Dear friends,

July 15, 2013 | By Antonin Baudry

The summer is a time for cultivating our minds. In the words of Pangloss, Candide’s wise teacher, “we must cultivate our gardens.”  What he means is that we must water the lush pastures of our brains with knowledge and ideas. This summer, there is no shortage of intellectual seeds to plant in our minds. There are novels to read, there is music to sway to, and there are shows to watch with awe, while the sun shines down on our skin. Our calendar is dotted with highlights, from the highly anticipated festival Festival de la Villette Films en plein air, to the Etés de la Danse show, which brings together the world’s greatest dance companies at Paris’ Théâtre du Chatelet.

Candide himself, more naïve and less realistic than his teacher, insists that we live in the best possible world.  This summer, with spectacular events abounding, he too may have a point.  

Let’s start at the heart of the Mediterranean, where the summer spirit lives year-round. The South of France hosts some of the most exuberant summer festivals. If you are fond of cinema, head to Marseille—this year’s Capital of Culture—where the outdoor Ciné plein-air festival proposes films for cinéphiles and novices alike throughout the city until September 7. The French Embassy highly recommends the following festivals, in addition:

Just a few miles north, the celebration continues. Arles is home to the world-renowned photography festival, the Rencontre d’Arles, which investigates the role of black and white photography in the contemporary art world.

The festivals cover not only the screen but also the stage. The Festival d'Avignon focuses on theater and is in its 67th year. The 2013 program features socially committed and politically engaged work with a spotlight on artists from Africa. 

As for dance, check out the innovative Latitudes Contemporaines festival, which provides first-rate accompaniment to seven artists and takes place in Lille, Roubaix, and Tourcoing.  Catch even more dance at the festival June Events in Paris, at the beautiful former munitions warehouse, La Cartoucherie.

Also in Paris, the Palais de Tokyo presents “Nouvelle Vague” an exhibition focusing on a new generation of international curators that takes place at the museum and hors les murs at thirty galleries and art spaces throughout Paris.

For a change of mood on sultry summer evenings, a freshly curated list of translated French noir books, awaits you.  The list features a comic crime novel, Malavita, and the mystery novel Aurorarama, set in the Arctic city of New Venice, for a start.  For an even longer list of French reads, look no further than these favorites.

May the sunshine and many festivals inspire you!

Antonin Baudry

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