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Week in Review: March 2, 2020

A Celebration of Beloved Cartoonist Claire Bretécher 

Cartoonist Claire Bretécher, creator of many celebrated works including Agrippine and Les Frustrés, passed away on February 10, 2020, at the age of 79.

Born in Nantes in 1940, she played an active role in the reinvention of conventional graphic art in the 70s, publishing much of her work in the magazines Pilote and Echo des savanes. A pioneer as a female illustrator, over the course of her career, she received many accolades, including the Grand Prix d’Angoulême, the highest honor for comic artists in France, in 1982. Until the early 2000s, she was the first and only woman to receive this award. 

Known especially for her portrayals of women and gender issues, Bretécher’s work was recognized for her keen observations of modernity, adolescence, and family ties. In 1976, esteemed French literary critic Roland Barthes even called her “the best sociologist of the year.” 


Meet the Newest Members of L'Académie Goncourt

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, the members of the prestigious academy Goncourt—a literary society that awards the most sought-after prize in French literature— unanimously elected authors Camille Laurens and Pascal Bruckner to join their ranks after the departure of Virginie Despentes and Bernard Pivot. 

Camille Laurens, a prolific French writer and a contributor to Le Monde, is notably the author of In His Arms (Random House), for which she won both the Femina Prize and the Renaudot Prize.

With a strong interest in political philosophy, French author Pascal Bruckner is known for his  societal critiques. He has written many books, including The White Man’s Tears (The Free Press) and The Tyranny of Guilt (Princeton University Press). 


A Look at French Feminism

Is the Future of French Feminism Female?,” Alice Blackhurst’s reflection on theory, activism, and literature, is a profound exploration about what it means to be a modern feminist in France. With her sharp eye for detail, Blackhurst unpacks our latent preconceptions of feminism in 2020. Especially fascinating is her account of meeting philosopher and author Paul B. Preciado during a promotion of his most recent novel, An Apartment on Uranus (MIT Press). 

Preciado’s most recent work urges us to look at ideas like liberation and transition in the broadest sense, moving beyond gender transition, for instance, to consider transition in general, from political to cultural to sexual. He explores societal issues ranging from the technological appropriation of the uterus to the harassment of trans children. Drawing from Karl Heinrich Ulrich’s concept of uranism—the idea of a third sex who “love differently”—he writes of his dream to live on Uranus, in an apartment far beyond existing power structures pertaining to gender and race. 

Preciado will also be on a US tour in Fall 2020 to promote this latest work.


A Giant Story to Tell

Mikaël’s graphic novel Giant (tr. Matt Madden, NBM) follows the stories of New York immigrants in the early 1930s. A mysterious, laconic Irish colossus known as 'Giant' sweats blood, along with his fellow workers, to build the skyscrapers of Rockefeller Center. For a while, he has received a reply neither to the typewritten letters nor the money he continues to send across the ocean to Mary Ann, the wife of one of his colleagues who died in an accident. Giant, who seems to be afraid of nothing, still has not found the courage to reveal to the young woman that she is a widow. An entrancing everyday working-class tale featuring the majestic background of the rising skyscrapers of New York.

Publishers Weekly raves that “this operatic story… lives up to its inspiring setting, a muscular young city in a nation of immigrants, brimming with stories to tell.” 

The author, Mikaël, will be on tour in the US from May 11-15, 2020, in partnership with the Québec Government Office.


The Life of Esteemed Journalist Jean Daniel

Last Wednesday, February 19, 2020, eminent  journalist and author Jean Daniel passed away at 99 years old. Colleague and friend of Albert Camus and co-founder of the French magazine Le Nouvel Obs, he will be remembered as an irreplaceable voice in the intellectual movements of his time. A Jewish humanist in the tradition of the French Left, his book The Jewish Prison: a Rebellious Meditation on the State of Judaism (Melville House, translated by Charlotte Mandell in 2005) is an important reflection on Westernized Jewish culture.

To learn more about Jean Daniel’s legacy, read Adam Shatz’ touching ode to Jean Daniel’s life and works here.