Text by Alexis Pernsteiner.
In the world of French publishing, it seemed for a time that books only came in tasteful shades of beige and white. Back in those days, my library could be described as a pale, uniform landscape, a white-sand desert. But young, up and coming, upstart publishers have upset the balance, painting their book spines in Technicolor, covering their jackets in florid designs, spattering them with contemporary art. It has taken my library some time to adjust, but as in any desert, a flower and a pop of color are always more than welcome additions. Here are three independent French publishers to check out, for their stunning covers and talented writing by authors old and new.
Aux Forges de Vulcain (since 2010): Collect them all!
The literature collection at Aux Forges de Vulcain is to a reader what baseball cards are to an American sports fan. Each of the eighteen books (and counting) is stamped with a number and coated in its own distinctive color. Together they form a rainbow, featuring authors from France, the United States, England, and India.
As its name suggests, Aux Forges de Vulcain, draws inspiration from the mythological figure of the Vulcan, god of fire and master blacksmith. The house editors believe in well-crafted – or forged – stories and seek to foster a diverse community of readers and writers. Adhering to Aristotle’s dictum, they think that books should be both pleasing and instructive. With such imaginative and ludic titles as Les femmes n’aiment pas les hommes qui boivent (Women Don’t Like Men Who Drink, François Szabowski) and Et je me suis caché (And I Hid, Geoffrey Lachassagne), they surely achieve both.
In addition to their literature collection, Aux Forges de Vulcain publishes essays, art books, and ebooks.
You can find them on the Web at: www.auxforgesdevulcain.fr
Les Éditions du Sonneur (since 2005): Good enough to eat…
The books in La Petite Collection of the Éditions du Sonneur are bite-size confections worthy of the finest Parisian pâtisserie. These shorts texts – all less than a hundred pages – are glazed in purples, pinks, neon greens, Easter egg blues… While many of the authors featured in this collection are more than famous, the texts themselves have never before been published. The result is a beautiful array of works, from George Sand on human exhibits in Paris, to Émile Zola on death, to Willa Cather on Flaubert’s niece.
Les Éditions du Sonneur works with previously unpublished titles, many of which have been overlooked or forgotten, that deserve to be (re)discovered by the literary community. They value quality over quantity, only developing a few titles a year, and taking care to produce exquisite texts.
The house also publishes full-length novels by contemporary and past authors alike, either foreign (in translation) or French.
You can find them on the Web at: www.editionsdusonneur.com
Les Éditions du Chemin de Fer (since 2005): To hang on your wall.
Les Éditions du Chemin de Fer publishes short texts with illustrations by contemporary artists. Each book cover features a unique work of art – a colorful human form by Frédérique Loutz, a drawing of a gun aspirating an eyeball by Benjamin Monti – at once so daring and appealing you’ll want to have it framed.
The house works with texts by both known and unknown authors, and produces books that have gone out of print as well as brand new works. Recent titles include Le jeune homme qu’on surnommait Bengali (The Young Man We Called Bengali, Louis-René des Forêts) and Vies d’un immortel (Lives of an Immortal Man, Bernard Noël).
You can find them on the Web at: www.chemindefer.org
About the author:
Alexis Pernsteiner is an American writer and translator living in France. Her work has appeared in Words without Borders, Asymptote Journal, and will be published in a forthcoming issue of Zymbol Magazine.
Find her on the Web at: www.pernsteinertranslations.com