Last night, Albertine Bookstore hosted its second annual award ceremony to celebrate the winner of the Albertine Prize, an award recognizing American readers’ favorite work of contemporary Francophone fiction translated into English in the past year. The prize was awarded to author Anne Garréta and her translator Emma Ramadan for their work “Not One Day,” a book that centers on twelve different accounts of queer desire.
Fellow author Lydia Davis and literary critic François Busnel participated in a panel with the two prize-winners. Davis applauded Garréta for her ability to vary the complexity of her language and recognized Ramadan for her ability to mirror this in the English translation.
Busnel read a line from Garréta’s book, “Life is too short to read poorly written books and sleep with women you don’t love,” a sharp and witty line that perfectly mirrors Garréta’s spunky personality, sending the audience into laughter.
Garréta was inspired to write this novel during the six months she was on bed-rest for a broken leg. With nothing else to do but think, she was able to finish it in just one year. Garréta wanted to write a “simple French book about something that is not very often addressed in French literature, which is actual queer desire, without apologies, and, if possible, enough variety, to not turn it into a pornographic type of exercise.” She set out to write a book that was readable and quick — one that would stick with readers for the rest of their lives.
Ramadan, the translator, expressed her hesitancy to embark on this project because she was afraid of losing Garréta’s voice in the process. “This isn’t a character that I’m misquoting — it’s a real person with real desires that I didn’t want to get wrong,” she stated.
In relation to her “voice” as a translator, Garréta considers its existence an illusion, a trick of her writing. “Writing is a tool of inquiry. When we write something, we are discovering things you did not or things you are incapable of thinking,” shared Garréta. “I created a framework, which, thanks to writing, allows me to talk about things that are mysterious, like desire.”