French Readers Devour "50 Shades of Grey" Translation

50 Shades of Grey may have effortlessly taken the English-speaking world by storm, but what about the French? The answer may surprise you.

After all, in the country that gave us the Marquis de Sade, you’d expect readers to have more discriminating tastes when it comes to sadomasochism. French literary critics most certainly did. Here’s a sampling of the book’s critical reception, from the Daily Mail:

  • ‘It exposes the cultural gulf between the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy and the old authentic sado-masochism of the French.’ — Les Inrocks Magazine
  • ‘Some couples may say it has helped their sex lives by reading it, but it’s as close to literature as Whiskas cat food is to gastronomy.’ — L’Express

And one more from the Guardian:

  • “It’s 50 shades of boredom.” — Slate.fr

The critics in France must have been sorely disappointed by the reactions of their countrywomen, as according to the Daily Mail the translation has become “the fastest selling book in French history.”

Here’s how Isabelle Laffont, managing director of JC Lattès, the book’s French publisher, explained the book’s appeal to the Guardian:

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the way the book has been received. Everyone says it’s not literature, which is true, but we are promoting it as the story of love like you have never read before. For the first time this is a book that is erotic but also about love. Previous books have had the eroticism but have been rather brutal, but this is a love story. It’s a bit hot in places, but it’s not perverse and the heroine is not a victim.”

Other possible explanations:

  • Curiosity killed the cat. (If you’re curious and haven’t read it yet, this post from the Everywhereist might help you resist the urge.)
  • Sometimes, you don’t want fine champagne and brie….you just want to curl up on the couch with a bottle of cheap wine and a box of Twinkies. This would be the literary equivalent of doing just that.
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