The New Yorker:
On a recent Monday night in the First Arrondissement of Paris, a crowd of cowboys, Native Americans, Uncle Sams, and federal agents packed the terrace of a restaurant. They drank Bloody Marys and draft beers. They ate popcorn and wore buckskin vests—this was a faintly ironic theme party, thrown by the editors of America, a new magazine that, since launching in the spring, has sold nearly a hundred thousand copies in France.
The magazine’s tagline is “America like you’ve never read it.” A trimonthly that will be published until the fall of 2020, America was conceived to help French readers make sense of its namesake in the age of Trump. The editorial mix comprises long interviews with American novelists (Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, James Ellroy); essays and excerpts in translation (Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “My President Was Black”); and original reported pieces by famous French writers set loose among the Republicans of the Rust Belt or the bears of Yellowstone Park (“Mon point de départ est Denver, dans le Colorado”). “We’re trying to say to French readers that America is a more complex country than we thought,” François Busnel, the editor-in-chief, said the other day. “There are fantastic parts, there are nightmares, but let’s try to understand.”
The magazine is a side project for Busnel, who is well known in France as the host of “La Grande Librairie,” a prime-time television program devoted to the celebration of literature. (Americans might need a special periodical to get their heads around that.) When Trump was elected, Busnel realized that many of the American writers of his acquaintance had foreseen what the political experts had missed. “Everybody was saying, ‘Hillary’s going to win,’ but when I read John Irving, Donald Ray Pollock, Russell Banks, Jim Harrison, they told me the opposite: of an America that’s a little disenchanted, a little forsaken; that, since September 11th, doesn’t know anymore where it lives.” The weirder and faker the news got, the more American literature seemed the most credible vector of truth. “We’re living in a profoundly novelistic era,” Busnel said. “America’s a country that was capable of electing George W. Bush two times in a row, and then electing two times in a row his exact opposite, Barack Obama. How can you explain that?”
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