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 L'Odyssée de Passeur D'Aurore (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). The great adventures of the English children in Narnia are vivid and compelling, especially in French! These editions of the venerable classics are bright, glossy paperbacks with delightful illustrations. Here we have the scene where Lucy and Eustace fall into the painting and into the sea where they are rescued by the magical ship, the Dawn Treader.
Finally, and regretfully because there are always so many more books to show you than I can possibly fit into each blog post, we come to my final selection: Garfield Casse la Croûte (Garfield Breaks the Crust, or Garfield Chomps the Snacks). It is truly amazing how much funnier Garfield is in French. There is an innate dry drollery in French that is lacking in the English version. Perhaps Garfield seems a bit more like Baudelaire in French than John Belushi in English.
Je vous invite to come down to the French aisle at Powell's City of Books to leisurely browse our vast selection. You will want to take your time perusing the poetry, drama, and art sections. Linger over the children's books, find old friends and new heroes in the young adult section, or just surprise yourself with the amazing variety in the miscellaneous nonfiction section, my personal favorite. Until next time, bon printemps à tous!