Interview with Anne Trager of Le French Book
I came across a company called Le French Book on the Internet a while back and was really interested in the concept – taking French language books and translating them into English.
I contacted Anne Trager, the founder of the company, to find out more. Anne is an American who has lived in France for 26 years – firstly in Paris and for the last four years near Toulouse. She has spent most of her working life in publishing and the translation business. She is eminently qualified to know a good book when she sees it, to translate that book from French to English… and then to market it to a wider audience.
Anne told me that she grew up between Ohio and the south west of the US and for as long as she could remember she had dreamed about travelling overseas. “Maybe it’s because my parents were linguists, or maybe it’s because they spelled my first names à la française: Anne, with an e, and Valerie, with ie.”
Anne is phenomenally busy right now juggling a promotion of three authors signed to Le French Book, dealing with best-selling French authors, translating and marketing. But I managed to persuade her to answer a few questions.
Why did you come to France?
I was really into good food when I was a teenager and was reading Gourmet Magazine religiously and experimenting with ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ (by Julia Child). At the time, the best place to learn to make really good food was Paris. So – I studied French and went to Paris as soon as I could. I trained in Paris as a chef before starting my translation and editorial career there.
Favourite Book shop?
My two favorites in Paris: Tea and Tattered Pages and The Village Voice, closed in 2012. There is a fabulous bookstore in Toulouse called Ombres Blanches.
What made you decide to set up Le French Book?
There I was living in France, reading great French crime fiction, hanging out with French authors and publishers, but only seeing a tiny portion of those books I was loving ever make it into English. At the same time, I discovered eBooks, and it dawned on me that the time was now, in publishing, to bring these authors over, that the rise in the number of people reading eBooks provided an opportunity to showcase these authors. This is my way of sharing the love I have for good books and for France.
Have you ever thought about writing a book yourself?
Well, let the truth be told. One morning I woke up at 5 am to catch a flight from Toulouse to Paris for a meeting I didn’t want to go to about a project I wasn’t interested in. On the flight I decided things had to change. The original idea, which came to me on the flight home that evening, was to take a sabbatical and write my own novel. However, by the next morning, I realized that I had something much more important to do, and that is Le French Book.
Do you think there is a difference in the literature of French language and English language (US) books?
I think that every author has a unique style no matter where they come from. I also believe that translation is about recreating an experience you have reading, which necessarily means some kind of adaptation to get the reading pleasure across. That said there are necessarily cultural differences. You know that in France you can sit down for a three-hour meal and still be talking about food and your next meal at the end. This very deep appreciation of food and wine comes across, for example, in ‘Treachery in Bordeaux’, which is a classic whodunit set in French wine country. I was frustrated in the translation because in English there are not nearly as many common words for wine barrel as there are in French.
How many books have you translated to be promoted through Le French Book?
Currently, we have released two titles – ‘The Paris Lawyer’ by Sylvie Granotier, ‘Treachery in Bordeaux’ by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen. The third, ‘The 7th Woman’ by Frédérique Molay, will be released shortly. We have five other books in the pipeline right now.
What does the future hold for Le French Book?
We want to keep publishing entertaining books, serving as a bridge between creative contemporary France and the English-speaking world. We also want Le French Book to become the synonym for great books in the mind of readers; no matter which book you choose among the ones we publish you’re sure to have a good time reading it!
Do you think it’s possible that one of your translated books will hit the best seller lists in the US?
Oh yes! Our books are all hugely successful in France, and they are great reads. ‘Treachery in Bordeaux’ is the first of the 20-book Winemaker Detective series, which was adapted for television in France and attracts over four million people at each airing. ‘The 7th Woman’ had already sold over 150,000 copies and is available in seven languages. We choose them because we love them, and because we think a lot of other people will love them too.
What’s happening right now at Le French Book?
We have a big promotional event coming up! We are really excited about bringing some of our French books into English. For the first of the book launches we are planning a big celebration that will include giving away thousands of dollars of prizes and gifts, including a trip to France. We have a lot of bestselling authors and other partners on board who are offering a cool list of free gifts and contests too. We want our readers to discover these books and celebrate with us.
1. Le French book
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3. Le French book
4. Le French book