Good French books that HAVEN'T been translated.
February 6, 2016 9:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations for French books by diaspora/PoC authors who have NOT been translated into English. Snowflakes inside.

As part of my Master's, I have to do a translation project. 5000 words, no big deal. The only problem is that the book I choose to excerpt my translation from can't ever have been translated into English before, which rules out pretty much all of the books I know/have read, since my taste in French runs to BDs and the popular stuff.

I'm looking for books that fit one or more of the following parameters:

a) by a diaspora/PoC (ideally WoC) author, because I'm really sick of old white men.
b) not TOO argot, since I'm not going to have as much time to do research as I would like.
c) in one of the following genres: YA, sci-fi, romance, microhistory, general non-fiction. I'm not a huge fan of Serious Literature and/or angst about Identity and the Diaspora Experience (get plenty of that with Indian authors in English) but needs must I'll deal.
d) available on Kindle or in physical form at

Merci mille fois!
posted by Tamanna to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Christine Arnothy, who just died a few months ago, wrote the famous WWII memoir "I am fifteen and I don't want to die." She then wrote two sequels after that. All three were first written in French. The second sequel, Embrasser la vie, was never translated into English that I know of.

Ever see the movie "A Little Romance," the film debut of Diane Lane? It was based on the book E = mc2 mon amour, which also has never been translated.

And finally, as a polar exploration buff, I really got into Will Steger's crossing of Antarctica in 1990. His French co-leader, Jean-Louis Etienne, wrote his own memoir of the trip, Transantarctica. He wrote lots of other books about his polar expeditions as well.
posted by Melismata at 9:52 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Il faut essayer Leonora Miano qui est une auteur(e) française d'origine camerounaise dont l'œuvre n'a pas été traduite en anglais, à part son premier livre je crois.

Elle n'est pas vraiment ma tasse de thé, mais ses thèmes de prédilection sont ceux que vous avez énumérés.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:25 PM on February 6, 2016

I'd suggest some Untranslated Fred Vargas mystery. She's a French archaeologist, and I think her mysteries are warm without being twee and engaging without being dry Literature.

genres: ... sci-fi ...

From a cursory search many years ago, most sci-fi in France was translated anglophone stuff.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:58 PM on February 6, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far, askMefi! A note: I definitely would prefer PoC if at all possible. That is the one parametre I'm not willing to give up unless I have to.
posted by Tamanna at 11:10 PM on February 6, 2016

Well, this person (I think she's Togolese) recently self-published a book called "La pression de l'oppression" via Kickstarter. Unfortunately, I can't tell whether it's any good or not, but it's definitely not translated. I think it might be a little rough around the edges, and who knows if the ideas are that great, but let me know if you're interested in borrowing my copy. I found the title, and theme, compelling.

There are probably a lot of other, more recognizable, more literary works out there that would be appropriate for your project, but the author's perspective really intrigued me. It seemed like a theme that would speak to a lot of situations.

"Une collection d’essais qui déconstruit les arguments des pessimistes et des fatalistes qui pensent que l’oppression est indestructible "
posted by amtho at 3:28 AM on February 7, 2016

Ying Chen

Didier LeClair

Nelly Arcan(Only one book is not translated)

Angele Bassole-Ouedraogo
posted by saucysault at 5:22 AM on February 7, 2016

A friend of mine often sends me reviews of interesting-sounding books from the website Jeune Afrique. I haven't had time to track any of them down yet but that might be somewhere to look for something that suits your taste.
posted by bibliotropic at 9:04 AM on February 7, 2016

Best answer: Moussa Ould Ebnou: Barzakh and L’amour impossible (Mauritanian sci-fi - really!)
Pierre Makombo Bamboté: Princesse Mandapu (Central African Republic)
Colette Samoya Kirura: La femme au regard triste (Burundi)
Axel Gauvin: Quartier Trois-Lettres (Réunion)
Kossi Efoui: La fabrique de cérémonies (Togo)
Nimrod Bena Djangrang: Les jambes d’Alice (Chad)
Abdourahman Waberi: Balbala (Djibouti)

I have read them all and enjoyed them all.
posted by TheRaven at 12:14 PM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Fatou Diome: La préférence Nationale (a collection of short stories)
posted by motdiem2 at 3:03 AM on February 8, 2016

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