Prix Goncourt-winning debut novel is now translated into English for the first time.
Alexis Jenni is a biology teacher in Lyon, France. He refers to himself as a ‘Sunday writer’ and loves blogging about his life in Lyon in his blog Voyages pas très loin. His debut novel, The French Art of War, was awarded the 2011 Prix Goncourt, but Jenni has confirmed he will not quit his job as a biology teacher.
Defeated, unambitious and with his life in ruins, a young man moves back to Lyon, his home town, on the brink of the Gulf War. There he meets Victorien Salagnon, a skilful artist and veteran of the great colonial wars of Indochina, Vietnam and Algeria. The young man agrees to write Salagnon’s life story in exchange for painting lessons, and so The French Art of War is a first-hand account of the French twenty-year war as told by those who witnessed the senseless horrors and rivers of blood shed throughout history.
The English translator Frank Wynne was born in Ireland, but has lived extended periods of time in France and South America. He has translated both French and Hispanic literature and his translation work has been awarded the Scott Moncrieff Prize and the Valle Inclán Prize. Authors he has translated include Claude Lanzmann, Tómas Eloy Martínez and Almudena Grandes.
Jenni’s debut novel is both disturbing and humane, and reflects on how France, and the modern world, have been shaped by war and colonialism. A multi-layered, accurate and thought-provoking read.