The French complaint that Anglo-Saxon culture is overtaking their own is commonplace. A hugely popular French TV puppet parody of the US as “The World Company” had Sylvester Stallone as president pushing everything from culture to policy down foreigners’ throats. In terms of books sales abroad, the BBC writes, there’s no denying that French literature falls way behind works from the US and the UK. It hurts…
“With the possible exception of Michel Houellebecq, what French novelist has made it into the Anglophone market?” writes Hugh Schofield of the BBC News, Paris.
“Even the 2008 Nobel literature prize-winner Jean-Marie Le Clezio is virtually unknown in the English-speaking world.
And as for French habits, just look at the popular reads on the Paris metro. My admittedly unscientific survey on Line 1 from La Defense showed a clear four-to-one majority in favour of US and British novels.”
So why? French authors claim a lack of open-mindedness on the part of readers.
“Here in France around 45 out of every 100 novels sold is a translation from a foreign language. With you it’s something like three out of every hundred,” says Darrieussecq, winner of this year’s Medicis prize with Il Faut Beaucoup Aimer Les Hommes (You Need to Love Men a Lot)
“But what that shows is that we French are very curious about other people and cultures. You too – you should be curious. You should be more open,” she says.”
The author is willing to consider another theory:
“But might there not be another problem – that French books themselves are just not that appealing?”