In Search of French Literary Magazines

One substantial piece of advice for both aspiring and experienced translators, especially literary, is to read widely in your source language. For me, that’s French. And since I focus on literature, books are best. Or at least, significant.

It’s also just as important to keep up with current affairs. And again, for me, that’s the world of books. The new releases, the new short stories, the new authors. So for these, literary magazines are best.

But as you can imagine, French literary magazines are hard to find in the States. Pretty thin on the ground. (“Just generally pretty trim,” as Eddie Izzard would say.) So now that I’m back in France for a few months, I figured it was high time to root some of these magazines out. Which is, of course, easy enough, once you’ve gone to both a librarie (bookshop, in English, not a library) and a tabac presse (basically a glorified newsstand mixed with the checkout shelves at a grocery store) and had extensive conversations with the employees.

Having now taken a few weeks and read through all of them, I present to you my highly skewed, biased, and unscientific reviews:

Monthlies

LiRE (March issue): This magazine has it all. Released by the same company as L’Express (a weekly news magazine), it’s bursting with news, features, thematic segments, reviews, five excerpts from upcoming novels, a couple interviews, and editorial content. It covers French books, foreign books, historical non-fiction, scientific books, essays, graphic novels, YA and children’s lit, paperbacks, the works. And everything in this issue is well-written, engaging, varied, intelligent, and well-thought-out, no matter how short. It should be extremely useful both in following industry trends and reading new fiction.

Le Magazine Littéraire (March issue): Maybe I shouldn’t have read this directly after LiRE. All I could do was compare the two, as they both purport to serve the same purpose…and this one fell at the other end of the spectrum. The content wasn’t as varied. There was only one excerpt, and it was middling. The news seemed stale, or not expansive enough, or devoid of emotion. The thematic content (this month: vampires….wheee…..) overshadowed everything else, and didn’t leave enough room for what I really cared about. Even the layout was grating. I was disappointed when I tossed it into the trash can (no recycling here), but not too sad.

Le Tigre (March issue): This is an interesting magazine. I almost didn’t grab a copy because their editorial mission includes the warning that they don’t publish fiction. But no matter; this is a fantastic selection of artistic prowess. Wordplay, photojournalism, illustrations, and twisted essays thrive alongside each other. One spread takes a roadmap, marks out a few towns that have “real word” names, and makes sentences out of them, haunting and sad. I’ve also just discovered that all their archives are free online. Looks like I won’t be reachable for the next week while I read ALL OF THEM.

In-betweener

Marianne (April-May issue): Not actually a real thing, for these purposes. Neat idea, though: an extra publication from a weekly news magazine, treating a different subject every issue. This time is death. Very bright and happy, I assure you. But it’s more of an anthology from older, established texts. Interesting, but unhelpful.

Quarterlies

Muze (Spring issue, April-June): Oh, how lovely this thick tome. Technically a female-oriented cultural revue, this journal really has its finger on the pulse of life. It seems. Everything includes a healthy dose of analysis, which I started skimming when it turned too philosophical, but it doesn’t detract from the wonderful behind-the-scenes look we get at every single topic the journal undertakes. Every theme includes current happenings, cultural tie-ins, movies, psychology, art, poems, and fiction. And the physical thing is a beauty to behold. The cover is even embossed. A tactile and visual dream. Definitely going on the list of not-expensive-enough-to-prevent-me-from-ordering-an-international-subscription.

Longcours (Spring issue): Also a very pretty, thick journal. But, as I realized when I started reading it, dedicated almost exclusively to long-form journalism. Very well-done long-form journalism, from what I’ve read. But only one short story. And although it was fascinating, that one thing is not enough to warrant a subscription. Still, I’ll be flipping through it whenever I walk into a French bookstore.

XXI (Winter issue): Ditto the above, with a heavy sigh. Really well-done long-form journalism (has apparently won scads of awards), including graphic novel journalism, but not what I’m looking for right now. Kudos to them on their Manifesto for a new media, though (if you understand French, it’s a good read).

 

So in the end, I’ve got at least three that I’ll be subscribing to upon my return to the States. What about you, lovely readers? Do you know of any others? Did I forget your favorite? Fall in love with your worst nightmare? Tell me what I’ve missed.

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Dear bilingual dictionary,

You and I have been partners for a long time. Some might even say friends. (Maybe frenemies.) But we have a decent, cordial, mutually respectful relationship, and have for years.

But enough with the formalities. You and I need to have a heart-to-heart. Right here, right now.

See, there are times when I feel you’re limiting me. Like you’re cornering me into a little box of conventions and traditions, of the way it’s always been done, perhaps even the way it’s supposed to be done. Says you. I come to you with a question, an open-ended question. This is not a yes or no, black or white question. There are shades of beautiful gray, shadows in the dark and streams of dust-filled light. This question invites research, discussion, discovery. I’m looking for the many different facets and shades of meaning, the many different turns and tunes of how to say something, how to sing or mumble or cry or shout or threaten something, in my own tongue. I come to you on my knees, ready to learn.

And lately, it seems that you see this delicate and luxurious Fabergé egg that I present before you, a treasured gift on a velvet pillow, and you just slap it out of my hand. And then you shove a dull cube of lead in front of my face, and I almost choke on this unimaginative, unpolished lump. Too familiar. I’ve seen it dozens of times before. The one word that is the only possible translation of this word I’ve brought before you.

But no. No. NO! Never! There is not ever only one right answer! This translation I am doing, it is not a machine, a mechanized process that takes input and spits out deadened, predetermined outputs out, day in and day out, forever until the end of time, never changing, never growing, never creating things of beauty. This is a creative process, a process of creation, of breathing new life into something already lovely, of using a new prism of clear cut glass to catch the sunlight in a new way and spurt forth new colors to send out into the world, scattering and dancing as they go. This is not a process of boxing in, of limiting the possibilities, but one of springing the lock on Pandora’s box, and watching as all the wonderful and strange and unknown and terrifying and beautiful things go flying out of your control.

The paths that have been trodden before me are good, and solid, and reliable, and have their place. I pad and stomp over them often myself. But you must not build fences of cold steel and barbed wire, penning me in from ever leaving them! I will be forced to break free, tearing down the iron gates much as I tear apart your whisper thin papyrus sheets.

So I will slam you shut, and I will shove you off of the table in a fit of frustration, and I will curse as I stub my own toes in an attempt to injure your pages and your pride.

And yet.

Although. Still.

As it happens, lumps of lead can be beautiful, too…if combined in a new way, stacked on top of each other in precariously swaying towers, sculpting the likeness of a new creature that no one has ever seen before, nor even imagined. Even as a limited and limiting tool, you are useful. Of constant, and yes, essential use.

We shall remain partners.

Warily and forever yours,

Allison

 

P.S. I did not originally mean for this to be an ode to this creative process, something dearly loved. I have learned something new, that you are inspirational in a muse-like way I did not imagine before. You still have some surprises and tricks up your binding.

Where I stand on Bookish

or: I’m glad I don’t have to be an investigative journalist, when there’s plenty of other people who will happily do that for me

Everyone in the publishing industry has been hearing about Bookish for quite some time. It had gone through a lot of leadership changes (3 CEO’s before even launching?), but it finally went live a couple of months ago.

For the blissfully unaware, it was supposed to end up replacing Amazon and Goodreads, giving people a new/better/different/sparkling way to discover and share books. But it’s not homegrown or built around the community like Goodreads, and it’s nowhere near vast enough to rival Amazon’s scope.

Also, there’s a bigger problem that people have been complaining about: conflict of interest. Bookish’s editorial team is supposed to be completely neutral and open to anything, thus making it easy for people to discover books they otherwise wouldn’t. But Bookish is run by three of the Bix 6 publishers (the mega-houses that have all the books and all the clout): Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Penguin.

Peter Winkler started talking about it over at Huffington Post:

“The exclusive author content Bookish offers, consisting of canned interviews with authors, book excerpts, and short essays, which gets refreshed periodically, is invariably written by or about authors whose books are published by Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster, or one of their imprints.”

But the cooler part was when The Digital Reader picked it up. Winkler hopped over to thank them for picking up his story, but then Rebecca Wright showed up, and started defending Bookish. Which makes sense, because she’s their executive editor.

Go there, scroll down, and read the comment exchange. It’s pretty cordial, and she convinced me not to out and out hate Bookish.

I personally still won’t be using the site anytime soon — look, I just got on Twitter last autumn, and I’m barely on Goodreads yet; I can only do one social media site at a time — but if they actually manage to diversify their content, like Wright is claiming they already are, then it won’t be terrible. Benefit of the doubt, people.

Hey! You won!

Specifically, two of you:

First book goes to JUAN MARROQUIN! Congratulations! He wrote: “My favorite ‘strong woman’ is Elizabeth Bennet, from ‘Pride and Prejudice’. She is strong and does her best with the resources she had at hand, gracefully but without giving up.”

Second book goes to LIZ W, who is @westbynorth on Twitter. Congratulations to you, as well!

Juan, Liz, I’ll be in touch later today to get your mailing addresses.

Now, for the rest of you amazing people who indulged this little game, you can still win a copy of the book, in a sense. It just requires a purchase — of the book.

(Sorry. It’s the opposite of “No Purchase Necessary.” I had to.)

Anyway, The Last Love of George Sand is officially on sale from all your favorite sellers (disclaimer: first two are affiliate links, but you can bypass them if you so desire):

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound
…or your favorite local bookshop

Spread the word! George Sand is here, in English, as you’ve never seen her before.

And now, THE GIVEAWAY

*doot doodoodoo doot doot doot doooooooooooo*

And ain't she a beauty?

And ain’t she a beauty?

As promised. I wouldn’t let you down.

The Prize: Two (2) randomly-chosen people will each receive one (1) hardcover copy of The Last Love of George Sand, by Evelyne Bloch-Dano, translated by yours truly, published by Arcade Publishing, released February 6, 2013. Each book will be signed by me and inscribed however you’d like.

The Entry(-ies): There are two ways of entering, each of which grants you one entry (so every person can enter up to twice).

  1. In honor of George Sand, leave a comment on this post of who your favorite strong woman is. Bonus brownie points for explaining why.
  2. To help spread the word, tweet a link to this post. Must either tweet at me (@sunshineabroad) or include this hashtag: #GeorgeSandGiveaway

The Deadline: Tonight! Wednesday, February 6, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. EST.

The Rules: After the contest, I will randomly select two entrants (by assigning a number to each comment and Twitter account and using a random number generator), and announce the winners on this blog on Thursday, February 7. I will then contact the winners for their mailing address. Anyone with a valid mailing address anywhere in the world may enter. Limit two entries per person.

The Why: George Sand is freaking cool. And I loved working on this book. I’d like to share it with people.

Good luck to all!

Please don’t interrupt me when I’m reading

Especially not when I’m reading a story about a family of Baptists from the great state of Georgia who force their way into missionary work in 1960’s Belgian Congo, who choose not to leave when rumors of “independence” start swirling, because the father/preacher is so blindly convinced of God’s plan for them and God’s work through them that he ignores the fact that they have nothing left to eat, and the villagers start getting mad at them, and a curse is placed on their chicken house, where they find a green mamba snake, which bites someone on the shoulder…

A green mamba snake bites you too close to your heart, you have no chance of survival.

Please don’t interrupt me when I’m reading about a favorite character’s death, mourning that favorite character right along with all the other characters, trying to figure out how everyone will survive now right along with everyone else.

Or, if you do interrupt me, I will look sad. Tears might be slipping down my cheeks, unbidden. Don’t worry. You may think something is terribly wrong, and it is. But it’s nothing you’ve done.

Except interrupt me at the wrong time.

 

The aforementioned wonderful book is Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I’m almost done with it, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Also, the aforementioned death isn’t really a spoiler. It’s first mentioned by page 5.

TK: Giveaway!

Yes, you read that right. It’s almost time for the First Not-Nearly-Regular-Enough-To-Be-Called-Annual A.M.C. Giveaway!

(A.M.C. stands for me. Allison M. Charette. Not that similarly-named movie-related company. All rights reserved, or something.)

I’ve just received my box of books for The Last Love of George Sand, and boy, do they look nice. Take a look!

The Last Love of George Sand

Look at the pretty!

To celebrate, I’ve decided to give not one, but TWO FREE COPIES away! Not today, mind, you, but when the official pub date rolls around.

So, mark your calendars for February 6. That’s pub date, and that’s when I’ll be giving away two (yes, 2) copies of the book. For free. Should be awesome. Details TK.

 

P.S. “TK” is publishing-speak for “to come.” Why it ended up not being a real acronym is beyond me.