**This story first ran on the Fine Books & Collections Blog on April 13th.
Paris, tu es ma gaieté, Paris…
Spring in Paris–is there anything better? Doubtful. The icing on the cake? Today through April 15, the Grand Palais hosts the Salon International du Livre Rare et de l’Objet d’Art. This year the Salon is backed by France’s UNESCO commission and presented by president Emmanuel Macron. (To be determined whether he is greeted by hecklers as he was at February’s Agricultural Fair.) **Update: It appears Macron skipped the show.** The Salon has grown in scope and attendance over the past few years, and 20,000 visitors are expected to stroll the temple to Beaux-Arts architecture at the corners of General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill Avenues.
This year’s special guests include the Institute for Contemporary Publishing Archives(IMEC) and the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (CNAM). IMEC specalizies in preserving archival collections at various publishing houses, while CNAM is a doctoral-degree granting program founded in the throes of the French Revolution. Both will be exhibiting materials culled from their respective archives.
Among the fifty participants at this year’s salon is Solstices (16 rue Pestalozzi, Paris), a rare books dealer specializing in architecture, political posters, Russian art, and surrealism. And Laurent Coulet will be showing a major Proust find.
Museum exhibitions, paper-making demonstrations, and book signings round out this delightful cabinet of curiosities, and with a ten-euro entry fee, the Salon is well worth the price of admission. (Bouquinistes, students, Friends of the Louvre, and LILA booksellers are admitted free.) Bonne foire to all!
Image: Salon catalogue via le Syndicat national de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM)
Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too.
Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too. Elite, educated women often held salons–forums hosted in private homes where spirited debate on topics from education to politics accompanied sumptuous meals. (This is France, after all.) Women held court in these salons, selecting topics, curating the guest list, and using the venue to seal their social status. One of the more famous Parisian salonnières was Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, who ran a salon at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, the first of its kind and which likely inspired Molière’s scathing one-act satire les Précieuses ridicules.
Other women went a step beyond hosting salons and picked up the plume for themselves. Madame de La Fayette, a regular at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, wrote the first French historical novel called La Princesse de Clèves (1678), while the correspondence of the marquise de Sevigné is widely celebrated for its verve and historical significance.
Today, Houghton Library at Harvard University is hosting a symposium on these and other ladies of the Enlightenment called, appropriately, “Rethinking Enlightenment: Forgotten Women Writers of Eighteenth-Century France.” Members of Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literature as well as guest professors from the Universite de Lille and Wellesley College will discuss the works of women who participated in the Enlightenment “but were excluded from its history until recently.”
The discussion accompanies an exhibition on view through April 28th, “Rethinking Enlightenment,” curated by Harvard senior and forum participant Caleb Shelbourne, who assisted professor Christie McDonald with research for her forthcoming two-volume work Femme, Littérature. Une histoire culturelle (Paris: Gallimard, 2019). The symposium comes two days after International Francophonie Day, an annual event celebrated by 220 million French-speakers on five continents.
Calling all American Francophiles: the Albertine Prize needs your vote! Organized by the Fifth Avenue bookstore, Albertine, and co-presented by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the award recognizes American readers’ favorite French-language fiction titles translated into English and distributed in the U.S. within the preceding calendar year.
This year’s nominees are winnowed to five titles covering a range of perspectives and narrative styles; UCLA professor Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (Petit Piment, 2015) follows a Congoloese boy who escapes a terrifying orphanage and is raised by thieves in Pointe-Noire, and Christine Angot’s controversial story about molestation, Incest (Inceste, 1999) also makes the shortlist.
The Albertine Prize selection committee includes author and translator Lydia Davis, French literary critic and La Grande Librairie host François Busnel, and the staff at the Albertine bookstore in New York City.
Not sure which book to vote for? Albertine will host a springtime Book Battle, where five critics and professors will defend their favorite title.
Anyone can vote, just follow the link here. Ballots close May 1, 2018, with an awards ceremony on June 6. The winner will receive a $10,000 prize, to be split between author and translator. Bonne lecture!
On November 11th, a museum opened in Abu Dhabi. And as is fitting for a city known for its glittering skyscrapers and luxury accommodations, it wasn’t just any museum. A collaboration with the Louvre in Paris, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is being billed as a new culture hub for the Middle East.
Read all about this new desert art palace over at the Art & Object website.
image: © Louvre Abu Dhabi – Photography Roland Halbe
On June 3rd, Josephine Baker would have been 111 years old. A recently published graphic novel explores her life and rise to fame. Check it out on the Fine Books Blog.
Happy 2017! We’re starting the year off with a look at how American Francophiles can satisfy their booklust without breaking the bank.
Whether in digital or print format, procuring classic French literature like Candide and Les Misérables is relatively easy, but for the ravenous bibliophile (or recovering French lit major), finding titles by great modern French and Francophone authors poses a surprising set challenges. A little savoir faire makes those obstacles surmountable.
Recently published French books (and other international titles) can be hard to come by in the U.S.; while they’re often available on e-commerce sites like Amazon.fr or Fnac.com (the Gallic version of Target), shipping fees can sometimes cost more than the book itself.
Yet, stateside Francophiles need not wait until their next trip to France before loading up on coveted volumes. Many major metropolitan cities are home to independent bookstores catering to international tastes. East-coast outposts include Manhattan’s Albertine and Schoenhof’s Foreign Books in Cambridge, MA, while European Books and Media in Oakland, California is another great resource with a robust web presence. Newly released books may still be pricey, however, and others may not be readily available, but independent shops are wonderful for physical browsing and seeking out expert opinions. Some stores also host in-store book talks, signings, and foster an overall sense of joie de lire.
A budget-friendly option is to say bonjour to your local Alliance Française (AF),a global non-profit organization founded by Louis Pasteur and Jules Verne dedicated to promoting French language and culture. Many AF chapters host monthly book clubs based on fluency level, and while fees vary, roughly $120 dollars nets participants ten books and a monthly venue for discussion. I discovered my local chapter a few years ago, and in addition to reading the latest award-winning books, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the material in French among other Francophiles. (Groups are moderated by AF instructors.)
Our book club’s theme this year is “le retour,” or “The Return,” and includes new and recently released books by Pierre Lemaitre, Lola Lafon, Russian-born Andrei Makine, and Leïla Slimani–all prizewinning and internationally acclaimed authors. Slimani’s Chanson Douce just received the prestigious Prix Goncourt in November, and the group moderators swapped out another title so that we could decide for ourselves whether Chanson Douce merited the award. (It does. The story is loosely based on the actual homicide of two Manhattan children at the hands of their nanny. Class divisions, race, and mental instability are deftly explored in this quietly ferocious tale.)
However you satisfy your Gallic booklust, Bonne lecture!