New York, Sept. 3, 2014 – Reflecting France’s belief in the power of books as a common good for a better world, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy will open a reading room and bookshop devoted to French works in French and English and French-American intellectual exchange on September 27th in New York.Named Albertine after the omnipresent and unknowable female character in Marcel Proust’s classic In Search of Lost Time, it will offer the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in the United States, with over 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries in genres including novels, non-fiction, art, comic, and children’s books. Booklovers will discover previously hard-to-find titles ranging from the award-winning bestseller Limonov by Emmanuel Carrère, which follows a radical Soviet poet’s new life in New York City, to Le droit à la paresse (The Right to be Lazy) by Paul Lafargue (The Right to be Lazy), a spirited, rip-roaring attack on the work ethic to a rare edition of René Descartes’ Meditationes De Prima Philosophia.
Located in the landmark Payne Whitney mansion on Manhattan’s Museum Mile (972 Fifth Avenue), Albertine is designed by renowned French designer Jacques Garcia in the model of a grand, private French library. The two-floor space, which includes a reading room and inviting nooks furnished with lush sofas and armchairs, will give the public unprecedented access to formerly private sections of the Beaux-Arts mansion designed by architect Stanford White.
Albertine will also provide a venue for discussions exploring popular and classical culture through both a modern and global lens. To highlight its role as an exciting new hub for intellectual debate in New York City, Albertine will celebrate its opening with a six-night festival from October 14-19.
Curated by cultural critic and author Greil Marcus, the festival will feature provocative discussions between French and American artists and thinkers, including: Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner; Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz; author and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi; filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Paris, je t’aime); and Fields Medal-winning mathematician and author of Théorème vivant Cédric Villani.”Albertine brings to life France’s conviction that literature and the humanities are essential to increasing understanding, empathy and friendship across borders and cultures,” said Antonin Baudry, who created Albertine in his role as Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy.
“It is designed to be a place where those passionate about culture can immerse themselves in literature and reading in a setting conducive to reflection, inspiration, and lively discussion.” Beginning December 2014, Albertine aims to make French literature available nationwide through “French Corners”, a selection of new and essential French books at a handful of independent bookstores across the country. Participating bookstores will be announced in the coming months.
The Albertine project is made possible with a leadership gift from The Florence Gould Foundation and from The Recanati-Kaplan Foundation. Major support is provided by Beatrice Stern, Michel David-Weill, Institut français, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc., Total Corporate Foundation and Fondation du patrimoine and Van Cleef & Arpels. Additional generous support is also provided by Air France, Boston Properties, Sylvie & Matthieu Bucaille, Centre national du livre, French Heritage Society, LALIQUE, Robert de Rothschild, Odile de Schiétère-Longchampt, Societe Generale and Clémence and William von Mueffling.