Main Menu

THE SCOOP FROM BRAD & LISSA

En Français

Some months ago, the cultural services section of the French embassy in New York decided to open a bookshop devoted to French works. Named Albertine after the central love interest in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the place opened last fall in the landmark Payne Whitney mansion on Manhattan’s Museum Mile (972 Fifth Avenue). Replete with a reading room and comfortable sofas and armchairs, the store boasts the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in the United States.

But the creators of Albertine haven’t stopped there. Reaching out to independent bookstores across the United States, they’ve offered to become a pipeline for supplying dozens of significant French works. The aim of the program, dubbed French Corners, is not only to facilitate access by indies to often hard-to-get foreign books, but most importantly, to promote French literature more widely.

We at Politics & Prose are delighted to be participating in the program and have just expanded our French literature section with more than 70 titles selected by Albertine. Stores in half-a-dozen other cities—including Miami, Chicago, Houston, Boston, New Orleans and Portland, OR—also have signed up, and program organizers expect more to join.

So what French editions has Albertine decided should be on the shelves of a U.S. bookstore? Interestingly, half are classics and half are contemporary writings. Along with works by such long-established names as Baudelaire (Les Fleurs du mal), Camus (L'Étranger), Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Molière (L’Avare and Le Misanthrope), Proust (Du côté de chez Swann), Stendhal (Le Rouge et le Noir) and Voltaire (Micromégas; Zadig; Candide) are such notable modern offerings as Kamel Daoud’s Meursault, contre-enquête; Maylis de Kerangal’s Réparer les vivants (winner of the Grand Prix RTL-Lire 2014); Virginie Despentes’s Apocalypse bébé; David Foenkinos’s Charlotte; Lydie Salvayre’s Pas pleurer (winner of the Prix Goncourt 2014); and two by Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano—his first, La place de l'étoile, and his most recent, Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier.

In all, the selections reflect a variety of genres and a mix of male and female authors. Further, not every author is from France. Quite a few French-speaking countries are represented. “The program is intended to feature not just France but the culture of the French language,” explained Tom Roberge, Albertine’s deputy director.

We hope that French speakers, and aspiring French speakers, will stop by our French section, located next to the travel books, afin qu'ils puissent parcourir les livres eux-mêmes.

À bientôt!

--Brad and Lissa