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French Literature


Semaine de la francophonie

With Spring around the corner, so is the Semaine de la francophonie. Celebrated this year from March 16 to 24, 2024, the Semaine de la francophonie was first created in 1988 with a focus on French language around the world. It has since evolved to an event that celebrates the richness of the French language in French-speaking countries around the world as well as the cultures of those countries. This year, because of the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, the theme is “On the Podium,” and we can’t wait to see what fictional narratives involving sport are going to come out!

The AFF, through its website, has the opportunity to introduce what is commonly known as francophone literature -- literature written from areas of the world that speak French and are not located in metropolitan France -- to the greater Frederick community. There is such a variety of authors that francophone literature will be a regular feature of our website. We hope you will be encouraged to discover some of those books, many of which may be less known to those who are still grappling with the enormous task of reading authors from metropolitan France. Keep reading below for some of our favorite authors. While all the books are in French, several also are available in English. 

If you are interested in learning more about the cultures and literatures of those specific islands mentioned below, check out Île en île.    

Happy Semaine de la francophonie and happy reading!

Guadeloupe: Gisèle Pineau and Maryse Condé. Both have received many literary awards, and their own life trajectory has been fodder for their books. Pineau moved to metropolitan France when she was a child and recounts her encounter with White French society as well as the special relationship she develops with her grandmother who is illiterate and only speaks creole in L’exil selon Julia. As a psychiatric nurse by training (Folie, aller simple: journée ordinaire d’une infirmière), she is also interested in haunting memories (Chair Piment), or the impact of undisclosed secrets (Fleur de Barbarie and Le Parfum des sirènes). Condé had a slightly different trajectory as she lived in several countries in Africa at the time of decolonization, studied in France and ended her professional career as a professor at Columbia University. Her experience feeds some of her narratives (En Attendant le bonheur, Ségou), and all seem to have a link to Africa even if some are grounded in the Caribbean (En attendant la montée des eaux). Condé received the New Academy Prize in Literature in 2018.

Martinique: Aimé Césaire, Patrick Chamoiseau, and Raphaël Confiant. Iconic Aimé Césaire, wonderful philosopher, theater writer (Une tempête, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Tempest) and poet (Cahier d’un retour au pays natal) comes to mind when thinking of this island. Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant are still grappling with contemporary issues as they continue to publish. Chamoiseau’s 1992 Prix Goncourt traces the historical saga of a community (Texaco). Confiant has focused on specific historical moments of Martinique like the Vichy government in the island (Le Nègre et l’amiral), the volcano eruption that destroyed St Pierre (Nuée Ardente), or WWI (Le bataillon créole). Both are also very engaged in the defense of the creole language, and Confiant is known for his political involvement in causes that are dear to the Antilles such as the chlordecone pesticide poisoning.

Haiti: Marie-Célie Agnant, Yannick Lahens. and Dany Laferrière. Agnant talks about the trauma of displacement (La dot de Sara, Le livre d’Emma), or the generational trauma of the dictatorship (Un alligator nommé Rosa, Femmes au temps des carnassiers). Lahens also discusses the trauma of the most recent devastating earthquake (Failles). Last but not least, Dany Laferrière needs to be mentioned here. Elected at the Académie française in 2013, his writings encompass many themes raised by his colleagues, his thoughts on his father’s death and a stay in Haiti (L’énigme du retour), snapshots of the earthquake (Tout bouge autour de moi), or the look of the Western world on Haiti (Vers le Sud) are some of his most compelling works.

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