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Week in Review: June 8, 2018

by Shannon Sullivan

In Search of Lost Essays

Is it still considered “new” if it was written more than a century ago? Two “new” essays from Marcel Proust-- one formerly presumed lost and the second an unattributed article published under a pseudonym-- will be published in English for the first time following their discovery by author and academic Caroline Weber. Both essays shed light on Proust’s fascination with aristocratic salons and society women, and show that he began exploring ideas for In Search of Lost Time about fourteen years earlier than previously thought. Weber unearthed the essays while researching for her book Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris, which came out May 22 from Knopf. Curious to learn more? FIAF will host a talk and book signing with Weber on June 11 at 7pm.

Chateaubriand’s “Lyricism and Intimacy” Highlighted by Alex Andriesse

More in the land of “new” things from beloved authors: the New York Times reviewed Alex Andriesse’s translation of François-René de Chateaubriand’s masterpiece, Memoirs from Beyond the Grave. Showcasing the writing style that made Chateaubriand a precursor of French Romanticism, the new edition, which came out earlier this year from New York Review Books, recounts the author’s life from 1768-1800, from upbringing in Brittany to his experience with the French Revolution and his eight-year exile in England. The work is less focused on history, though, and more on the examination of Chateaubriand’s own sentiments and character amid myriad setbacks. A politician and diplomat as well as novelist and travel writer, Chateaubriand includes reflections on Napoleon, his time as a Royalist soldier, and his reunion with a woman he had fallen in love with 27 years before.

Reflecting on the Man of Mythologies

The New York Review of Books recently published an article by Adam Shatz revisiting the life and work of the legendary literary theorist, writer, philosopher, and linguist Roland Barthes, brought back into the spotlight earlier this year with the release of Album: Unpublished Correspondence and Texts (Columbia University Press). Shatz notes the “endearing notes of self-deprecation” that mark Barthes’ work, likely linked to his pervading sense of impersonation and highlighted by Tiphaine Samoyault’s “superb” biography, Barthes: A Biography (Polity Books, translated by Andrew Brown). The "only French theorist who can be said to inspire genuine love,” Barthes advocated writing without symbolism or psychology, allowing literature to shine "with its maximum brilliance at the moment when it attempts to die." Not only intriguing in terms of style, Barthes also recently served as the inspiration for Laurent Binet's The Seventh Function of Language (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). This remarkable author and thinker managed to invent his own literary genre and inspired the work of countless writers, but perhaps his most notable character of all was, in fact, himself.

Marking the Passing of Pierre Hassner

Philosopher and author Pierre Hassner passed away May 26 in Paris, at the age of 85. Born in Bucharest, his family fled the Romanian communist regime to France when Hassner was 15. A specialist in international relations, he spent his most of his career teaching at Sciences Po, and received the Prix Alexis de Tocqueville for his research in 2003. His work focused on war, violence, and totalitarianism; his book Violence and Peace: From the Atomic Bomb to Ethnic Cleansing (Central European University Press) was translated into English and released in the United States in 1997.  Read Jacques Rupnik’s reflection on Hassner’s life here.

Authors' Homes among Landmarks to be Restored

Are you sensing a new/old theme here? 18 French landmarks will be restored with funds from a new “heritage lottery” launched by the Ministry of Culture, including the homes of lauded Martiniquais writer Aimé Césaire in Fort-de-France and author/adventurer Pierre Loti in Rochefort. The program follows the success of the renovation of Voltaire’s chateau in Ferney, which began in 2015; the chateau reopened to the public on June 1.

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