift and clean, memories of their past bubble up, and they must take pains to figure out a space for each other in their present life.
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Elisa Shua Dusapin will speak at Albertine on May 5! Stay tuned for more info.

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Le Vieil Incendie by Elisa Shua Dusapin, Zoé


David Diop takes us on an epic Senegalese journey, rich with orality. We are accompanied by naturalist Michel Adanson, who has come to discover this land and its rich flora. There, he learns the tales and legends of the inhabitants, as well as the mystery and horror that surround the island of Gorée, that much-vaunted Door of No Return for so many men and women.

Against this lush and deadly backdrop, David Diop depicts a love story as splendid as it is tragic, as well as a denunciation of colonial exploitation and the slave trade. His magnificent writing keeps us in suspense from start to finish.

La Porte du Voyage sans retour, un roman de David Diop, Points/Seuil
Beyond The Door of No Return, a novel by David Diop, trans by Sam Taylor, FSG.

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La Vie privée d'oubli by Giselle Pineau

Is is possible to live surrounded by the shadows of ancestors? Here’s a vibrant novel of generations marked by the shared history of slavery.

Margy and Yaëlle live in Guadeloupe. These sister-friends have shared everything since kindergarten: first times with boys, failed exams, going out at night, dreams of a bohemian life, the violence of men and faith in their redemption.

When, at the request of her boyfriend Benja, Margy swallows thirty cocaine pellets and manages to land in France without an accident, she deduces that this is easy money, the hope of a better future. So why not enlist her friend in the business? Yaëlle, in turn, sees a way out. But mid-flight to Paris, she is seized by convulsions: the capsules rupture, one after the other, spilling the cargo into her body.

Other women before her had come to Paris: Annette, her aunt, who fled at an early age in the hope of burying a shameful secret. Joycy, a young Nigerian woman, escaped from prostitution networks, yearning for a second chance. And Maya, a mixed-race student who wants to find out more about her father’s origins. Could there be a link between all these destinies?

La vie privée d’oubli is a powerful novel that weaves together the lives of men and women linked by an invisible legacy of pain. As she explores the place of intimate and collective memory in our lives, Gisèle Pineau keeps asking how can we heal the wounds of another age?

La Vie privée d’oubli, a novel by Giselle Pineau, éditions Philippe Rey

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Other recommendations by Albertine Team