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The Unknown Girl Avalon Theater 5612 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC 20015
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French Books USA: Week in Review

By Jasmine Bissete

Festival Albertine Asks the Important Questions

The fourth annual Festival Albertine gathered prominent feminist thinkers from France and the US for a five day conference. The festival kicked off with From the Voting Booth to Your Living Room, a conversation with Christiane Taubira and Gloria Steinem on how the fight for more diverse and inclusive political representation can have a real impact on our daily lives. Other panel topics included Making the Invisible Visible, Body: Image vs. Reality, featuring Roxane Gay, The Politics of Language, The Politics of Religion, and It Starts in the Street. The festival concluded with An Egalitarian Future, during which Caroline de Haas, Elizabeth Diller, Cecile Richards, and Heidi Steltzer discussed how the equality and welfare of women hold the key to our future. As Gloria Steinem expressed in an interview with Elle, “Words bear our meaning [and]…are the first form our hopes take… they’re the first step toward changing reality, because they’re changing consciousness.”  Festival Albertine provided not only an opportunity for words and ideas to be exchanged, but has also surely precipitated many more conversations to come. 

It’s Awards Season!

The winners of France’s top literary prizes have been announced. Eric Vuillard’s L’Ordre du jour, which gives an account of the Anschluss, was awarded the Prix Goncourt and will be published in the US by Other Press. Continuing this theme, La disparition de Josef Mengele by Olivier Guez was the recipient of the Prix Renaudot. Philippe Jaenada’s La Serpe, named winner of the Prix Femina, examines author Henri Girard’s involvement in a triple murder. In Tiens ferme ta couronne, which claimed the Prix Medicis, Yannick Haenel recounts the year he spent with American director Michael Cimino. Find all the books at Albertine!

Leïla Slimani Named Representative for Advancement of the French Language

President Emmanuel Macron has named author Leïla Slimani his personal representative for the advancement of the French language. Slimani won the Prix Goncourt in 2016 for her novel Chanson douce, soon to be published by Penguin Random House as The Perfect Nanny. She will represent France on the Conseil permanent de la francophonie, a post previously occupied by former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Slimani will be on tour in the US in April 2018.

New Letters from Proust and Camus

Letters between Albert Camus and Spanish-French actress Maria Casarès, with whom he had a longtime affair, were recently published. After having refused for many years, Camus’ daughter, Catherine, has finally decided to publish the letters, writing in her introduction to the volume, “Their letters make the world larger and more luminous, the air lighter, simply because they exist.” The letters span from 1940, the year Camus and Casarès met, to December 30, 1959, just 5 days before the author’s death. Camus isn’t the only writer whose correspondence will be brought to light – 6,000 letters written by Marcel Proust, compiled and published by the late Professor Philip Kolb of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will be made available online for free. The first group of letters, published on November 11th, includes correspondence between Proust and his brother, who fought in the First World War.

Remembering Françoise Heritier

Anthropologist Françoise Heritier has passed away on her birthday. She was 84 years old. The second woman to teach at the Collège de France, she succeeded Claude Lévi-Strauss and was the inaugural Chair of Comparative Studies in African Societies. Her work focused on alliance theory and the prohibition of incest. She was a key figure in the structuralism movement and explored the distinction between men and women in Masculin/Féminin. Her latest book, Au gré des jours, was published in October by Éditions Odile Jacob and was awarded the Prix Femina’s Jury Prize. Two of Heritier’s works have been published in English: Two Sisters and Their Mother: The Anthropology of Incest and The Sweetness of Life. Heritier was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 2014.

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