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The 9 Most Exciting Books of La Rentrée Littéraire 2020

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Every year, from August through October, the biggest season in the French publishing season, or La Rentrée Littéraire, takes place. This year, 511 new books will hit the shelves, 366 of them French books, the other 145 translations of foreign books. Though COVID-19 has scaled down production slightly (last year there were 524 new releases), the community decided to take a leap of faith and bet on a public hungry for new stories after so much time inside. These are just a few of the hot new French titles on the market.

Chavirer, Lola Lafon

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Chavirer begins in 1984, when 13-year-old Cléo is recruited by a mysterious foundation to become a Modern-Jazz dancer. Trapped in a psychosexual organization that feeds on young girls’ dreams, Cléo is first victim, and later perpetrator, acting as a recruiter for the foundation. Thirty years later, when her career has brought her all the way to the stages of a prestigious Parisian revue, her questionable past resurfaces, and her life begins to “capsize.”

Release date: August 19

Buveurs de vent, Franck Bouysse

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Like their father and grandfather before them, three brothers and a sister in France’s Gour Noir work for a tyrannical power plant owner. But a particular relationship with nature gifts the siblings a tendency—or, perhaps, a responsibility—towards insubordination, in Bouysse’s Buveurs de vent. One can hear the thoughts of the trees, the other speak with the woodland animals, and all know the insurmountable power of nature, even in the face of cold industrializm.

Release date: August 19

Une rose seule, Muriel Barbery

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The titular Rose of Une rose seule is a middle-aged French woman who visits Kyoto upon the death of her father, whom she hardly knew, at the direction of his last will and testament. Her father’s assistant, Paul, leads her on a strange journey according to the will’s directions. The story builds upon legendary and historic tales which set an allegorical foundation for Rose’s personal history, revealed as she explores a new and strange land.

Release date: August 19

Yoga, Emmanuel Carrère

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For many, yoga and meditation appear to be the domain of those who have achieved peace of mind. But what about those still searching for it? Yoga is a book about depression, bipolar disorder, terrorism, told by an author with 25 years of experience in the ancient practice of yoga. It focuses on the dark events of the second decade of the 21st century, from the Charlie Hebdo attacks to Europe’s refugee crisis, with a personal yet universal understanding.

Release date: August 27

Fille, Camille Laurens

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Winner of the Prix Fémina and Prix Renaudot des lycéens in 2000 for Dans ses bras là, Camille Laurens returns two decades later with Fille. An exploration of womanhood, Fille follows Laurence Barraqué and her sisters through adolescence in 1960s Rouen. Thirty years later, Laurence finds herself reliving girlhood through her daughter. The author deftly comes back again and again to the complex subtleties of the French language, and the multitudes contained in a single word: Fille.

Release date: August 20

Comédies françaises, Eric Reinhardt

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Part mystery, part nostalgic obsession with the Internet, Comédies françaises takes us along the mission of a young reporter, investigating a 1970s engineer whose invention of a data transmission system helped launch the digital revolution. At least, before his work was suddenly and brutally interrupted by public authorities… A sarcastic and scathing critique on the power of lobbying in French political and commercial life.

Release date: August 20

Histoires de la Nuit, Laurent Mauvignier

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In a quiet French hamlet, an ordinary family prepares for a mother’s 40th birthday party. But when parents, daughter, and artist neighbor are joined by dangerous strangers prowling in their midst, the secrets of their past come back to haunt them, in this 600+ page noir novel, in which Histoires de la Nuit reveal much more than the stories we tell in the daytime.

Release date: September 3

Les Aérostats, Amelie Nothomb

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Last year, Baroness Fabienne-Claire Nothomb, better known by her pen name Amélie Nothomb, made our list with the Biblically-charged alternate history, Soif. This year, the quasi-autobiographical novel Les Aérostats takes us to the author’s homeland of Brussels, and centers around a 19-year-old philology student named Ange, who takes on the role of literature tutor to a dyslexic high schooler.

Release date: August 19

Le Sel de tous les oublies, Yasmina Khadra

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When Adem Naït-Gacem’s wife leaves him, he abandons his students and heads out into the world like a modern-day Don Quixote. On the road, our melancholy antihero runs into a cast of unusual characters whose encounters could pave the way to his redemption, in Le Sel de tous les oublies.

Release date: August 20

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