Les Fugitives

An introduction

Francosphères (2020), 9, (2), 213–214.


Les Fugitives

An introduction

Identity is, to me, an exploration of all the possibilities of being. It is the opposite of monolithic […] as people tend to entrench themselves behind the barriers of a fixed, immutable identity, I believe our chance of survival is in the exact opposite: in embracing our hybridity, in accepting that identities are soluble in one another, in recognising that the other is ourselves.1

- Ananda Devi

Les Fugitives was born with the publication of Nathalie Léger’s Suite for Barbara Loden, which was translated by Natasha Lehrer and the press’s founder and director Cécile Menon, and published in March 2015. Over the next few years, the press grew gradually and organically, with a sharp increase in the number of new titles in 2018 and 2019. While the Les Fugitives list is not ruled by rigid criteria, we consciously prioritize the voices of francophone women. The feminist line that has emerged has done so as the distinct voices of our ten authors can be said to come into conversation, and as one book becomes a catalyst for another.

Travelling, wandering, deserting, running away… Les Fugitives are about stories of people who don’t fit in; stories raising old and new questions about gender and identity; stories about strangers, about almost-love, and about solidarity: from the late nineteenth century, ‘the divine countess’ of Castiglione, to Barbara Loden’s Wanda, to the women of today. And, no doubt about women as artists and creators, as witnesses and investigators.

Ananda Devi’s Eve out of Her Ruins was the second book published by Les Fugitives in 2015, in co-edition with CBeditions, pitched by translator Jeffrey Zuckerman, who had come into contact with the press when he published a review of Suite for Barbara Loden in Music & Literature magazine. After reading much of Ananda Devi’s further work, The Living Days was chosen as the second of her novels to be published in the UK. While Eve out of Her Ruins is set in a suburb in Mauritius, in The Living Days (January 2020) Devi turned her lens onto the streets of London, where she studied at SOAS in the seventies. Originally published as Les jours vivants in 2013, the novel’s dissection of race and class conflict has only become more timely. At once realist and fantastical, the novel’s eerie prescience seemed to play out even in its journey to publication, as the planned release date collided again and again with the proposed Brexit dates, jeopardizing media attention for the book.

This Tilting World is the first of Colette Fellous’s books to be translated into English and was published in the UK and the US in September 2019. The work of Fellous takes up dialogue with Mireille Gansel’s poetic memoir and essay Translation as Transhumance, which we published in 2017. Growing up in in the traumatic aftermath of her family losing everything - including their native languages - to Nazi Germany, Gansel muses on how translation becomes an exercise of empathy between those in exile. Both the work of Gansel and Fellous re-composes a life in rupture with its origins, by exploring language, identity, and a place to call home. Both prioritize the voices of individual experience over theorizing. Both offer compassionate counterparts to narratives of violence by listening, and giving voice to loved ones silenced in death and to those often unheard in life.

Before we were contacted about the Translating Across Worlds event in January, we had not consciously paired the concerns of Ananda Devi and Colette Fellous. Doing so offers a powerful new angle on both texts. Bringing together these award-winning francophone authors of multiple cultural heritages and their translators in conversation creates a powerful sense of kinship. We are grateful to Rebekah Vince and Amaleena Damlé for organizing this wonderful event and hope that it will pave the way for more of its kind.

Cultural Services French Embassy in the United States, ‘Ananda Devi’, Authors on Tour >> [accessed 3 December 2020].