How to Talk About Places You've Never Been

March 7, 2016 | By French Culture

On Wednesday, February 10th, at Albertine, Deputy Cultural Counselor Thomas Michelon shared these few words during a talk about Pierre Bayard's new book How to Talk About Places You've Never Been. After the speech, Pierre Bayard and Paul Holdengraeber, the director of LIVE from the NYPL, engaged in a public conversation. 


Thank you all for joining us this evening at Albertine to celebrate the French release of Pierre Bayard’s book, How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been. As Deputy Cultural Counselor I am thrilled to welcome two original thinkers tonight, author Pierre Bayard and Director of LIVE from the New York Public Library, Paul Holdengräber. I understand that you two first met when Paul interviewed you, Pierre, as part of LIVE from the NYPL. We are fortunate to have brought you together again tonight

Let me first introduce you to Pierre Bayard.

Pierre Bayard puts his vast culture to the service of a noble cause. He has freed his contemporaries from the guilt of not having dutifully read a million books or traveled extensively, while still pretending to fit the title of a perfectly educated person. His readings of literary classics have liberated our spirits from the boundaries of classic criticism. To prove this assertion, just consider the titles of his work: How to Talk About Books We Haven't Read, Sherlock Holmes was Wrong: Re-opening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles, Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?

In addition to being an iconoclastic thinker and author, Pierre Bayard is a professor of French literature at the University of Paris VIII and a psychoanalyst. His recent book, How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been, instructs readers on how to experience other places without leaving their armchairs. As one reviewer stated, Pierre Bayard illustrates exactly “what is required to establish cultural literacy in a comfortable way” and examines the art of the “non-journey” as it appears in literature.

We needed a magician of words, a wizard of ideas to exchange tonight with him and we found it in Paul Holdengräber.

Paul Holdengräber has long been a close friend of the French Embassy. He is always glad to be a part of our adventures, from reading Proust in a bed at the Wythe Hotel to interviewing Robert Badinter on the death penalty. We honored Paul twice for his contributions to French culture; most recently, with the title of Officier in the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Currently, Paul’s professional life is devoted to oxygenating one of the most beautiful libraries in the world and making its foundations quake with buzzing ideas. As Director of LIVE from the New York Public Library, he makes the lions of the NYPL roar in majesty all year round.

He is known for organizing literary conversations there with an eclectic mix of thinkersChristopher Hitchens, Elizabeth Gilbert, Werner Herzog, Zadie Smith, Jay-Z, Patti Smith—and the list goes on.

With LIVE, Paul has created a venue where writers, artists, philosophers, and other luminaries are encouraged to think out loud—about literature, fame, erotic art, the brutality of boxing, psychoanalysis, the role of religion in America, and more. Before coming to the NYPL, Paul was founder and director of the Institute for Art and Cultures at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Paul also animates The Paul Holdengräber Show on YouTube’s Intelligent Channel, and hosts a podcast for LitHub, entitled A Phone Call from Paul.

We are thrilled to have someone so skilled at weaving Descartes into Brooklyn culture, exceling at the game of mental ping pong, bringing knowledge past and present into the 21st century, with us tonight.

We are also extremely grateful to the publisher Bloomsburry, and especially Theresa Collier, who has been instrumental in the organization of tonight's event, as well as our dear friends, Georges and Ann Borchardt.

I will now give the floor to Paul and Pierre, who will take us on an eventful mental voyage—a voyage that we can say we have actually been on.  

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Sign in or register to post comments.