Judith Thurman To Receive the Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters

November 1, 2016 | By French Culture

New York City, October 13, 2016Judith Thurman, author, French literature scholar, and staff writer at The New Yorker, will be conferred the insignia of chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by Bénédicte de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, on Monday, October 31st, 2016, at a ceremony taking place at the Payne Whitney Mansion in New York, home to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

Thurman’s works have greatly enriched French intellectual life and French-American cultural exchange. Notably, she is a specialist on the life and works of French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette.  She is the author of Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette , published in 1999, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Salon Book Award for biography, and was chosen by the New York Times as one of the year’s ten best books.

In France, Thurman has been a guest on radio shows discussing literature, politics, and culture, including a show on France Culture in 2014. She was also a guest, in 1986, on Apostrophes with Bernard Pivot. She is highly respected in French intellectual circles, and has worked with many writers and editors, including Julia Kristeva, with whom she participated in a conference of prominent Colette scholars. She has translated the poetry of Louis Labé, and her own biographies have been translated into French, among many other languages.

Thurman has contributed to a number of notable films. Her biography of Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Story Teller won the 1983 National Book Award and became the basis for Sydney Pollack’s Oscar-winning feature Out of Africa, on which she worked as the associate producer. Her New Yorker essay on the Chauvet cave inspired Werner Herzog’s documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which focuses on Paleolithic art in southwestern France. She has also contributed to several French television documentaries on Philip Roth.


For many years, Thurman has written for The New Yorker on culture, literature, art, and fashion. Many of her subjects have been French, including André Malraux, Marie Antoinette, Gustave Flaubert, Coco Chanel, Paul Poiret, Madame de Pompadour, and Yasmina Reza. Her critical appreciation of Yves Saint Laurent was included in “The Best Essays of 2003,” a prestigious annual anthology. Among her other awards are the 2007 Rungstedlund Prize, and the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for prose style from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A collection of her New Yorker essays, “Cleopatra’s Nose,” published in 2007, was also a Times “Best Book.” Thurman took its title from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées.

During the 2015 Festival Albertine, held by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Thurman curated an evening dedicated to the works of Simone de Beauvoir, building on her studies of the author and her introduction to a new translation of The Second Sex that was published in 2010.

Throughout her career, Thurman has been an avid Francophile and a cultural liaison between France and the United States.

The Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) was established in 1957 to recognize eminent artists and writers, as well as people who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. The Order of Arts and Letters is given out under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Culture and Communications.  American recipients of the award include Paul Auster, Ornette Coleman, Agnes Gund, Marilyn Horne, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Meier, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Uma Thurman. 

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, educational and university programs to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop, Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts.

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Media Contact: Camille Desprez, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, camille.desprez@diplomatie.gouv.fr, +1.212.439.1417
 

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