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2022 | Best Fiction

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

From Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam's genre defying queer coming of age novel, to Éric Vuillard's historical novel set during the Indochina war, the best fiction of 2022 challenges as much as it excites the reader.

Book cover: La Treizième Heure by Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam

La Treizième Heure, Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam | POL

Emmanuelle Bayamack-Tam’s La Treizième Heure is a love story and quest for identity, set at the heart of a queer religious sect that centres its worship around the words of poetic greats such as Dickinson, Mallarmé and Nerval. Farah has grown up at the heart of the cult, her father Lenny being the head guru, yet her mother Hind remains an absent and evasive figure. Farah’s search for understanding comes to a head with the discovery that she is intersex, and the web of lies by omission Lenny has woven regarding her family dynamics begin to unravel, particularly when Hind returns to the heart of the sect. Filled with love and tolerance, gender fluidity and radical politics, as well as its fair share of literary and pop references, you won’t want to put this book down- personally, we were sad to see it end!

Book cover: Une sortie honorable by Éric Vuillard

Une sortie honorable, Éric Vuillard | Actes sud

19 October 1950. In Paris, politicians gather to discuss what to do about Indochina. The conflict is unpopular back home in France: too expensive, and too far away for the public to care. A solution needs to be found. Through a series of key moments, Éric Vuillard retraces almost thirty years of a bloody war that killed four million people, three quarters of them on the Vietnamese side. Juxtaposing the violence of the battlefields with the comfortable atmosphere of places of power, the author dissects with sharp acuity the mechanisms of power, the relations of domination and the violence of language. From behind the scenes, Éric Vuillard continues his fascinating exploration of History and ferociously describes a conflict that dealt a fatal blow to French colonialism.

Book cover: Le mage du Kremlin by Giulliano da Empoli

Le Mage du Kremlin, Giuliano da Empoli | Gallimard

In Russia, the enigmatic Vadim Baranov is considered as Putin's eminence grise. After his resignation from his position as political adviser, legends and rumours about him abounded. The man nicknamed ‘The Wizard of the Kremlin’ chooses to tell his story to the narrator. From the war in Chechnya to the Ukrainian crisis, this novel is an essential testimony to understand contemporary Russia. Revealing the political machinations of the Putin regime, it offers a masterful meditation on power. The author, Giuliano da Empoli, who is also essayist and chairman of the Volta think tank, uses his experience as a political adviser and his extraordinary narrative talent to shape a contemporary story like no other, a real page-turner, without compromising on style. A fascinating novel that is intellectual without being intellectualizing and that proves that "intelligence does not protect from anything, not event from stupidity".

Book cover: Quand tu écouteras cette chanson by Lola Lafon

Quand tu écouteras cette chanson, Lola Lafon | Stock

For her contribution to the “Ma nuit au musée” series, Lola Lafon chose to stay at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. On August 18, 2021, the writer settled into the Secret Annex, where Anne Frank hid with her family between 1942 and 1944, before they were arrested by the Nazis and deported to concentration camps. During these two years of living clandestinely, the young girl kept her famous diary, of which Lola Lafon asserts the full literary value. Over the course of ten hours, Lafon unravels the thread that led her to accept this experience. In the inhabited silence of the house, the voice of the teenager resonates with the ghosts of Lola Lafon’s own past. Little by little, under the memories of the disappeared, the tragic story of the oppressed takes shape. Combining individual and collective trajectories with her own obsessions, Lola Lafon delivers her most moving, intimate and accomplished novel yet.

Book cover: Fantaisies guérillères by Guillaume Lebrun

Fantaisies guérillères, Guillaume Lebrun | C. Bourgois

Amidst war with England, France is divided into factions and on the brink of civil war. Everyone is waiting for a god granted chosen one to save them from this mess. Yolande of Aragon, or YO, is tired of waiting and decides to take things into her own hands. Finessing her way through the French court, she achieves independence from her husband and sets off to the wilderness with a group of soldiers, ready to train an army of girl warriors, one of whom will be fated to save France. All named Jehanne for convenience, YO will be shocked by the unlikely candidate for sainthood who will show herself to be the top choice. A lively reimagining (and queering) of Joan of Arc’s origin story, Fantaisies Guérillères is in parts laugh out loud funny in its mashup of medieval French and contemporary pop references (Saint Céline Dion anyone?); as well as expertly paying homage to sci-fi and fantasy traditions via YO and Jehane’s ecstatic visions.

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