The British may publish twice as many books as their French counterparts, but the output is very different. The shop window of Dillons, on Oxford Street, is eloquent in this respect: for every Cormac McCarthy novel and collection of Gore Vidal essays, how many crime stories and thrillers (Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer, Dick Francis) are there? How many sentimental bestsellers (Catherine Cookson or Barbara Taylor-Bradford)? And how many "how to" books?
There are few essays or documentary works: the press feeds the ideas debate. There is even less foreign literature: a book from India or Kenya quenches thirst for exoticism, without translation. Cultural habits play a role: "Reading is considered mainly as a diversion," explains Kukla MacLehose, a literary scout. "And it is looked down on for an author to show off his learning."
Le Monde, French dailyReuse content