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French literature in English - Albertine Bookstore

After reading a thread about a book an expat wrote after living in France, I started to think about the kinds of works we find most easily when we want insight into another country. There are a lot of works about expats moving to another country and their wacky misunderstandings, lush travel narratives, WWII historical fiction, and some of the capital-C Classics by names it would be hard to have never heard of. At the same time, it can be hard to find works that are popular in France.

If anyone is ever interested in searching out recent French literature translated into English and isn't sure where to start, I'd highly recommend the Albertine website and bookstore. It's a project of the French embassy, and you can visit its gorgeous store in New York, or use their website and social media to get recommendations. The Albertine Prize is a good place to start - I recently finished the 2019 winner, Disoriental, which was fascinating, and have previously read Small Country and The Perfect Nanny, both of which were also great reads.

I think getting into a country's contemporary literature, either in translation or the original, can be yet another "back door." I also love that it's frequently complex and challenging. If you're someone who already feels comfortable with the "basics" of operating in French culture, it's such a good way to go more in-depth and see new perspectives.

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I live in New York and I can warmly second this recommendation -- if you are a Francophile, are planning a trip to France, or just enjoy beautiful bookstores, and you happen to be passing through New York City, I do recommend a visit to the physical store!

In the store at least they carry books both in French and in English (including many translations of contemporary French-language literature) so even if you don't speak French, there's something to see.

They also often webcast the events live, so even if you aren't in New York you can "attend" the talks and discussions

And I also agree with the initial sentiment. Reading works by travelers and expats in a different country is great fun, but you don't get the same kind of perspective as a writer writing about their society "from the inside." This isn't to say that the perspective of outsiders isn't valuable by any means (as an American I find some of the most interesting takes on American culture and society to be written by non-Americans), but you certainly do get a different view from someone who is writing for their compatriots in their own society.

In particular, I think it's interesting what doesn't need to be explained/what is taken for granted, which is often pretty different than what an outsider might assume.