Here at the American Library, we’re struck by how many books are being published about France every day and by how many of their authors would like a chance to speak here. Judging from the international success of some of these books, you don’t have to be an expatriate or a Francophile to share this particular appetite. Just as tourists do, more armchair travelers choose France than any other country.
So it seems altogether natural that the American Library in Paris has decided to honor the best such book of the year, every year, with a new literary prize of $5,000. The Florence Gould Foundation, which has done much over the years to strengthen ties and understanding between France and the United States, shared our enthusiasm for the idea and has made the award possible with a generous grant.
Most book prizes recognize either fiction or nonfiction, but ours will recognize either. We’re expecting to receive submissions of novels, of history, of memoir, of biography, of political science and economics, of journalism or humor or travel or cooking. We hope our judges will find this a rich mix from which to select, as the rubric of the prize has it, “the best book of the year about France and the French-American encounter.”
The last phrase is meant to be elastic. One way to think about it is to name specific books which, had they been published when the American Library in Paris Book Award existed, would have been contenders for sure.
Books written in recent years by members of the Writers Council itself — who as the judges of the Book Award are not eligible for it – are excellent illustrations: Adam Gopnik’s “Paris to the Moon,” among other subsequent books with French themes; Diane Johnson’s Le Divorce and its Paris sequels, or her book-length essay on Saint-Germain-des-Prés; Sebastian Faulks’s French trilogy; any history, biography, or memoir by Alice Kaplan; many of Julian Barnes’s novels and essay collections; Mavis Gallant’s Paris-based short stories; and, had it first been published in English, Philippe Labro’s L’Etudiant Etranger and its sequel.
It’s worth mentioning that the Florence Gould Foundation already supports an annual translation prize (French to English) through the French-American Foundation in New York. Works submitted for the Library Book Award must have been written in English and, for the first year’s prize, must have been published between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.
Probably the most knowledgeable recommenders for this award are our members, who are avid readers and experts on the subject. A Library screening committee will be reading submissions beginning in January, and we’d like to hear your suggestions. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In late January, we’ll be announcing the judges for the 2013 American Library in Paris Book Award. Stay tuned.