In a still prolific editorial landscape, the winter literary season keeps its promises of big names and discoveries.
Here is an overview in twenty novels of this literary return to January to cross the frost between good pages.
What my half-naked grandmother did on the General’s desk
By Christophe Donner, Grasset, 304 p. Released January 11.
Under the cover of elucidating how his grandmother lands naked on General de Gaulle’s desk, Christophe Donner dangles the first virtual novel of the blockchain era (and it’s brilliant). Once his reader was mystified, the author of France goy rummages in the archives of French anti-Semitism, in particular via Action française and its zealous Léon Daudet, whom his son Philippe will attempt to assassinate. A clever game of Russian dolls where there will be a lot of talk about killing the father.
By Marie-Hélène Lafon, Buchet-Chastel, 128 p. Released January 5.
From a farmyard planted in the heart of Cantal, a 30-year-old woman watches over her three children. She also watches out of the corner of her eye for her husband to wake up, that heavy body slumped on the bench, before the blows rain down and the words ring out. To express “ordinary” domestic violence and its mind-numbing routines, Marie-Hélène Lafon relies on her own family history within “small countries where everything is known”. His words on the lookout, sharp and precise, crack like a whip.
Were there limits if yes I crossed them but it was for love ok
By Michelle Lapierre-Dallaire, Le Nouvel Attila, 160 p. Released January 13. first novel
“I have no skin. […] You see everything through me.” Alcoholic mother committed suicide, father in prison, the 27-year-old narrator comes to rush into the stretchers to “show her carnage”. Sexual abuse, mental health problems, drugs, suicide, from Quebec and in need of love, the first novel by Michelle Lapierre-Dallaire sets fire to autofiction in a text that beats. Traumas, attempts at resurrection, it beats the banality “to blow up his stupid face”. For informed public.
By Patrice Pluyette, Seuil, 204 p. Released January 6.
A somewhat perched writer-director recounts the shooting of a never-before-seen chivalric film. Taken aback for a moment, the reader quickly gets back in the saddle to ride on a traveling shot in pursuit of furious roland, masterpiece of medieval Italian literature sketched on a green background and pasteboard decorations. Chaotic production, second-rate actors, explosion of the fourth wall, Patrice Pluyette imposes himself as a whimsical master storyteller for the time of a book-film in which you are the hero. Prankster and refreshing.
Light, ink and furniture wear
By Emmanuel Venet, Gallimard, 160 p. Released January 12.
“Cousinant” with Pascal Quignard in search of dazzling, Emmanuel Venet shells a whole secret life. Fluttering between the mists of childhood, amorous catechism and the difficulties of the profession of psychiatrist, this elegant fragmentary collection invites you to share a mischievous erudition. Either a string of intimate obstinacy and a few cherished talismans (many poets and musicians are invoked in this way). Between diary and aphorisms, Venet practices tightrope walker fascination.
The Mystery of the Headless Woman
By Myriam Leroy, Seuil, 288 p. Released January 6.
In the cemetery of Ixelles is an intriguing burial. Marina Chafroff-Maroutaeff. Beheaded. With an ax. In 1942, Marina was resistant, saved the life of sixty hostages by denouncing herself for the aggression of a German officer. She has no street named after her, nor a monument to her glory. So the narrator will imagine the missing pieces of the puzzle, draw a fantasized portrait driven by incomprehension and anger in the face of our history, damaged by invisibilization and silence women.
Irrefutable essay of successology
By Lydie Salvayre, Seuil, 176 p. Released January 6.
Nothing seems to stop the prolific Lydie Salvayre, and especially not the side roads. She comes back with a Irrefutable essay of successology, where she sets out to analyze the mysterious recipe for success. With this antiguide which pastiches the self help books and saber our time, she deploys her consummate art of enumeration to offer a festival of advice to (above all not) follow to “be on top”, since we know, “success immunizes against death”. A delicacy, in short.
By Mathieu Lindon, POL, 240 p. Released January 5.
It was time for Vincent Lindon to tell his own story of the editions of Minuit, and especially of his father, Jérôme, who was its director. In his very personal style, the author of what love means leaves us peering through the keyhole of the family apartment and offices of this legendary publishing house. We find in particular his great authors, such as the Nobel Samuel Beckett, to whom his father was so close, or Alain Robbe-Grillet, champion of the New Novel. An intimate and touching story.
By Lauren Groff, L’Olivier, 304 p. Released January 6.
Ejected from the court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, Marie de France is forced to become prioress of a remote royal abbey. After his contemporary dissection of marriage in The Furies, Lauren Groff surprises and enchants with this portrait of a young woman from the 12th century, tenacious, creative and in solidarity with the fate of her companions. Known until then only by what her lays say, the first author in the French language acquires here a rich emancipatory fabric, able to speak to us today.
What Majella didn’t like
By Michelle Galen, ed. Joelle Losfeld, 350 p. Released January 5.
In Aghybogey (a fictional town in Northern Ireland), Majella, young and plump, lives in rhythm with the hours of the chip shop where she officiates seven days a week. Behind the Salé counter, Pané, Frit! , it’s a whole world that she glimpses, cheeky and dented. Between the sudden death of her grandmother, the disappearance of her father in the middle of the Troubles and the concerns of customers, she has a lot to do not to waver. A devilishly endearing first novel, with a crunchy tongue!
By Jan Carson, ed. Sabine Wespieser, 440 p. Released January 5.
In Ballylack, during the Troubles, children find it difficult to project themselves into the future. On the last day of June 1993, 11-year-old Ross dies of a mysterious infection, soon followed by other comrades. Only Hannah, marginalized because of her Protestant fundamentalist parents, seems spared. But while everyone is panicking in view of the epidemic, she cannot confide that she sees each new deceased appear. Jan Carson infuses a mastered supernatural into his fine portrait of a community in crisis.
The dangers of smoking in bed
By Mariana Enriquez, Basement, 240 p. Released January 13.
Impressive and chilling in her devious novel Our part of the night, the Argentine queen of terror returns with her first collection (shortlisted for the Booker Prize) of twelve short stories to petrify the blood, rhythmic with the cord. Between adolescent savagery, tangible specters of dictatorship, lineage of damned women or spells of revenge, there is here a complete panoply of contemporary obsessions woven with archaic legends and beliefs. Immerse yourself in reading… or be cursed!
By Mathieu Lauverjat, Gallimard/Scribes, 240 p. Released January 12. first novel
When a take-out delivery man, following a serious bicycle accident, becomes the perfect candidate for the mystery shopping, the result is a lucid first novel on the uberization of work, a highly contemporary narrative with a formula that slams like a start-up briefing. The narrator imagined by Mathieu Lauverjat makes his way on the shelves of shops or at the counters of sandwich shops but also in TGV bars to test, verify and challenge the employees thus monitored by their parent companies. A spine-chilling docufiction.
I am not here
By Lize Spit, Actes Sud, 512 p. Release February 1.
From the Flemish countryside of Debacle, her first novel which propelled her to be a princess of literature in the north of the country, Lize Spit moves to Brussels where her narrator – who looks a lot like her – receives an emergency call from her best friend predicting the worst. Leaving everything in her trendy clothes shop, she runs…. I am not here expands the eleven minutes of its plot in a dense and sensitive suspense that replays in detail the stages of a relationship that sees madness welling up in her.
Nein Nein Nein!
By Jerry Stahl, Shores, 352 p. Released January 4.
Subtitle Depression, torments of the soul and the Holocaust by coach, one of the freest and sharpest writers in Uncle Sam’s country delivers a new opus halfway between pamphlet and autobiography. There was only this ex-junkie, friend of Hubert Selby Jr., screenwriter of Twin Peaks and author of Naked in civilian clothes, to go and treat his depression by visiting the death camps while carrying out his duty of memory. Corrosive and biting!
By Colson Whitehead, Albin Michel, 432 p. Released January 4.
The fictional double Pulitzer (Underground Railroad and Nickel Boys) clearly takes pleasure in using the form of the noir novel for a jubilant rereading of sixties Harlem. More than an enjoyable and well-trimmed exercise in style, Colson Whitehead, with his gallery of earthy gangsters and rotten and racist cops, above all pays a very personal tribute to the immense African-American writer that was Chester Himes. Hilarious and relevant!
By Douglas Stuart, Globe, 480 p. Released January 5.
One year after the painful and autobiographical Shuggie Bath, that the Scotsman is currently developing for a television series adaptation, Douglas Stuart does it again with an equally heartbreaking Mungo. Either a gay version of Romeo and Juliet in a Glasgow of the 1990s plagued by gang warfare between Catholics and Protestants against a backdrop of poverty and alcoholism. Shocking and tragic!
By Jakob Guanzon, La Croisée, 336 p. Released January 11. first novel
Welcome to the America of the outcasts who eat when they can and sleep in their cars. A galley that Henry shares with Junior, his 8-year-old son. While waiting for a job interview that could get them out of the rut, this courageous father, haunted by his own youth, decides to do something extra for the son’s birthday. On the program: a McDo and a night in a seedy motel. “Luxuries” which do not erase the shame nor the discomfort of this child deprived of everything, in particular of the affection of his junkie mother. A naturalistic road movie that does not, however, delight in misery. As long as there is (paternal) love, there is hope.
By Natasha Brown, Grasset, 160 p. Released January 11. first novel
Apparently, the narrator has ticked all the boxes for success: a position in high finance, a boyfriend from a good family… However, it was not a foregone conclusion for this black woman of modest origin. Precisely, on closer inspection, this assimilation has a cost: her journey is peppered with microaggressions that constantly send her back to her status as a racialized woman. A verbal violence that is all the more devious because it hides in the folds of the ordinary. Meritocracy is a decoy. A well-oiled hypocrisy that this political novel denounces with great finesse.
The Age of Destroy
By Pauline Peyrade, Midnight, 160 p. Released January 5. first novel
Elsa is 7 years old when her mother buys an apartment. The promise of a new beginning is cut short, the mother sinking into depression and creating a climate of dull terror. Painful memories that resurface twenty years later when Elsa, marked by this arid upbringing, comes to help this stingy woman in affection to empty the accommodation she has finally decided to leave. With a lively and sensory writing, the author takes the anemic pulse of a toxic relationship from which the young girl will only be able to free herself by reaching, as Virginia Woolf said, the age of destruction.