by Diane Rios, December 3, 2010 2:08 PM
Bienvenue et Bonne année, mes chers amis,
It's time for our holiday post on the Powell's French Book Blog. I am excited to inspire you with the latest treasures found in aisles 817 and 818 of the Red Room at Powell's City of Books! You just might find that special treasure here for your French-reading student, friend, or petite amie. Allons-y!
Let's start with this gorgeous graphic novel by Michel Onfray called simply Nietzsche. Beautifully-inked drawings bring the biography of the legendary philosopher to life and present the author's interpretation of Nietzsche's views in a très beau façon. Sure to please the comic/philosophy lover on your list!
Next I want to show you a wonderful book by one of my favorite authors, Edmund White. Mes Vies (My Lives) is a fascinating autobiography by one the world's most interesting people. Edmund White has an amazing memory for rich detail and hilarious anecdotes from throughout his life, with chapter titles like "Mes Psys" (My Shrinks), "Mes Femmes" (My Wives), and "Mon Genet" (My Genet). The book is sometimes uncomfortably honest but always intelligent and funny and once again reveals White to be one of the best American writers.
Now take a look at this stunning, boxed book called Petits et Grands Seigneurs de Brousse (Small and Large Lords of the Bush) by Robert P. Pfleiger. This is a large book, published in 1939, about the author's journey across Africa. It is number 43 of a limited edition of 510. The lovely soft paper has slight foxing, but is still in good shape and illustrated with photos and gorgeous black and white original engravings by Paul de Masy. Signed by the author, this account is a work of art in itself.
Back in the history section I fell in love with these three little blue and red books called La Guerre De 70 (The War of 1870). Written by Bernard Michal, they break down the 1870 Franco-Prussian war into 3 volumes. Volume 1 is "La Capitulation," Volume 2 is "De Sedan a la Commune," and Volume 3 is "La Commune." These jaunty little books were published in 1970 by Editions de Cremille and each has a festive little red bookmark ribbon to mark your page. A lovely addition to your history-lover's bookshelf!
Now for the greatest cover currently in the aisle… Pédicures de l'Ame (Pedicures of the Soul) by Pierre Dac. This is a humorous philosophy book about cleanliness, both of the feet and the soul. Dac believes that if one grooms the feet, then why not do the same for the soul? Indeed, why not? I just hope the soul turns out better looking than this foot. C'est vraiment incroyable!
Next up, in honor of the latest Harry Potter movie released last week, Harry Potter et les Réliques de la Mort" (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) by J. K. Rowling. The last installment of the series, this is a dark and thrilling finale. However, along the way we learn more wonderful wizarding vocabulary in French, adding a whole other dimension to the enjoyment of the book. Some examples: le vif (the snitch), polynectar (polyjuice potion), elf de maison (house elf), and of course Celui-On-Ne-Doit-Pas-Prononcer-Le-Nom (He Who Must Not Be Named). A thrilling and educational read!
Another magical children's story that is sure to delight is this one called Le Cheval Magique De Han Gan by Chen Giang Hong. This is a tale of an artist who can paint horses that leap from the canvas and take on lives of their own. Beautifully painted illustrations tell a bittersweet tale of loyalty and the transformative nature of art.
Now, if you are lucky enough to be off to France any time soon, you might find some helpful phrases in this wonderful 1950 book called Brush Up Your French Again by Dr. W. G. Hartog. This is an adorable bilingual story about Monsieur et Madame Dupont who decide to cross the channel from England and go to Paris for the weekend.
Lovely illustrations illuminate their experiences, including L'Heure de l'Aperatif (Cocktail Time), Au Bureau de Tabac (At the tobacconist's), and always helpful, Chez le Chemisier (At the hosier's). Lovely little illustrations of the Dupont's weekend getaway make the journey extra fun. A great little gift for the traveler on your list!
We just got a few copies of this new edition of the beloved fantasy book Bilbo le Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Once again you will learn wonderful vocabulary (treize nains barbus: 13 bearded dwarves; la Montaigne Solitaire: The Lonely Mountain) as you follow Bilbo on his epic quest. It all begins with this seemingly innocuous, innocent sentence, "Dans un trou vivait un hobbit…"
Another book of fantasy and a true find is this beautiful book by Moebius, Chroniques Métalliques. This is a collection of poster art, advertisements, and comics, including new work by one of the best comic artists of his generation. Published by Les Humanöides Associés, this graphic novel would make a wonderful gift.
Finally here is a gift for the knitter you know and love,
by Diane Rios, September 8, 2010 5:06 PM
"Seigneurs, vous plaît-il d'entendre un beau conte d'amour et de mort? C'est de Tristan et d'Iseut la reine." ("Lords, would you like to hear a beautiful story of love and death? It is of Tristan and Iseut, the queen.") So begins the legendary medieval love story of Cornish prince Tristan and Irish princess Iseut. Predating and influencing Arthurian legend, this tragic story of love and betrayal has inspired many authors including professor of medieval literature Joseph Bédier. I am so
delighted to present to you this nearly immaculate, absolutely breath-taking edition of Le Roman de Tristan et Iseult
by Joseph Bédier, published by L'Edition D'Art, Paris, in 1928.
Stunning art nouveau illustrations by Robert Engels and the near-mint condition of the book make this work a true wonder. Rebound in beautiful leather, it still has the original gilded paperback covers inside. The green boards are in perfect shape, the soft paper still strong and unmarked, illuminated typeface adorns every chapter, and the illustrations are a glimpse into another world, full of a deep magic all their own. This is such a special find that we've moved it up to the Rare Book Room on the 3rd floor. Please come and leaf gently through its pages to see the beauty for yourself!
A tough act to follow, but I do have a little gem of French sonnets to share with you. Les Quarante Immortels (The Forty Immortals) by Pierre Louis-Picard is a slim volume of sonnets ironiques published by Les Editions de Gargailloux in 1938 and signed by Monsieur Louis-Picard, himself! Les Quarante Immortels refers to the 40 members of L'Académie Française, the revered institution of the French literati, founded in 1530.
Next I have a slightly shabby, but still lovely cloth-bound book from our French history section called Versailles et les Trianons. Originally a pocket-sized guide book from the Collection des Guides Joanne, and published in 1911, there are many maps — slightly outdated, but time capsules in themselves. There are wonderful little black and white photos of statues of Louis and Marie Antoinette and one strange photo of Encelade, the Greek giant, son of the Earth, coming out of the ground with a terrible grimace on his face. Très effrayant!
A more modern book, but just as charming, we have De Paris à la Lune (Paris to the Moon) by the inimitable Adam Gopnik. Gopnik writes for the New Yorker magazine, and spent five years living in Paris with his wife and young son. This book is a wonderful account of his time there — a unique expat experience, told in Gopnik's intelligent and hilarious style. Neighborhood histories and fish-out-of-water anecdotes abound, and you will see France and French people in a whole new light. A marvelous read!
Switching gears, I want to show you a wonderful book called GraffitiArt: Pochoirs Politiques (Graffiti Art: Political Stencils) by Eric de Ara Gamazo. This book shows the wonderful spray-painted street stencils of Paris and environs, most of which are political in nature. I remember well as a student in Poitiers, France, in 1987, the political stencils that would appear overnight at my bus stop and around town. For "graffiti" they were very elegant and powerful. To me, they elevated spray paint to a higher form of art. I learned a lot about stenciling while living in France, and still use the technique in my own art today. This book is a collection of stencils found on the street, some more sophisticated than others, but all united in their silent voice for justice.
Now let's take a look at several interesting film magazines we have in the French aisle. L'Avant Scène Cinéma is a series of film magazines about French film in the 1980s. Wonderful black and white photographs, analysis of French directors, and excerpts from French films fill these slim pamphlets. Featured French film greats grace the covers including Jacques Bral and Jacques Doillon. A sure way to make your coffee table très cool.
I often find myself drawn to inexpensive mass market paperbacks in the French section simply because of their arresting cover art. Here are a few of the latest examples: First, Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil). This book has been published thousands of times, but perhaps never with such a fleur du mal as this 1964 copy. The silhouette of a flower filled with naked women represents the intense contrasting forces Baudelaire felt towards women. For Baudelaire, women embodied the combination of the ideal and the malignant. Thus his fixation with death and decay becomes intertwined with his perception of women as inspiration towards God, but also symbols of temptation and the Devil. Pauvre Baudelaire! Such angoise!
Next is this hilarious cover of the book Je Suis Née Grecque (I Was Born Greek) by Melina Mercouri. I swear I am going to do a blog post of just French books with people smoking on the cover. It would be a very long blog post. Evidently Melina, the smoking sophisticate that she seems to be, has written about her love of Greece and her life there between the two world wars. The back of the book describes it as being "sensible, sensuelle, coloreuse, exubérante, rieruse, pessimiste, espérant et au-delà de tout espoir". I don't think she left anything out — it sounds like this book has it all!
Next is this wonderful little history book called
by Diane Rios, July 2, 2010 4:27 PM
Incroyable! It is time for another look inside the fantastique
French aisle at Powell's City of Books. It's only been a month since the last posting, but I could not wait another day to show you the truly amazing out-of-print treasures I have discovered. Les voila!
First of all, you must feast les yeux on this truly lovely edition of La Main Enchante?e (The Magic Hand) by Ge?rard de Nerval, one of France's most romantic poets and revered essayists. This story shows de Nerval's profoundly sensitive writing style, and this particular edition is absolutely lovely! Published in 1945, it is unbound (en planches) and held in a cardboard case. The papers are in fantastic condition, incredibly thick and soft and clean, although the cardboard case is a bit shabby. The book is beautifully illustrated by black and white original lithographs by Camille Berg. There are brilliantly illuminated letters adorning the title pages and at the beginning of each chapter. It is number 63 of a limited edition of 340. A side-note about the author: he was known to keep a lobster as a pet, and would take it for walks in the gardens of the Palais Royale, on a blue silk ribbon. Superbe!
Next I have this wonderful little paperback of Les Hauts de Hurle Vent (Wuthering Heights) by Emily Brontë. We all know the torrid love story of Cathy and her brooding Heathcliff, but have we ever read such a cool edition as this? A pocket-sized late mass market paperback in good condition with a wonderful cover featuring a goofy, Scooby-doo style font. Tre`s cool!
Now let's take a look at this great version of Norman Mailer's Prisonnier Du Sexe (The Prisoner of Sex). This cover blows my mind. It looks like Norman Mailer's mind is blown as well, all entangled with hipster gals and political signage. I love this graphic! This classic work by Mailer about his controversial views of women's liberation was published by Robert Laffont in 1971.
I found a great copy of Rue du Prole´taire Rouge (The Street of the Red Proletariat) by Nina and Jean Kehayan. This is an account of two young French communists who lived in Russia and wrote about Russian daily life at the time. Published in 1978 by France Loisirs, this edition is a slightly worn hardback with a great cover photo. A slice of life from 40 years ago, in Russia, en français! Inte?rressant!
Now, speaking of history and politics, check out Mademoiselle Angela Davis! Elle est fe?roce! This is a great 1981 paperback edition of Femmes, Race et Classe (Women, Race, and Class) that is her critical analysis of feminism from the past and present and how it relates to the struggles of the black woman. A great perspective from an iconic activist.
One more book from the French history section is this treasure, Les Drapeaux de la Garde Nationale de Paris en 1789 (Flags of the National Guard of Paris from 1789) by Gerard Blanckaert. This is a one-of-a-kind find! This is also a loose-leafed book that comes in a cardboard slipcase. The pages are in great shape, very clean, but the most stunning element of the book are the illustrations. Unbelievable! All of the flags from each district, each one more amazing than the last. Les Français are evidently amazing flag designers! The prints within are in brilliant, glossy full-color, illustrated replicas each with ornate symbols and lettering. They are absolutely special and inspiring. For the French history buff this book would be a fantastic gift.
Moving on to our wonderful "miscellaneous non-fiction" section, I found this interesting book Neige et Roc (Snow and Stone) By Gaston Re´buffat. This is a charming book about mountain climbing in the French Alps, circa 1959. There are no fancy carabineers, gortex jackets or aluminum crampons here, this is the old-school method, with wool sweaters, knickers, and hemp rope. There is a chapter on knot-tying that gives me vertigo just imagining how important those knots might be. Another fabulous gift for the modern mountain enthusiast, this shows you how the real men used to do it.
Now, from our French art section I bring you this darling little hardback, En Flagrant De´lire by John Lennon. This is a collection of Lennon's sweet and quirky stories and illustrations.
Published in 1964 by Simon and Schuster, here is one such quirky poem within:
"Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Je suis un pauv pauv mec
Mite de part en part
Et ne de parents tard
Bouffe jusqu'aux orteils
Ronge jusqu'aux oreils
C'est pas possible a croir
Je suis je suis je
Tellement tellement ti
Excusez-moi je prefere m'en aller."
Now we switch to some wonderful little gems from our French genre section. First, look out for La Nymphe de Montmartre. She is trouble! Barbara Cartland has outdone herself with this little paperback about pauvre Oona Thoreau who has lost her father and is destitute in the streets of Montmartre, Paris. Whatever will she do? It seems her winsome beauty help her, or will it just lead her farther down the dark path?
In science fiction, I found this French edition of none other than the classic futuristic social commentary by Anthony Burgess,
by Diane Rios, May 18, 2010 3:20 PM
Salut encore mes amis de français
, and welcome to yet another blog post about the wondrous collection of French treasures here at Powell's City of Books. I have selected some of our most beautiful and most surprising books for you to enjoy. On y va!
Pour commençer: feast your eyes on my absolutely favorite book in the entire aisle: La Duchesse de Langeais (The Duchess of Langeais) by Honoré de Balzac. This little volume is the sweetest, most beautiful thing with super soft paper and original, hand-colored illustrations by André E. Marty. There is no publication date listed but I'm guessing it was published in the 1920s. It is in excellent condition, the soft papers still creamy and untarnished. A very special gem waiting for the right home!
Now let's move on to this lovely little hardback copy of Les Mains Sales (Dirty Hands) by Jean-Paul Sartre. Published in 1948 by Gallimard, this is a play in seven acts, describing the assassination of a political leader in the fictional country of Illyria. The play was first performed in 1948 so this particular edition was très au courant. Beautifully illustrated and a bit worn, this little book would still be a delightful addition to the drama section of your bookshelves.
Here is another bit of living history from our history section: Oeuvres de Monsieur de la H**** (The Works of Jean-Francois de la Harpe). This lovely leather-bound tome has no publication date, but looks to be from the late 1700s or early 1800s. La Harpe was considered in his day to be one of the finest critics of literature, philosophy, and the French school of tragedy. He even knew Voltaire and was a guest at his house! This book is in good condition considering its age, and its thin parchment-like papers are beautiful with their old, slightly warbled-looking text. A true time-capsule straight from a literary god to you!
Now let's take a look at some serious thinkers. Les Maîtres Penseurs (The Master Thinkers) is a paperback book about the great philosophers with a cover that makes you think of the weight of the world on their shoulders. Published in 1977 by Grasset & Fasquelle, this book will add gravitas to your philosophy section, and might convince you to grow a long, gray beard.
Moving on to another interesting find from the history/politics section, we have La Femme Fatale by Raphaëlle Bacque and Ariane Chemin about Ségolène Royal, the woman who ran against Nicolas Sarkozy for the French presidency in 2007.
Now here is an alarming photo. Et le Vent Reprend Ses Tours (And the Wind Takes Its Turns Again) by Vladimir Boukovsky. Boukovsky was a Soviet dissident who spent years in the prison and labor camps of the Soviet Union, exposing the horrors of the forced psychiatric abuses there. He was imprisoned and then deported for his activism, and has spent his life trying to bring justice to those wrongfully imprisoned and tortured by the Soviet government.
One more find from the history section is this very hip paperback: La Révolte Etudiante: Les Animateurs Parlent (The Student Revolt: The Organizers Speak). This 1968 book is about the student riots in Paris in 1968. It is in great condition and is organized into interviews with some of the more prominent student leaders involved. A fascinating and explosive time that still inspires movements today.
I stumbled across this slender paperback edition of Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras. This particular book is a bilingual reader which makes it easy for those not completely at ease with the language. This is a wonderful story, but my favorite thing about this book is the great author photo of Duras herself, complete with giant horn-rimmed glasses from 1968.
Now we're off to some hyper-cool, chouette choices. First, let's look at this great guide from the early days of skateboarding! Le Livre de Skateboard was probably pretty radical in its day. Showing all the cool moves, complete with bell-bottom jeans and lots of knee pads, you can learn Le Slalom and La Revolution de 180 degrés! This book will either take you back to when you were younger and cooler or show your kids just how uncool you were. Either way, it's a great find!
Even the most austere French academic needs a little thrill once in awhile, and they'll find it in our genre section with this pocket-sized paperback of Christine by Stephen King. We all know this book is about a car that eats people, but reading it in French makes it seem doubly nefarious.
Here is an excerpt:
…il n'avait pas racheté de pare-brise neuf. Son compte bancaire serait drôlement plus entamé que ça s'il s'en était payé un. Elle aurait une facture, n'est-ce pas? Il avait même cherchait dans un dossier qu'il avait chez lui et sur lequel il avait écrit: VOITURE.
Another familiar author, but looking at things through an entirely different pare-brise, is C. S. Lewis and his Narnia series. One of my favorites from that series is the fifth book
by Diane Rios, March 23, 2010 5:35 PM
Un grand bonjour
and welcome back to the Powell's City of Books French blog, Numéro Quatre
. Today I have une très belle
collection of wonderful French books to share with you, from many different subsections of the French aisle, located in aisles 817 and 818 of Powell's City of Books! Allons-y
Let's begin with this amazing leather-bound three-volume set by Antoine Hamilton. Oeuvres is a collection of Hamilton's works published by Augustin Renouad. The volumes are a bit worn, but still beautiful in their leather covers and filled with the old parchment-like papers. Lovely!
Next I'd like to feature a new book called Trois Femmes Puissantes (The Three Powerful Women) by Marie NDiaye. This book won the 2010 Prix Goncourt, and NDiaye is the first black woman to have done so. Bravo!
I'd also like to show you this selection of books by Georges Bernanos: L'Imposteur, Journal D'un Cure de Campagne, Un Crime, et Sous le Soleil De Satan.
Bernanos was critical of modern society and of government's role in censuring the privacy of the individual. His book Sous le Soleil de Satan was made into a starkly fierce movie starring, who else, Gerard Depardieu.
From our miscellaneous nonfiction section I want to show you is this wonderful hardbound book called L'Écriture, published in 1961 by Robert Delpire. It is a history of the written word and has black and white photographs of alphabets through the ages. You'll find illuminated manuscripts and hieroglyphics, ancient Arabic script and modern fonts. Très interessant!
Next you must see this very old and beautiful book called Le Telephone, published in 1882. One of the Bibliothèque des Merveilles series by Hachette et Cie, this is an illustrated history of the telephone — up until 1882, that is. A short history, to be sure! A bit worn, but still lovely with its blue cloth boards and embossed gold embellishments. A treasure from time gone by.
Next from the literature section, I would like to share this absolutement adorable edition of Stendhal's Chartreuse de Parme. The Collection Nelson is a series that always seem to have beautifully illustrated covers and this is no exception. This copy's dust jacket is a bit beaten, but is well-protected by Mylar. Très mignon!
Now let's move on to the mystery section. I absolutely love the cover of this thriller Saint Crapule, or Holy Bastard, by Exbrayat — the perfect place to hide your gun... in your sandwich! Un pistolet dans la baguette, quelle horreur!
Next up we have this wonderful paperback called L'Écran Fantastique (or The Fantasy Screen) by Christian Poninski. This is a 1979 collection of science fiction movies, including an analysis of the Roger Moore Bond film Moonraker. Lots of great photos, including many shots of the wacky creatures from Sinbad. A great gift for the science fiction fan!
Now here is a real curiosity. L'Essentielle sur les Pacemakers (The Essentials of Pacemakers) by G. Fontaine. Published in 1985, this paperback book describes the uses and science behind this modern health technology.
There are some full-page drawings of people getting defibrillated, don't miss out! It would also make a great gift for a medical or nursing student. À la santé!
Another surprising find is this cookbook called Une Soupe aux Herbes Sauvages (Soup of Wild Herbs). A slim paperback that gives recipes for country soups by Emilie Carles, pictured. Somehow, I trust her to know her soups aux herbes sauvages. Delicieux!
Switching gears, I'm going to show you one of my favorite books in the aisle. Merde! is a classic grammar/expression usage book by Geneviève. In this book, along with the completely vulgar argot of the street you can find many colorful and useful expressions such as le gros rouge qui tache et qui pousse au crime, which means "the ordinary red wine that stains and incites crime." Or, you might say Je secoue les puces de quelqu'un, which means "I shook someone's fleas," which is to say, you gave them a piece of your mind. If you had some pocket change you might refer to it as la feraille; literally, scrap iron. Use these terms correctly and impress a Frenchman. Use them incorrectly and you might get in trouble.
Now for the sweeter side of the aisle. I found this children's book called Le Chameau Abos by Raymond Rener. It is the story of a sweet camel that tells stories and has an adventure. Lovely simple illustrations give this book just the right feel and will delight you and your petits enfants.
by Diane Rios, January 4, 2010 3:24 PM
Saluts, mes amis bibliophiles! We are back with another look at the treasures hiding in the French aisle at Powell's City of Books! There are too many for each post, so I will show you what I can, hoping that you can stop by sometime to explore further — you can be sure that you will be surprised!
First, this impossibly elegant, soft paperback called Les Chroniques du Château de Fontainebleau by Leon Deroy. Published by Roger et Cie, the paper is wonderfully soft and in excellent condition. The cover text is embossed into the paper and the black and white prints inside are lovely. This is the history of Fontainebleau Chateau and a close account of the life of Francois 1er, who lived there. Charmant!
Now you must see this absolutely stunning and unique book called La Photographie Ancienne published by Le Point, in Lyon. This slender volume has large, clear reproductions of photographs taken in the early 1800s in Paris, and is truly a treasure. It's in fantastic condition — I wonder where it's been all these years? These photos bring a long-gone world into your hands; it is a real time capsule!
For a more modern, colorful look into the past check out this encyclopedia pour les femmes: L'Encyclopédie de la Maîtresse de la Maison. This is a campy but utterly charming collection of domestic how-tos, recipes, definitions, and general household information from the 1950s for every good French housewife. Inside are sweet illustrations of everything from different kinds of rabbits you can raise to ideas on interior design. Très pratique!
Now let's look at this beautiful six-volume set of the works of Molière. A sweet little white cloth set from Nelson Editeur with beautiful black and white portraits and prints illustrating his plays. A treat and a treasure from our drama section to yours!
Here is a very interesting book, Les Toits dans le Paysage. This large-sized, thin paperback from the 1970s shows the works of art that are the country rooftops of France. Thousands and thousands of handmade clay tiles cover the venerable country homes and buildings of France, each one a testament to the craftsmanship and artistry of the country folk who made them.
I want to share this very special book, Impressions Artistiques d'Outre Mer by F. J. Vanderwal. This is a wonderful collection of stories and poems together with beautiful, full-color illustrations and paintings. Published by J. Boutin in 1951, this lovely collection of prose and fine art is sure to make you wish you were there.
I was amazed and un peut choqué when I saw this bizarre treatment of "Tristan et Iseut" come in. For such a classic text this somewhat titillating fantasy cover seems a tad overdone... perhaps an effort to lure in the young people? If not exactly respectable, it is pretty funny!
Here is an interesting little paperback for all of you French rap fans, Rap Ta France: les rappeurs francais prennent la parole by José-Louis Boquet. A collection of stories written by various French rappers, going back to 1976! Old-school, yo!
Finally, and regretfully because there are so many more treasures to share, I present you this très adorable et mignon French children's book, Le Poney Mascotte. This book was written by Gilbert Delahaye and published in 1968. Soft, charming illustrations make this simple, sweet tale a real pleasure to read.
C'est tout pour l'instant, there will be many more books to share with you next time. Until then,
Joyeux Noël et Bonne
by Diane Rios, October 23, 2009 2:45 PM
Welcome back! We are ready for Post Numéro Deux of the Powell's City of Books French aisle blog! I have all sorts of wonderfully unique and out-of-print French treasures to share avec vous!
First, one of my favorite books in the aisle, and one of the smallest…. La Grenadie`re by Honoré de Balzac. This lovely little work of art is extremely delicate and fragile, but the colors of the prints are still wonderfully vivid. Published by Nilsson, this tiny volume is one of the collection de chevet and includes four hand-painted illustrations by Ro Keezer.
Next, let's take a look at this totally hip 1972 biography of Michel Foucault by Anne Guedez. The cover of this slim paperback is of typically swinging mid-century design. I'll bet Foucault himself didn't know he could look this cool. This edition is part of the Psychoteque series from publishers Editions Universitaires, and would look fabuleux in the philosophy section of one's bookshelves, non?
Let's wander down the aisle now to this delightful contemporary poetry anthology, Dernières Nouvelles, which includes Chavaroche and Salinie, that was published by Fanlac in 1999. This paperback has a nice black and white illustrated cover. It is a fac¸on chouette (very cool way) to add some modern poetry to your personal collection.
Further on we find this totally amazing 1924 volume, Ferat, containing a poem by Cocteau and art by cubist Serge Ferat. The soft paperback pamphlet is filled with 33 delicate black and white prints. It is absolutely beautiful (love those peaceful cows!) and was published by Valori Plastici in Rome.
Now we come to the Genre subsection and I submit for your perusal two books that could not be more different from each other. First, a wonderful biography of George Simenon called Le Dossier Simenon, by Roger Stéphane, and Poltergeist: La Vengeance des Fantômes (Poltergeist: The Revenge of the Ghosts). Quelle horreure!! Poltergeist is a quick and scary read featuring everyone's favorite little blond ghostbuster on the cover, and Le Dossier is much more dignified with its "hip-to-be-square" photos of Georges Simenon's bowtie on the cover, published by Robert Laffont. Very different books, but similarly tempting, I think!
Here is another book that might entertain you (and your friends!) called Le Barman Universel (The Universal Barman). This is a handy 1950s pocket hardback that outlines 600 recettes de boisson or drink recipes. It's got neat little 1950s drawings of various drinks and glasses and drinking accoutrements. There is also some drink history including the story of Flips, a family of traditional hot drinks that have a fizzy beer mixed with other ingredients to create a kind of mousse. Incroyable!
Take a look at this absolutely beautiful book called L'Esprit de la Lettre dans la Peinture (The Spirit of the Letter in Painting) by Jean Leymarie. This book is a love letter to the marriage of writing and art. The large, creamy pages are individually mounted with prints and paintings from across the centuries. A wonderful collection and a very romantic gift.
I found this beautifully illustrated children's book, La Secret de la Dame de Coeur (The Secret of the Queen of Hearts), written by Chantal de Marolles. The beautiful story is made magical by the soft, elegant watercolor illustrations by Marthe Sequin-Fontes. Très Charmant!
These are just a fraction of the hundreds of exceptional French books found in aisles 817 and 818 of the Red Room at Powell's City of Books. I will be back toute de suite to share more of the treasures I find there. Meanwhile, come down to the French aisle and enjoy some time making your own discoveries.
What We're Reading
by Diane Rios, September 10, 2009 1:00 PM
Welcome to the perfectly new and merveilleux
blog about the Powell's City of Books French aisle. The Red Room
is home to a whole world of foreign-language books located on the deuxieme étage
Allow me to introduce you to an entire bookstore within a bookstore in French located in aisles 817 and 818. We have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful French books from leather-bound tomes of the 1800s to slim 1970s paperbacks. You'll find a 1950s book by Simone de Beauvoir called Lettres à Sartre (Letters to Sartre) near an early '60s paperback called Balzac, Lui-Même (Balzac, Himself), as well as many of the best 2009 releases in fiction, history, grammar, and French audio. And let's not forget the latest band-dessinées, or graphic novels! Allons-y!
For this debut post, I would love to show you a cross-section of my personal faves, starting in literature. Feast your eyes on this DARLING five-volume set of Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas. Published in 1924 these sweet little volumes from Collection Nelson Editeur are tiny treasures each with its own beautifully illustrated cover. They have seen some wear and so are protected with mylar, but the pages are in decent shape and the set looks beautiful on the shelf.
Here is another old treasure, just put on the shelf yesterday. Derniers Essais de Literature et d'Esthetique by Oscar Wilde.
This is a leather-bound book published by Librairie Stock in 1913. The book is worn, but elegant with its softly sueded leather spine and curious purple block patterned boards. Very cool! Chouette! As a supplement to your Oscar Wilde collection we also have a nifty 1960s paperback edition of Madam Oscar Wilde.
Next up, let's turn to one of my favorite sections: childen's books.
Of course, here you'll find copies of classics like Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) and Le Petit Prince, but did you know we also have Hortend Entend Un Zou! (Horton Hears a Who!), as well as Les Oeufs Verts Au Jambon (Green Eggs and Ham). We also have beautiful vintage children's French books such as this 1930s copy of Toutou Et Autres Bêtes. Très adorable, non?
Young-adult fiction is a growing market, even in the French aisle. You'll learn some pretty fun vocabulary in these books. I found that the word for "wand" in French is baguette magique!
Another of my favorite subsections is Miscellaneous Nonfiction which can mean almost anything under the sun. I'm always finding unexpected treasures in this section like Les Mains Parlent (The Hands Speak) — an early 1960s paperback on reading palms.
Today I found this beautiful book Le Livre de la Vierge (The Book of the Virgin) which was published in 1961 by Arts et Métiers Graphiques in Paris. It's a wonderful collection of 91 full-color prints of absolutely beautiful religious paintings accompanied by 77 poems from the 12th to 20th century. And dig that crazy cover. Love the red tear drop!
You might not have known that you needed a book about arms and armors, but you do now. Check out this cool book Armes et Armures by Vesey Norman. A 1964 hardback edition from Hachette, it has great black and white photos of suits of armor and very neat illustrated end papers.
I was intrigued by this pair of mineralogy books. First Belles Roches Beaux Cristaux (Beautiful Rocks, Beautiful Crystals) by M. Deribere, published in 1956, and then Le Monde Merveilleux Des Pierres Précieuses a l'État Natural (The Marvelous World of Precious Stones in their Natural State) by Pierre Bariand, published in 1979. Even though I'm no crystal expert, the large photos and interesting mid-century design, not to mention the information about rocks en Français, wins me over.
Now, we must jump to poetry because today I discovered two very mod hipster books from the Poètes d'Aujourd'hui series published by Pierre Seghers Editeur. These 1960s paperbacks have a cool, square design and great photos.
Number 82 is about the Senegalese poet Leopold Sedar Senghor who was the first African to sit on the Académie Française. He was also a professor, a senator, a mayor, and the co-creator of the fifth republic's constitution!
The next is about Aimé Césair, a Carribean writer who founded the literary review Tropiques and worked throughout his life against colonialism.
Moving along to art, I want to show off this fantastique 1954 copy of Folies Bergère by Paul Derval. This is a delightful paperback with its beautiful colorful cover. The large pages are of soft paper and are mounted with black and white photos of the legendary club and its star performers such as Josephine Baker and Maurice Chevalier. Holding this book is like holding history, with the essence of the era still seeped into the paper!
All of the beautiful, out-of-print used books at Powell's are like time capsules. From the paper that was used at the time, to the style of illustrations or photos, the typeface of the time, and the binding, all are completely unique and cannot be recreated. I find the used French books to be especially fascinating because a lot of them came fr