French language in 2019

French literature and philosophy has a special status, reflected in the 15 Nobel Prizes for Literature that have been awarded to France over the years. This year the Norwegian Festival of Literature moves from a geographic focus to a language focus, and it is the French language that we will be focused on, with a programme that will include French-language authors from all over the world.

The French-language authors that will visit Lillehammer in the spring will come from France, Algeria, Morocco and Cameroon.

Leila Slimani

Leila Slimani won the Goncourt Prize in 2016 – one of only nine women in the last hundred years to do so. Perhaps this says something about the prize, but it should take nothing away from the fact that the Moroccan-French author is a very central figure in French literature. Not only has she established herself as a novelist, but also as a journalist, essayist and adviser to the incumbent president. Slimani’s writing is in the postcolonial tradition and she has contributed work that has revitalised this field in a way very much her own. Her award-winning novel, Chanson Douce, was published in English in 2018, as Lullaby.

Maylis de Kerangal

They are tired but happy, the three surfing companions who have hunted for the perfect wave from the early hours of the morning and are now heading home to Le Havre. When the van they are in careers off the road and hits a post, twenty-year-old Simon Limbres, sitting up front without a safety belt, is severely injured and falls into a coma. Simon can not be saved, but perhaps his internal organs can save other patients? Thus opens the beautiful and painful novel Mend the Living (2013) by Maylis de Kerangals.

Mend the Living is one of the most gripping and elegant books the festival administration has read in a very long time. It is not without reason that the book has won several awards and has been adapted for stage and screen in France. We are looking forward to welcoming Maylis de Kerangal to Lillehammer in May!

Boualem Sansal

Boualem Sansal is one of Algeria’s most acclaimed contemporary authors. He did not start writing books until he turned 50 and quit his Government job, and he has never looked back, something his output since 1999 clearly demonstrates. In Norway, we know him best as the author of the dystopian novel 2084: The End of the World, describing a post-apocalyptic Arab community, where nobody remembers the past and the prophet rules without competition. For those who have read George Orwell’s 1984 this will be familiar territory, but the two novels cannot be compared. Boualem Sansal’s authorship is inextricably linked to North Africa, and manages to blend political criticism with gallows humour and overwhelming imagination. 2084 created a major debate when it was published in France in 2015 and was awarded the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie française and was nominated for the prestigious Goncourt Prize.

Sansal is particularly famous for his sharp criticism of the situation in Algeria and his analysis of the problems facing the Arab world. After the release of the controversial essay collection Poste Restante: Alger (2006) his books were banned in his home country. Sansal still lives in Algeria with his wife and two daughters.

Werewere-Liking Gnepo

In theory, we can agree that cultural work is political work, and that the fastest way to reach human minds and hearts is through art. The Cameroon writer, theater organizer, singer and village founder, Werewere-Linking Gnepo, is a shining example of how a life can also be a work of art, and that simply through living, you can accomplish many things. She is today known as one of the most important postcolonial artists in Africa, and a pioneer in avant-garde literature, theater and music. We are looking forward to welcoming her from so far away!

Alice Zeniter
Alice Zeniter made her debut at the age of sixteen with the novel Deux Moins Un Egal Zéro (Two minus one equals zero). Since that time, she has written a play and three novels, all of which have won awards. Her background with an Algerian father and French mother often acts as a backdrop to her writing, as in her second novel Take this Man (Jusque Dans nos Bras) (2012) , where she tells the story of a marriage of convenience between two childhood friends to prevent one of them being deported. Her latest release L’Art de Perdre (The art of losing) is a multi-generation novel that follows Algeria’s colonial past and its effect on our contemporary era. We are talking about a master work that seeks to explain international politics through individual destinies. Based on the reception the book has received at home and abroad, we really have something to enjoy!

Jacques Roubaud
Few poets are as legendary and influential as math professor Jacques Roubaud. It is impressive to say that he is name-dropped in Roberto Bolaños’ The Savage Detectives. In Norway, we have been fortunate enough to have access to his texts through the reports made by some of the country’s foremost reporters. For 60 years he has been one of the most important authors in France, among others as a member of the groundbreaking group Oulipo. It is time for a meeting with a living legend!

ps. The main program for the Litterature festival 2019 will be released 2. april 2019.