• Events
SEE ALL
Feb 14
Film Series
Jean Cocteau's Orphic Trilogy at Norton Simon 411 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105
Feb 21
TOUR
Fahavalo, Madagascar 1947 with director Marie Clémence Andriamonta-Paes Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago 164 N. State Street Chicago, IL 60601
Feb 22
Film
The Science of Sleep Bob Baker Marionette Theater 4949 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Week in Review: December 30, 2019

To Live: The Night of Philosophy and Ideas 

This year’s Night of Philosophy and Ideas -- To Live -- will take place at the Brooklyn Public Library from 7pm on Saturday, February 1st to 7am on February 2nd. The 12-hour marathon will showcase contemporary philosophical thought through intellectual talks and debates, specially commissioned art installations, live performances, and film and video screenings that explore philosophy in playful and provocative ways. In the weeks leading up to the event, we will be spotlighting speakers and artists on our website and social media. This week, we are excited to present Esther Duflo and Didier Fassin.

Duflo, who won this year’s Nobel Prize in economics, seeks to understand the economic lives of the poor, with the aim of helping to design and evaluate social policies. Using a groundbreaking method of real experiments to explore global poverty, her work is often celebrated as “revolutionary.” Her latest novel, Good Economics for Hard Times (Public Affairs), elegantly examines “the most crucial issues humanity faces (migration, trade wars, the scourge of inequality, climate catastrophe) with a combination of humility over what economics cannot tell us and pride over its contributions to our limited understanding.”

Fassin is an anthropologist and sociologist who has conducted fieldwork in Senegal, Ecuador, South Africa, and France. His recent work is on the theory of punishment, the politics of life, and the public presence of the social sciences. In Life: A Critical User’s Manual (Polity), Fassin “redirects his readers away from humanitarianism’s self-congratulatory ethic of rescue and toward a structural politics that aims at the transformation of collective life.” The New Yorker congratulated his connection of the biological and biographical and his ingenious use of the “force-feeding of hunger strikers in prisons to illustrate that merely keeping people alive is an insufficient stance to hold, when self-realization is impossible without conditions that make life bearable.” 

 

A New Collection of Nonfiction Essays by a French Superstar

Emmanuel Carrère, often cited as one of France’s leading author, is receiving widespread praise for his recently published collection of short pieces, 97,196 WORDS: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, trans by John Lambert), which “[plunges] into the mysterious minds of people who tell honest lies.” Describing Carrère’s publication, senior editor of the New York Times Gregory Cowles contends that “whether he’s writing about a murderer or a movie star, he is also investigating himself, part of a deeply empathetic quest to understand our species.” Moreover, describing the “riveting” pieces that fill the work, in his detailed review of the work, Robert Gottlieb wrote, “it’s clearly not a matter of recycling old material but of responding to an urgent need in him to know more, understand more, feel more. And we are gripped by the same pressure: No matter how often he returns to his story, we are carried along with him.”

 

Authors on Tour: Spotlight on Lançon and Adimi

In January and April, respectively, Philippe Lançon and Kaouther Adimi will be touring the United States to present their latest works. Lançon, a survivor of the 2015 terrorist attack on the Paris satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, will discuss his “achingly humane” memoir, Disturbance: Surviving Charlie Hebdo (Europa Editions, trans by Steven Rendall). Described as “inspirational in its depiction of [Lancon’s] tentative recovery and his resumption of work,” the novel “documents, in excruciating details, his physical and emotional reconstruction to understand the man he has become.” Next, Adimi’s English language debut, Our Riches (New Directions, trans by Chris Andrews), cuts brilliantly between the stories of two characters, spanning from WWII to the bloody 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris. She delicately packs a monumental history of intense political drama into her swift and poignant novel, which, above all, is a “moving tribute to the enduring power of literature.” 

 

The Best Reads of the Year

To wrap up the year, the books team for Le Monde shared their favorite books of 2019. Among their top picks was the recently published Serotonin by Michel Houllebecq (trans by Shaun Whiteside). One of the most talked about works of 2019, the novel has been described as “dangerously alive,” “provocative,” and triggering intense responses. Le Monde also shared readers’ 101 favorite works of all time, including Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night (trans by Ralph Manheim), Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (trans by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin), and Albert Camus’ The Stranger (trans by Matthew Ward). Additionally, the list included Viriginie Despentes’ trilogy, Vernon Subutex, translated into English by Frank Wynne and published by MacLehose Press. The “post-punk, post-morality, post-civilisation” satire of modern France has received great attention in France and abroad. The first two volumes have already hit the shelves in English, and the third will be released in 2020. Check out reviews of the series by The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, The Spectator, and The New York Times.  

Lithub interviewed a group of famous authors about the best books they read in 2019, many of which were originally published in French. Serotonin was featured once again, characterized as “a novel of romantic and sorrowful ideas” and a song of “lost loves.” Simone Weil’s On the Abolition of All Political Parties (NYRB Classics, trans by Simon Leys) was also included in the list, described as making a timeless and “passionate case, logical and pure, for the inevitable moral corruption of party politics.” Finally, The Disappearance of Josef Mengele by Olivier Guez, to be published by Verso Books this winter (trans by Georgia de Chamberet), was celebrated as a factually based “true fiction thriller” that traces an experience of flight in the late 1940s and 50s.

MORE IN BOOKS & IDEAS