• Welcome to the website of the French Institute of South Africa!

  • Bienvenue sur le site de l'Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud !

Open Book literary festival in Cape Town to host a special edition of "Étonnants Voyageurs"

In the framework of the France - South-Africa seasons 2012&2013, a special program of the French literary festival "Étonnants Voyageurs" (Amazing Travellers) will take place at the Open Book festival in Cape Town on the 22d and 23d of September. Dedicated to the concept of "world literature", "Étonnants Voyageurs" was created to promote a new form of travel writing, and to offer a forum to travelling writers who seek to reflect on the societies they visit. The "Étonnants Voyageurs" and "Open Book" festivals share many characteristics. Not just book fairs, both festivals seek to promote encounters between authors and the public, featuring inter alia round table talks and special events for young readers.

A source of renewal and inspiration

The festival “Etonnants Voyageurs” was founded in the early nineties in France to express the need for an engaged literature to “speak of the world”. At the time of its founding, it came into stark contrast with the literary ideas that were then fashionable in France, described by “Etonnants Voyageurs” founder and director Michel le Bris as “a so-called avant garde formalist conception of literature, mostly contented to contemplate its own navel”. The festival aimed instead to promote a literature that revealed the unknown part of an ever-changing world, calling it “world literature”. In this perspective, the publication of the 2008 “manifesto for world literature” in the French newspaper Le Monde was a milestone. Signed by 44 authors, including Nobel Prize winner JMG Le Clezio and other foremost French speaking authors, the “manifesto” called for the return of the world in literature, blowing a new wind into French letters.

Fostering a new generation of writers

Since then, the festival has become the biggest literary event in France. It now seeks to use the influence it gained to pass on the cause of “world literature” to young writers from all over the world. In this perspective, “Étonnants Voyageurs" was key in fostering the coming of age of a new generation of African writers and the development of a different perspective on the French-speaking world. Contributing to the discovery of innumerable writers, the festival is proud to be a laboratory in which ideas and methods to depict and tell the emerging world are build and discussed.

A massive presence in Cape Town

At the Open Book, "Étonnants Voyageurs" will introduce a dozen French writers to South African authors and to book lovers, with the hope to share the wealth of Francophone literature with participating South Africans – find the full schedule here. Underneath is a glimpse of the exciting encounters that await you at the festival (22 – 23 September):

Jacques de Loustal, a French comic artist and illustrator. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers including the New Yorker. Self-confessed traveller, he has published several travel diaries as well as comics.

Edgar Morin is a philosopher and sociologist whose published work has spanned over 5 decades – much of that work has yet to be translated into English. In 1960, together with French sociologist Georges Friedmann and Roland Barthes, he created a centre for the study of mass communication, which eventually became the Edgar Morin Centre of the EHESS, Paris. He is the founder of the APC (Association pour la pensée complexe – Association for Complex Thought).

Anne Nivat is an award-winning free lance war reporter and author. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune among others. The focus of much of her writing has been Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michel Le Bris: director and founder of the festival “Étonnants Voyageurs”, he is also an acclaimed novelist, finalist of the 2008 Goncourt Prize, and philosopher. He specialises in the work of Robert Louis Stevenson and has an ongoing passion for travel writing.

Yanick Lahens: was born in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince and received her higher education in Paris studying Literature at the Sorbonne. In 1998 she led the “Route de l’esclavage” project which, through scientific and artistic activities, dealt with the local legacies of slavery. As a founding member of the Haitian Writers Union, which organises readings in schools throughout the country, Lahens champions the struggle to combat illiteracy.

Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, an award winning French author, is known for his magical realist style. He has published a large number of novels and short stories. “A Life on Paper” (2010) is a collection of short stories written over a 30-year period, translated into English by Edward Gauvin.

Atiq Rahimi, currently based in Paris, is originally from Kabul (Afghanistan). He is an author and film maker who has made several documentaries on his birth country and is a past winner of the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize. “Earth and Ashes”, his first novel, is also his first film in fiction.

Natacha Appanah is a Mauritian author of Indian origin. She grew up in Mauritius and is currently based in France. “The Last Brother” won the Prix de la FNAC (2007) and the Prix des Lecteurs de L’Express (2008).

Veronique Tadjo: currently based in Johannesburg where she heads up the French Department at Wits, Tadjo has lived almost everywhere from the USA to Nigeria to England. Author of several novels and collections of poetry, Tadjo has also illustrated the children’s books she has written.

Serge Bramly is a French language writer and essayist and frequently collaborates on artistic and photographic projects with Bettina Rheims. His works include “Leonardo: The Artist and the Man”  and “Le Premier Principe” for which he won the Prix Interallié.

Nédim Gürsel is an award-winning Turkish and French author who was in 2009 acquitted of charges against him of insulting Islam with the publication of “The Daughters of Allah”. The links between France and Turkey, East and West and Islam and Secularism are explored in his work. He teaches contemporary Turkish Literature at the Sorbonne.

Hadrien Diez


Books - Events & News

  • 2021-Dibuka-close-june-banner

    Dibuka Library is closed until further notice

    Due to the current situation, and the Level 4 Covid-19 restrictions, your favourite library in town will unfortunately be closed until further notice. Read more
  • 2020-SomebodyToldMel-FBevent
    Events and News

    Somebody Told Me - An Audio Theatre Experience

    Put on your headphones, sit back and make yourself comfortable! Are you ready? Come and follow the adventure of 5 travellers embarking on a dreamy, fun and quirky journey aboard a hot-air balloon.Somebody Told Me was born out of an international collaboration between five actors who have selected… Read more
  • 2020-dibuka-re-open3

    Dibuka is reopening, by appointment only!

    The Francophone multimedia library Dibuka is slowly reopening, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, by appointment only. And because we've missed you so much, we, at the French Institute and the Alliance Française of Johannesburg, have prepared some surprise bags for you! SURPRISE BAGS AT DIBUKA WHAT ? We… Read more

I'm a writer of the world

Patrick Chamoiseau with Nadine Gordimer during the French Season in South Africa

See video