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Week in Review: January 27, 2020

The Night of Philosophy and Ideas 2020: To Live

This year, 7 major cities in the United States hosted a Night of Philosophy and Ideas. After successful events in Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, and Norfolk, we wrapped up NOPI 2020 in Brooklyn last weekend. The 12-hour marathon showcased contemporary thought through intellectual talks and debates, specially commissioned art installations, live performances, and film and video screenings that explored philosophy in playful and provocative ways.  

One of our guests was French writer Mark Alizart, who has served as the head of cultural programming at the Centre Pompidou and the Deputy Director of the Palais de Tokyo. Alizart’s most recent publication, Dogs: A Philosophical Guide to Our Best Friends (Polity Books), “makes a compelling case on why dogs matter and articulates the important lessons they can impart to us.” Dispensing with the well-worn clichés about dogs and their masters, “Alizart invites us to appreciate dogs’ ‘dialectical nature’, by which he means they are half civilised, half wild, ‘with a foot in each world’.” 

We also welcomed Professor of Comparative Literature and award-winning author Patrice Nganang. His When the Plums are Ripe (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is the second volume of a complex saga about WWII-era Cameroon, described as a "challenging but indispensable novel" by Publishers Weekly and a “brilliant, beguiling story” by Kirkus Reviews

Weren't able to make it to Brooklyn this weekend? Check out archived footage from our Livestream for a glimpse of the action. 


Must Reads for February: New Translations

The Criminal Child: Selected Essays by Jean Genet (1910-1986), a French criminal and social outcast turned writer, was recently published in English by the New York Review of Books (trans by Charlotte Mandell and Jeffrey Zuckerman). This brief collection of eight essays, including Genet’s celebrated piece on the art of Alberto Giacometti, is “deeply infused with his sexuality, philosophy, and bizarre, metaphysical writing style.” Wonderfully translated for an Anglophone audience, “Genet’s words remain potent, even shocking,” over seventy-years after their conception.

A Bookshop in Berlin by François Frenkel (trans by Stephanie Smee, Atria) is a rediscovered memoir of one woman’s harrowing escape from the Nazis. Frenkel was a Polish Jewish woman born in 1889 who studied literature in Paris and opened a French bookstore in Berlin, before fleeing to Switzerland. Described as a “detailed,” “emotional,” and “compelling account of crushing oppression,” the work is a “remarkable story of resilience and survival” that is sure to resonate with a wide readership.  


A Celebration of Hubert Mingarelli 

Award-winning French author Hubert Mingarelli passed away last weekend, after battling a long-term illness. In his honor, we will revisit two of his most beloved works, Four Soldiers and A Meal in Winter, both published in English by The New Press. The former tells the story of four young soldiers in 1919, members of the Red Army during the Russian civil war. Praising the work, writer Hilary Mantel wrote, “'I am astonished by Four Soldiers. I have never read anything like it, yet it is one of those books you feel must always have existed, a classic of writing about the human condition... A small miracle.” His latter novel is a “masterpiece of empathy and horror,” centered around the experience of three German soldiers during the darkest years of World War II. With a “command of tone and voice [that] sustains tension until the very last page,” the novel earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly and was celebrated as “the most moving book I have read for a long time” by a writer for The Independent


Revisiting Claude Lévi-Strauss

The New York Review of Books dedicated three pages to the beloved French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009). The “intellectual equivalent of royalty,” his work continues to inspire curiosity in contemporary theorists and writers. Notably, French authors Emmanuelle Loyer and Maurice Godelier have recently turned their attention back to the gifted social scientist in their respective works, Lévi-Strauss: A Biography (Polity, trans by Ninon Vinsonneau and Jonathan Magidoff) and Claude Lévi-Strauss: A Critical Study of His Thought (Verso, trans by Nora Scott). Loyer’s “unprecedentedly rich,” “long and lively” study of his life traces the development of his ideas and their continued relevance. Godelier, who was an assistant to Lévi-Strauss, provides an intimate analysis of his ideas, simultaneously admiring and critiquing them.