The autumn literary start, which begins this week, has only 65 first novels, out of a total of 511 titles. But it is by daring to draw among the works of first-time novelists that readers will have the most beautiful surprises.
Among the titles to remember, we can quote “Blessed is Sixtine”, the first novel by Maylis Adhémar which tells the emancipation of a pious young woman under the influence of traditionalist circles. This novel – the first published under the aegis of Vanessa Springora, new patron of Julliard editions – is luminous.
Among the other remarkable first novels, we will remember “La cuillère” by Franco-Briton Dany Héricourt, a both funny and moving “road-trip” between Wales and Burgundy, and “Miles around” by Vinca van Eecke, a beautiful melancholy tale on the youth and the fledged loves of those summers that were believed to be invincible. But also “What is necessary at night” by Laurent Petitmangin which is a first sensitive and powerful novel on filial love, political commitment which can lead to the worst, the failures of the famous “social elevator” in peripheral France .
Still among the first novels, we can point out “Five in your eyes” by Hadrien Bels, a bitter and scathing book on the gentrification of the Panier district in Marseille, “The last one” by Fatima Daas, a vibrant story of a young Muslim woman from suburb, lesbian, who does not want to give up any identity, or “Un jour ce sera vide” by Hugo Lindenberg, a great novel on childhood wounds.
The start of the school year is obviously not limited to the first novels and readers can turn to the “sure values” put forward by publishers. “Saturn” by Sarah Chiche (winner of the La Closerie des Lilas prize in 2019), a vibrant story of a posthumous love between a girl and her father who died when she was still a baby.
Another great novel not to be missed, “Chavirer” by Lola Lafon, a terribly well constructed story on child crime. It’s about guilt and forgiveness, about broken lives, and it’s masterful. As for Serge Joncour, he offers with “Human Nature” a great and magnificent empathetic story on the rural world from the 1960s until the first day of the year 2000.
Franck Bouysse has the gift of transporting his readers to strange countries to indefinable times. This is still the case with “Buveurs de vent”, an epic tale, an ode to rebellion, carried by a splendid language. Miguel Bonnefoy returns with “Heritage”, a picaresque story featuring several generations of a family from Jura who settled in Chile at the start of the 20th century.
Long awaited after the success of his first novel “Désorientale”, Négar Djavadi offers his readers a second abundant and thrilling novel: “Arène”. Note also, the second novel by Jean-René Van Der Plaesten, “The job of dying”, on the war in Lebanon seen through the character of a retired Israeli army officer. But also, the superb feminist novel “Fille” by Camille Laurens, the new juror of the Goncourt academy. It is also a question of female emancipation with “Les évasions Particuliers” by Véronique Olmi.
Finally, we could not imagine a literary return without a new opus from Amélie Nothomb. The unfortunate finalist of Goncourt last year returns with “The aerostats”, a brilliant book (her 29th) which for the first time takes place in Belgium, her native country.
The Swiss literary start
Among the novelties of this literary re-entry 2020 are several works by French-speaking authors published by French houses. But many local writers remain loyal to their Swiss publishing house.
With his latest novel “Rachel et les siens”, Metin Arditi revives his romantic verve by painting a magnificent portrait of a woman. Rachel, born into a Jewish family at the start of the 20th century in Ottoman Palestine, becomes a playwright whose plays are performed on international stages, with a conviction rooted in her heart: cohabitation between Jews, Arabs and Muslims on the same land is possible . “There is a lot of me in Rachel,” says Metin Arditi, very active in fostering intercultural dialogue through his foundations.
Frédéric Pajak concludes his cycle “Uncertain Manifesto” with a ninth and final work devoted to the great Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa: “With Pessoa”. The author and designer follows the mysterious journey of this discreet man who wrote under cover of multiple fictitious identities. As in the previous opus of the “Manifesto”, Pajak mixes with sensitivity the story and its Chinese ink, biography and autobiography.
Young Swiss talent
After a very noticed first novel in 2017, the young Thomas Flahaut confirms his talent with “Summer nights”. The author again situates his story in this indecisive zone that is the border between Switzerland and France, between Besançon and the region of Biel. This is where three young people with little future live and work, united by a moving emotional relationship. A novel with autobiographical origins which allows Thomas Flahaut to describe the reality of factory work and the social determinism that leads to it.
Another young author to have passed through the Literary Institute of Biel, Elisa Shua Dusapin publishes her third novel, “Vladivostok Circus”. After Korea (her country of origin) and Japan (country of the heart), the writer places her story on the borders of Russia where she describes the daily life of a trio of acrobats at the helm. There is mystery between these three whose art is based on absolute trust. The writing of Elisa Shua Dusapin, light and chiseled, lives up to this somewhat crazy idea of emancipating oneself from terrestrial gravity.
The pandemic as a source of inspiration
In this literary season, the pandemic and its consequences are at the heart of several works. Among them, “The Mammoth and the Virus” by the very caustic Eugene. With the good-naturedness that we know him, the Vaudois offers his confinement diary kept in a mountain chalet with his wife and his little boy during the spring. The benefits of fiction, as delusional as it is, to counter the reality that is beyond us, such is the purpose of this mischievous little book.
In a more serious register, the éditions d’En Bas offer a collective work in which about fifty authors deliver their reflection on the upheaval of our world of which the Covid-19 crisis is only a symptom. “Postcorona tumult – Crises, come out and fork”, a sum provided by writers, journalists, politicians and researchers.
afp / Jean-Marie Félix
Adaptation web: ld