“Literature cannot be reduced to boxes”

I came out of the first confinement with the idea of ​​proposing a project that would make sense to me, and I am literally passionate about this literature. The literature in question is all about the fabulous, and this project is the new collection Le Rayon Imaginaire, which expands the stop in 64, Le Rayonfantastique. The publishing house, which has long specialized in children’s literature, is changing its age group, with no ambition: to dig up nuggets and pass them on to the widest possible audience. Brigitte Leblanc’s communicative enthusiasm reveals the titles of the collection already published, those to come, and the philosophy underlying the editorial line.

If the publishing house of the imagination, Bragelonne, was recently acquired by Hachette, there was no imaginary collection, turned decidedly towards the adult goal, in the parent company. The collection is organized by Hachette Heroes, Hachette’s pop culture branch. But Brigitte Leblanc is formal, Le Rayon Imaginaire differs from Hachette Heroes: ” We are in different departments. The model is different, for example. »

TO READ: ” What makes us human », Science fiction by Liu Cixin

An innervated white roof with electric green vases, another with neon blue lines, or even old-fashioned doors, between sepia and gold … The refined models in this collection stand out: in Hachette Heroes, illustrated , we work with darker tones. “ With these white covers I want to convey the idea that everyone is directed and that we can read the imagination, even without having all the references. “, sums up.

The collection has been cultivating its identity in a universe already worked by houses specializing in the genre, and this for decades. “ Let the Imagination be loved by all who do not yet know that they can worship it is one of the main ambitions. Its editorial director does not intend to pretend to be an expert, but to play its unique role.

Unpublished by the author of Starship Troopers

Six novels begin the collection. That number is expected to increase to 10 next year, and the team behind the project is aiming for a cruising speed of 10 to 12 posts a year. “ I only post favorites. I’m not trying to fill the list at any cost “She is a reader of fantasy literature since she was a teenager. A reference collection introduced her to a past genre of niche literature for beginners to the general public, Le Rayon Fantastique.” With the name of this new collection, I wanted to take a look at this legendary collection. “Co-directed by Gallimard and Hachette at the time, it had remarkably introduced French readers to such figures as CS Lewis, AE van Vogt, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein.

But a title by the famous author ofIn a foreign land had visibly escaped, between 1951 and 1964. In fact, on April 6, the collection released an unpublished work by Robert Heinlein, Destination Outlands (Translated by Patrick Imbert). ” It is a small event for the world of science fiction “, Brigitte Leblanc rejoices, before adding:” A title that had never been translated into French before, while the work of Robert Heinlein is well known in France. »

In adapting the novel, Stars, watch out! (trans. Patrick Imbert), the filmmaker Paul Verhoeven had promoted his popularity among the general public. However, the author of SF has built a work that does not stop only at this success. First published in a collection for teenagers in 1955, this unpublished novel is proving to be anything but a work for children only, such as texts such as Alice in Wonderland On His Majesty the Flies.

These are texts that go beyond the field of so-called children’s literature, while perpetuating their mission to awaken literature. It is all the more legitimate to evoke William Golding’s masterpiece Destination Outlands it is a rereading. ” I wondered if there were any unpublished works by the greatest of SF “Brigitte Leblanc explains,” she continues.I ended up believing that there would be none, but by reading American blogs the figure of Robert Heinlein emerged, and the articles I read about him reminded me of the importance of this author as much as the fundamentally unique character. of his work. Like Paul Verhoeven, his film alter ego, Robert Heinlein remains a controversial author for some, accused of being militaristic, right-wing, sometimes even far-right.

Accusations set aside by the director of Rayon Imaginaire: ” Robert Heinlein was a very prolific writer. It offered many ways to look at the world. He wrote novels about free love, about relationships where sexuality is very unbridled. It cannot be reduced to one ideology or another. In this novel, the author of Revolt on the Moon (trans. Nadia Fischer) has also chosen humanism. Students who find themselves isolated in an unknown and savage universe, unlike Goulding’s novel where savagery takes this small society back to its primary instincts, choose to trust each other and form a long-term society. time limit. “ This novel speaks especially to us in today’s society. It really is a great novel. she argues.

When the latter discovered that this novel had not been published in French, she set about drawing the thread to find the French rights holders. This is an agency that is now closed, but which has owned for many decades the most beautiful catalog of science fiction and fantasy, the Lanclu agency. Rights that had been offered decades ago to French publishers, before being ruled out due to the lack of response from the actors of the time. ” For Heinlein, we have big ambitions. Hopefully it will interest SF fans but also the movie Starship Troopers . We have high hopes. It’s going well “, trusts who unearthed the science fiction nugget.

Alix Arrow, godmother of the collection

This unreleased is already the third publication in the collection, because Alix E. Arrow and his best seller The ten thousand doors of January (trans. Thibaud Eliroff) shot last October. “ She is the godmother of the collection. He came to France for the Imaginales in 2021 in Épinal, and this publication is already a success. 12,000 copies of this novel have already been sold, with two new engravings made. ” Four major publishers wanted it and I am very proud to publish it“, he trusts us again.

The novel looks more like a certain “magical realismthan in science fiction in the strict sense. When Hachette validated the project of the collection, Brigitte Leblanc wanted the novel to launch the collection, but she states loud and clear that it was not the project itself that motivated her to discover this author, nor the novel that prompted her to propose this collection. This text will be accompanied by another work by the American novelist, which will be released next October. This time, the work will focus on the figure of the witch, but reinvented …

The second title in the collection takes a view opposite to the first, as it is a 19th century classic, as famous as it is ultimately little known.Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. ” Interestingly, this classic written by a feminist ahead of its time has only been translated by a woman twice in 200 years. commented Brigitte Leblanc. That is why the lover of imaginary literature has decided to offer a new translation and a preface to Élisabeth Vonarburg’s great novel, ” great lady of sf francocanadenc.

I offered to translate it into a modernized language, free from all archaisms, while the novel is wild, alive. “Level of sales ambition”, he is necessarily more humble. There are others on the market. It is not at all the same potential. About 5,000 copies were printed. For the second Arrow, we will make a good draw after the success of the first. Then editing is choosing and sometimes making mistakes.»

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When we try to highlight a precise editorial framework, Brigitte stops us: “ In fact, I’m not a big fan of labels. This is also the heart of the collection. And who explains these white blankets.

They are usually black, illustrated for the literature of the imagination, which can represent a barrier. It happened to me a thousand times that I wanted to have a friend read a wonderful book, saying, “ It will bother you . ” He replies, ” Oh, it’s SF, I don’t read SF », Develops Brigitte Leblanc. ” We don’t care if it’s SF after all. In fact, what interests me is the Imaginary mask. »

She concludes: I’m not an expert, I’m just an avid reader. The only thing left is to transmit books that, I think, under the guise of the genre, can be played by anyone. The quality of the writer does not come from the genre in which he writes, but from his pen, his inventiveness, his soul as a writer. Nabokov, Borges, Dan Simmons are writers of the imagination. »

Supporting his point, he evokes the Anglo-Saxon approach to the issue of gender in the literature: I notice that in the Anglo-Saxon world the borders are much thinner. The wonderful, the imaginary, the fantastic are all part of the act of writing. For me, literature can’t be reduced to boxes.The explanation would come from the great elders of each country: if France has Racine and Molière, England has Shakespeare and his witches, or later, Peter Pan .

In addition, today the imagination is everywhere: in television series, in movies, in video games, in advertising, more and more in literature:The anomaly of Hervé Le Tellier, is SF. An interesting development when SF has long been targeting geeks locked in their rooms. It’s wrong, I’m a woman, not young, and I’ve loved Science Science since I was a teenager. »

The next ?

Brigitte Leblanc announces this: there will be more French authors in 2023, while the collection is gaining notoriety. ” I am looking for discoveries, new pens. And also some big names. Meanwhile, a dystopia written by a young Indian author, Lavanya Lakshminarayan,Analog / Virtual, will appear in the collection in June. The director met her through the Prix Locus 2021, when the author had reached the final. In October, surprise: the return of Fabrice Colin, who left the genre 10 years ago. “It will be saidGolden Age.An unclassifiable novel as he is able to do. A work that does not belong to any particular genre, which weaves several layers of imagination. It will be an event, again.»

And in August comes a 1929 title, signed by a Czech author celebrated in his country, Jan Weiss,The house of a thousand stories. Heir to Kafka and a contemporary of Zamiatine, the author was translated into French in the 1960s before disappearing. “I read it when I was a teenager, it’s the title that got me into the imagination. It is translated in about twenty countries around the world, but somewhat forgotten in France.The novel, visionary in more ways than one, deals with mind control, and will also benefit from a new translation, currently completed.

TO READ: “The small schizophrenic world of the imaginary

If Brigitte Leblanc has decided not to add anything to the 2023 program, which is still under construction, she promises. “titles that will go out of the ordinaryWith this promise oftexts that will be addressed to everyone, will participate in the revelation of the mysteries of man and things, or will apprehend the beauty of the relations between beings.“.

Photo credits © Le Rayon de Imaginaire / Hachette Livre

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