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A French Life: US expat sets up Le French Book company

Anne Trager is an American who has lived in France for many years. She has spent 25 years in the translation business and 15 years in publishing – these skills together with a love of literature have made her uniquely qualified to translate best selling French books for a wider audience of English language readers and market them through her new company: Le French Book.

 TGLF: Tell us a little bit about you and where you’re from…

AT: I grew up between the south western United States and Ohio, and from a really young age dreamed about going abroad. 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.

TGLF: Why did you come to France?

AT: 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 (Julia Child). At the time, the best place to learn to make really good food was Paris. So I studied French and, well, went to Paris as soon as I could, where I trained as a chef before starting my translation and editorial career there.

TGLF: What’s your favourite restaurant in Paris?

AT: I love the Café de Paris at the Opéra when I’m feeling flush, Le Père Fouettard for some Les Halles atmosphere, and well… any number of dinky Vietnamese places for boun cuon.

TGLF:  Do you remember the first book you read?

AT: Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Hams. My next lasting memory in books was Nancy Drew, followed by the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy Sayers and all of Ian Fleming.

AT: There are two: Michael Connelly and Lee Child.

TGLF: What made you decide to set up Le French Book?

AT: 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.

TGLF: Do you think there is a difference in the literature of French language and English language (US) books? We know, for instance that the French like to use a lot of words, they are very descriptive when they talk/debate – is this replicated in literature?

AT: 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.

TGLF: What are your aims and aspirations for Le French Book?

AT: 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!

TGLF: Can you envisage a time when one of your translated books will hit the best seller lists in the US?

AT: 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…

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