By Shumona Sinha
Translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan
‘Through the poetic force of her writing, Sinha brings a broken world to burning point.’ —Le Monde
Publication Date: July 18, 2023
Over the course of a night in police custody, a young woman tries to understand the rage that led her to assault a refugee on the Paris metro. She too is a foreigner, now earning a living as an interpreter for asylum seekers in the outskirts of the city. Down With the Poor!, which borrows its title from a poem by Baudelaire. is the story of a woman who, little by little, is contaminated by the violence of the world.
Born in 1973 in Calcutta, Shumona Sinha is a French Academy award-winning author for her contribution to the French language and literature (2014) and a naturalized French citizen who has lived in Paris since 2001. Her harsh but multilayered poetical literary reckoning with France’s asylum system, Down with the Poor!, was critically acclaimed in France and abroad. It won the Valéry Larbaud Award in France, was on the short list for the Renaudot Award, won the Internationaler Literaturpreis in Berlin, and was adapted to theater in Germany and Austria. Her latest books are published by Gallimard. Translated into English, German, Italian, Hungarian, and Arabic, Shumona SINHA’s books are the subject of studies in universities in France, Germany, the U.S., and India. An international conference series on her literary work will take place in July 2023 at the Passau University (Germany). Her interviews are available on France 5/La Grande Librairie, France 2, France 3, Arte, France Culture, France Inter, Swiss Radio, German Radio, and Indian TV.
Teresa Lavender Fagan is a freelance translator who lives in Chicago. She has translated over forty published works of non-fiction and fiction by authors ranging from Mircea Eliade (Journal III: 1970 1978) to Hédi Kaddour (Little Grey Lies; The Influence Peddlers), and Vénus Khoury-Ghata (The Last Days of Mandelstam – shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize), including the Nobel Laureate in Literature Jean-Marie LeClézio (The Mexican Dream: Or, The Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations; Mydriasis Followed by To the Icebergs).
"The voice is singular and compelling. The book brings to mind Mohsin Hamid, Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay, Virginie Despentes, and Lynne Tillman. It raises questions about legitimate and illegitimate status in Europe and the tension between the two. Empire, whitewashing, playing the good immigrant—these themes underscore the prose. It's a book that doesn't give you all the answers, but that's not the point of it really. Definitely one to read and shout about." —Niven Govinden, author of Diary of A Film and This Brutal House
"Sinha lays bare so much of the nuance and violence imposed on individuals by the systems in the world meant to keep certain people down." — Emma Ramadan, translator of Anne Garréta
"Through the poetic force of her writing, Sinha brings a broken world to burning point." —Le Monde
"I read Down with the Poor! sitting by myself in the cold, and the book didn’t distract me from the chill – in fact, it only intensified it, seeping in through my toes, and freezing my fingers as I turned page after page. I wanted to stop reading it. It was overwhelming. Sinha’s words came in long sentences, touched with poetic flair and crippling emotion…This is a job well done, because this truly is the interpreter’s experience – person after person, and story after story." —Aishwarya Dani, scroll.in