Alan Riding in the International Herald Tribune.PARIS: With French long engaged in a losing battle against English around the world, a new way of fighting back has been proposed by a multinational group of authors who write in French: Uncouple the language from France and turn French literature into "world literature" written in French...
They argue that it is time for the French to stop looking down on francophone authors, as foreigners writing in French are known, because these very novelists - many, but not all, from former French colonies - hold the key to energizing French literature.
For this, they say, French must be freed from "its exclusive pact" with France. And, as an example worth following, they point to how literature in English has been enriched by Commonwealth and other foreign writers, among them V. S. Naipaul, Nadine Gordimer, Salman Rushdie, J. M. Coetzee, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ben Okri, Arundhati Roy, Peter Carey and Kiran Desai.
Still, the timing of this new campaign is not accidental.
Last autumn, to the astonishment of France's literary establishment, foreign-born writers won five of the country's seven major book awards, with the coveted Goncourt going to "Les Bienveillantes," or "The Kindly Ones," by the New York-born novelist Jonathan Littell, who also won the Académie Française's prize. Other winners were Alain Mabanckou from Congo, Nancy Huston from Canada and Léonora Miano from Cameroon.
Pour une "littérature-monde" en français
Liste des signataires : Muriel Barbery, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Alain Borer, Roland Brival, Maryse Condé, Didier Daeninckx, Ananda Devi, Alain Dugrand, Edouard Glissant, Jacques Godbout, Nancy Huston, Koffi Kwahulé, Dany Laferrière, Gilles Lapouge, Jean-Marie Laclavetine, Michel Layaz, Michel Le Bris, JMG Le Clézio, Yvon Le Men, Amin Maalouf, Alain Mabanckou, Anna Moï, Wajdi Mouawad, Nimrod, Wilfried N'Sondé, Esther Orner, Erik Orsenna, Benoît Peeters, Patrick Rambaud, Gisèle Pineau, Jean-Claude Pirotte, Grégoire Polet, Patrick Raynal, Jean-Luc V. Raharimanana, Jean Rouaud, Boualem Sansal, Dai Sitje, Brina Svit, Lyonel Trouillot, Anne Vallaeys, Jean Vautrin, André Velter, Gary Victor, Abdourahman A. Waberi.