The Book Cellar
The French Consulate hosts French Authors in Translation.
Join us for a discussion of recent works of French and Francophone literature in translation, with authors Lola Lafon and Luc Lang, and translators Jeanine Herman and Donald Nicholson-Smith.
About the Authors:
Lola Lafon, with a French, Russian and Polish background, was raised in the equally diverse cities of Bucharest, Sofia and Paris. N.R.V, among others, published her first short stories between 1998 and 2000. Her first three novels were published by Flammarion: Une fièvre impossible à négocier (2003), De ça je me console (2007) and Nous sommes les oiseaux de la tempête qui s’annonce (2011). These titles were nominated for several French literary awards, and tackle several ideological themes such as capitalism, antifascism, utopia and feminism. Lola Lafon is politically engaged in several collectives addressing feminist questions and concerns; she also runs writing workshops aimed towards underserved or disadvantaged youth populations. For the release of each of her novels, she organizes a series of concert-readings tours. We are the Birds of the Coming Storm, an insurrectionary and feminist tale dealing with the Chicago Haymarket events, was translated into English by David Ball and published by Seagull Books in 2014. La Petite communiste qui ne souriait jamais (Actes Sud, 2014) was featured in more musical literary events and received ten literary awards. It will be published in the US by Seven Stories Press in May 2016.
Luc Lang is the author of several prize-winning novels and collections of stories, including Mille six cents ventres (Fayard, 1998; Prix Goncourt des lycéens), Les Indiens (Stock, 2001), Onze septembre mon amour (Stock, 2003), La Fin des paysages (Stock, 2006), Cruels 13 (Stock, 2008), Mother (Stock, 2012), and L’Autoroute (Stock, 2014). The English edition of Cruels 13, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith as Cruel Tales from the Thirteenth Floor, was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2015. Luc Lang has also published essays on the visual arts and theoretical texts on the novel, including Délit de fiction (Gallimard, 2011). He currently teaches aesthetics at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts de Paris-Cergy.
About the Translators:
Jeanine Herman is a French–English translator who lives in New York City. She attended Berkeley and Columbia and is a Chevalier in the French Order of Arts and Letters. Her translation of Les Écrits de Laure by Laure, Bataille’s great love (Colette Peignot), was published by City Lights Books in San Francisco in 1995 (Laure: The Collected Writings). Jeanine Herman has translated works of anthropology by Pierre Clastres (The Archeology of Violence, Semiotext(e)) and Francoise Héritier (Two Sisters and their Mother, Zone Books) and works of psychoanalysis and literary criticism by Julia Kristeva (The Powers and Limits of Psychoanalysis: The Sense and Non-sense of Revolt, vol. 1; Intimate Revolt, vol. 2; and Hatred and Forgiveness, vol. 3, Columbia University Press). For the Kristeva books, she used the essential and invaluable Language of Psychoanalysis by Laplanche and Pontalis, a dictionary of psychoanalytical terms translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Like Donald, she has moved in recent years from translating nonfiction works (on the social sciences, psychoanalysis, art criticism, etc.) to translating literary fiction (Eric Laurrent, Kettly Mars, and soon Balzac). Her translation of Julien Gracq’s Reading Writing (En lisant en écrivant) was a finalist for the French-American Translation prize in 2006 (and “briefly noted” in The New Yorker). She has translated essays for The Museum of Modern Art in New York and art reviews for Artforum International Magazine for the past twenty years. For seven years, she worked at Zone Books, a small publisher of mostly nonfiction books, many of them in translation. She has had residencies at Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, Lannan Foundation in Marfa, Texas (2013), and Villa Gillet in Lyon, France (2009), where she gave translation workshops at the ENS (École Normale Supérieure) on Julien Gracq and Francis Ponge. Her most recent translation is Savage Seasons by Kettly Mars (University of Nebraska Press), recipient of a French Voices award.
Donald Nicholson-Smith has been an academic and literary translator since the 1970s. After translating Jean Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis's magisterial concordance to Freud, Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse as The Language of Psychoanalysis (London and New York, 1973), he made psychology and psychoanalysis one of his specialties. On another front, he has translated many texts of the Situationist International, namely Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle (New York, 1994) and Raoul Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life (third, revised edition, Oakland, 2012), as well as Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space (Oxford, 1991). In recent years Nicholson-Smith has tackled more strictly literary projects. In 2011 he was a French-American Foundation Prize finalist (non-fiction) for his translation of the poems and correspondence in Guillaume Apollinaire's Letters to Madeleine. And he has been active in the field of noir fiction, translating Thierry Jonquet's Mygale/Tarantula (San Francisco, 2002); Yasmina Khadra's Cousin K (Lincoln, Nebraska, 2013), in collaboration with Alyson Waters; and three novels by Jean-Patrick Manchette: Three to Kill (San Francisco, 2002), Fatale (New York, 2011), and The Mad and the Bad (NYRB, 2014). Luc Lang's Cruel Tales from the Thirteenth Floor, just out from the University of Nebraska Press, is his latest contribution in this area. Donald Nicholson-Smith has been dubbed Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French government, and this year he was awarded the French-American Foundation's fiction translation prize for Manchette's The Mad and the Bad. At present he is at work on a collection of poems self-selected by the Moroccan author Abdellatif Laâbi.