Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Didier Daeninckx Day at Detectives Beyond Borders

Didier Daeninckx may have the only last name in crime fiction harder to spell than Duane Swierczynski's. I'd long wanted to read him, but little, if any of his cutting, politically charged crime writing was available in English, and I was not confident enough to try reading a novel in French.

This week, in the space of two days, I found his story "Les Négatifs de la Canebière," which I'm reading with the help of a dictionary, and the good folks at Melville House sent along Murder in Memoriam, a translation of Daeninckx's 1984 novel Meurtres pour memoire.

The book is a fictionalized examination of the Paris massacre of Oct. 17, 1961 that takes in the history of Drancy, the French town from where Jews were transported to Auschwitz. According to a publisher's blurb,  the novel "confronts two of the darkest chapters in French history — its(sic) colonial racism and its complicity in genocide."

And that, in turn, leads me to suspect affinities with the work of Dominque Manotti, Jean-Patrick Manchette. and perhaps Leonardo Sciascia as well.
***
"Les Négatifs de la Canebière" is available as part of a series called Les petits polars du Monde ("Little crime stories of the world"). Among the titles in the series is one by Sylvie Granotier, one of whose novels is now available in English as The Paris Lawyer from Le French Book, a new English-language imprint dedicated to making French writing available in English.

I wish they'd chosen a different name for their imprint, but it's hell of an idea. Like Hersilia Press, the imprint is a welcome source for English-language readers. Godspeed to these two exciting publishing ventures.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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11 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

I kind of like Le French Book, actually. Sounds like French pop.

September 25, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, yes. This book is the first for the imprint, and I don't know what kind of a list it plans to bring out. But "Le French Book" could create an impression that its titles will be light and frothy -- fine if that turns out to be accurate, not so fine, perhaps, if it doesn't.

September 25, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

True. Maybe they should start off light and frothy and lure people unwittingly into noir.8 artiler

September 25, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The book does not sound especially frothy from its description on the publisher's Web site. Maybe this an intellectual game on the publisher's part, a deliberate bid to upset expectations -- though I suspect this is not the case.

September 25, 2012  
Anonymous Anne - Le French Book said...

I'm not exactly sure I know what you mean by frothy. Here at Le French Book we certainly don't have any intention of playing intellectual games with readers. We are currently focusing on commercial crime fiction and thrillers and are trying to be very clear about that. We're interested in publishing entertaining reads. There is a lot to choose from in France, not all of it dark noir, if you will. We now have three titles out, each very different. Sylvie Granotier's "The Paris Lawyer" is a psychological thriller/legal procedural. It is perhaps the most literary of the three. "Treachery in Bordeaux" by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen is a classic whodunit set in French wine country. It's definitely lighter, and you learn a lot about winemaking. Frédérique Molay's The 7th Woman is an edge-of-your-seat police procedural, with an alpha-male cop, a scary serial killer and CSI-like details all set in Paris. We're trying to get a variety for readers to choose from. If any of you know some French titles/authors you'd like to see translated, let us know. We are open to ideas.

September 26, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note; I knew about only the Granotier title.

I don't think we have any fundamental disagreement about the nature of the imprint. My precise point was that The Paris Lawyer does not seem like an especially light book, whereas the imprint's name might mislead readers into thinking that all the books are on the lighter side. Words carry associations, whether we like it or not, and I would not expect to find writers in the tradition of, say, Manchette or Manotti in an imprint called Le French Book. Maybe I'm overanalyzing, but it would be a shame if any imprint's name created a misleading set of assumptions about its contents.

In any case, here are the links to Treachery in Bordeaux, The 7th Woman, and The Paris Lawyer.

September 26, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

I can't help wondering what the killing of Jews in Drancy has to do with the killing of Algerians in Paris.

Have you ever seen the 1974 movie Le Trio Infernal, based on a novel by Solange Fasquelle, itself based on real events from the 30s? The movie stars Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider and has an infamous corpse disposal scene. Some of it's on YouTube but I won't link to it. Only butchers could really love it. Despite considerable success on the mainland, I don't believe the novel has ever been translated into English.

The villian of the piece was guillotined in 1934. Time magazine in it's inimitable style covered the execution.


September 26, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, historically the link is Maurice Papon, who, as a civic official and collaborator with the Nazis, took part in deporting 1,500 Jews and who, in a career progression, became a police chief who tortured prisoners during the Algerian War and ordered police to open fire on FLN demonstrators in the Paris massacre. He was convicted in 1998 of crimes against humanity.

How Daeninckx links the two eras narratively, I don't know, but the novel does include a charater based on Papon. It also has a fictional character killed during the massacre whose son, years later, will link the events in ways I have not yet come to in my reading.

I don't know that movie or the novel on which it was based.

September 26, 2012  
Blogger seana graham said...

Anne at Le French Book, although we jest a bit here, I really think your publishing venture is a great idea. I work at a bookstore and handle the mystery section so I'd love to know more about how you distribute your titles.

September 26, 2012  
Blogger C.B. James said...

It's very difficult to find books like this one where I live. I can always find them on-line, but only if I know to look for them in the first place.

That's one reason why I follow your blog. It alerts me to books like this one, so I'll know to look for them in the first place.

September 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. The Daeninckx was a nice surprise, too. I'd known it was one of his other books was going to be pubished in English translation but not this one, and then, boom! Didier Deaninckx out the wazoo.

As for Le French Book, this is a fine idea. I have not yet read of any of their first three authors, so I have some post-Bouchercon reading to look forward to.

September 30, 2012  

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