New York, September 27, 2013— Reflecting the French government’s commitment to French-American intellectual exchange, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius today presented author Philip Roth with the insignia of Commander of the Legion of Honor at a ceremony that culminated with the groundbreaking for New York City’s only French bookshop.
The award, the French government’s highest honor, was presented in recognition of Roth’s contribution to global literature and his decades-long relationship with France. Following the presentation, Fabius continued the literary celebration by laying bricks for the new bookshop, reading room and cultural center in the landmark Payne Whitney Mansion on the Museum Mile at 972 Fifth Avenue.
An icon of American letters, Roth has written twenty-four novels in a career spanning more than half a century. He first gained acclaim at the age of twenty-six with Goodbye, Columbus, a novella that earned him the National Book Award for Fiction. One of his most famous novels, Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), was ranked by the Modern Library as one of the best English-language novels of the 20th century. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 for his novel American Pastoral, the first in an acclaimed trilogy that included I Married a Communist (1998) and The Human Stain (2000). One of the most honored authors of his generation, he was the first writer ever to win the PEN/ Faulkner Award three times, and is the only living writer to have his works published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America. In 2011 he received the National Humanities Medal at the White House.
François Delattre, Ambassador of France to the United States, said that this space will be the only bookshop in New York City solely devoted to works in French and in translation, offering more than 14,000 titles in genres ranging from literature, non-fiction, and children’s books to art books and comic books. Aiming to spark lively conversations and debate, the space will also host author conversations, panel discussions, and exhibits.
The mansion, which is also home to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, was designed by iconic Beaux- Arts architect Stanford White at the beginning of the 20th century. To create a suitably elegant new interior, the French Embassy has enlisted French designer Jacques Garcia, who is renowned for designing interiors that create a link between traditional and modern architecture, such as his celebrated restoration of the Chateau du Champ de Bataille in Normandy, France.
“The bookshop and reading room will offer New Yorkers and visitors alike a space to discover and celebrate French literature and culture,” said Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy. “It is our hope that this venue will become a hub for conversations, debates and cross-cultural exchange that inspire and further Franco-American friendship.”
The project is made possible with a leadership gift from the Florence Gould Foundation and by the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation. Major support is provided by Michel David-Weill, Institut français, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc., Beatrice Stern, Total Corporate Foundation and Fondation du Patrimoine and Van Cleef & Arpels. Additional generous support is also provided by Air France, Boston Properties, Centre national du livre, Odile de Schiétère-Longchampt, Robert de Rothschild, French Heritage Society, LALIQUE, Societe Generale and Clémence and William von Mueffling.
“We are enormously grateful to our donors, especially the Florence Gould Foundation, for their unfailing support of this project,” adds Baudry.
The Cultural Services of the French Embassy provides a platform and resources for cultural exchange between French and American artists, intellectuals, curators, and arts professionals. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the US, the Cultural Services’ principal fields of action are the arts, literature, cinema, French language programs and higher education. www.frenchculture.org
VIDEO ON THE NEW FRENCH BOOKSHOP
Emily Katz, Director of Development and CommunicationsCultural Services of the French Embassy