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Week in Review: February 15, 2019

by William Weingarten

 

A Sentiment of Urgency at Brooklyn’s Night of Philosophy and Ideas

Nicolas Truong detailed in Le Monde the goings-on during the Night of Philosophy and Ideas. Organized by the Brooklyn Public Library and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy on February 2nd, it was the fourth of five such nights in the United States. Questioning whether the mainstream intellectual response to present-day crises reflected the “thought of decline, or the decline of thought?”. Truong highlighted the overall political bent of the night, echoing its “sentiment of urgency”, an expression of mounting pessimism in response to recent international political developments. “Would intellectuals give way to melancholy?” he asks? Among others, French philosophers Raphaël Liogier and Manon Garcia rigorously deconstructed toxic practices common to contemporary society, articulated in L’Humanité’s start-to-finish coverage of the night. Hélène Landemore’s discussion of democratic representation connected to Guillaume Faburel’s speech on world urbanization. In these ways, participants at the Night of Philosophy and Ideas spun a vast web of insights and perspectives, nurturing discourse at its highest level. The event remains available to watch online via  livestream.

 

Discovering What’s Beyond The Far Out: Tomi Ungerer’s Passing

The Washington Post released an obituary following the sudden passing of Tomi Ungerer, the celebrated French illustrator and artist of myriad media. The retrospective on Ungerer’s multifaceted career recognizes the satirist as a champion of those who feel rejected, like characters Emile the Octopus and Flat Stanley. Ungerer proved himself an outcast in the genre of children’s literature, having delved into politics and erotica in the course of his career. Such escapades proved scandalous to an audience in the US, where Ungerer was blacklisted despite immense success in Europe until about a decade ago. Smith remembers Ungerer as a fearless wit of rare imagination; speaking of death in a film clip posted to his Twitter after he passed, Ungerer says, “...when I die, I’ll find out what’s behind the far out. Maybe there’s nothing, but nothing is fantastic, too. Because if you’re faced with nothing, you can fill it up with your mind.”  

 

I’m Writing You from Tehran: A Woman’s Search for Knowledge, Understanding and Identity by Delphine Minoui

An English edition of French journalist Delphine Minoui’s memoir is anticipated for release this coming April. I’m Writing You from Tehran (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, translation by Emma Ramadan) focuses on Minoui’s adulthood journey from her native France to her forebears’ Iran. Minoui’s yearning to reconnect with her cultural heritage leads to an edifying decade at work in a country whose social, cultural and political complexities she must come to terms with. In a recent issue, Publisher’s Weekly Magazine addresses the work, which it immediately hails as “riveting”, and notes: “The powerful underlying story is one of love of family and admiration for the courage and passion of the Iranian people. Readers will be spellbound by this profound and gripping memoir of a woman’s search for knowledge, understanding, and identity.” Delphine Minoui will be on tour in the Spring to promote I’m Writing You from Tehran, with stops scheduled in Los Angeles, Washington, New York and Chicago among other places.

 

The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal - An Ode to Food

Maylis de Kerangal’s latest oeuvre, The Cook presents a charming narrative following the life of protagonist Mauro, who moves from a culinary aspirations in childhood to a career and life in gastronomy, and beyond. This “portrait of the artist as a young self-made chef” carries readers through the various trials, triumphs and travels that mark a life passionately devoted to food of all kinds. Highlighted in Publisher’s Weekly are Mauro’s voyages abroad, to explore sites “ranging from Paris dining temples to Berlin kebab houses to a 10-diner only, 10-course restaurant in Bangkok.” The Cook promises to be an intellectually savory work. Kerangal will be coming to the US to promote the book in the fall. Published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux and translated by Sam Taylor. The Cook will be available in April 2019.

 

PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature to Feature Prominent French Authors

A preliminary list of writers to participate in the upcoming PEN World Voices Festival has just been released, On the list are several French authors of note: Scholastique Mukasonga, Édouard Louis and Philippe Petit. Mukasonga will be promoting her latest work, The Barefoot Woman (Archipelago, translated by Jordan Stump), a prizewinning tribute to her loving, steadfast mother Stefania. Louis will be advertising his acclaimed book, Who Killed My Father? (New Directions, translated by Lorin Stein), which explores notions of masculinity and the experience of the French working class. The world celebrated artist Petit, meanwhile, will join the festival in the wake of the release of his autobiographical The Walk (Skyhorse), remembering his daring, tenacious achievement wire-walking between the Twin Towers, the subject of a film adaptation directed by Robert Zemeckis. As the PEN Festival approaches, additional French literary figures of note will doubtless pop up.

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