We previously published a blogpost about Cambridge University Library’s French acquisitions in relation to Women’s History Month. For International Women’s Day, we would like to shed light on three inspirational women featured in recent French language publications. Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier was a photographer, a Communist and a resistante. Uyaïnim was a member of the Jivaroan peoples in Peruvian Amazonia who fought for indigenous and women’s rights, and Nina Bouraoui is a Franco-Algerian writer whose works address question of identity and homosexuality.
Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier was a reporter and photographer, a resistant and Communist politician. She came from a liberal bourgeois family, daughter of Lucien Vogel, editor of the magazine Vu, and of Cosette de Brunhoff, sister of the creator of Babar and of the editor of Vogue. A pioneer woman photographer, she travelled to Germany in 1933 and was the first to photograph the camps of Oranienbourg and Dachau. She met a friend of her father, Paul Vaillant-Couturier, editor of communist newspaper L’Humanité, and became his partner, marrying him shortly before his death in 1937. During the war, she contributed to clandestine publications and worked as a messenger for the resistance. She was arrested in 1942 and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and then Ravensbrück. She returned to France in June 1945, testified at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and became a Communist member of parliament. She has been the subject of two biographies :
Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier : une femme engagée, du PCF au procès de Nuremberg / Dominique Durand, Balland, 2012.
On l’appelait Maïco : Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier, la révoltée / Yseult Williams, Bernard Grasset, 2021. C206.d.8481
Uyaïnim, or Albertina Nanchijam Tuwits, from the Awajun / Aguaruna people (part of the Jivaroan peoples) in Peruvian Amazonia, became a spokeswoman for indigenous rights and the defense of women. Her memoirs are written through a collaboration with ethnologist Hélène Collongues. They speak of years of pressure put on the land and Amazonian indigenous people by the farmers and colonisers; the suspicion towards and failure of development projects; as well as the discrimination and deculturation faced by native people through educational missions. The narrative also exposes issues within patriarchal indigenous societies, from internal divisions and warfare to exploitation of and violence against women, also highlighting the corruption brought by the introduction of money and greed within these communities.
Nina Bouraoui was born from an Algerian father and a Breton mother. Her novels deal with questions of memory, identity, homosexuality, and nostalgia for Algeria, where she lived until she was a teenager. She was distinguished as Commandeure de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French ministry of Culture in 2018, and since the 2010s has been the subject of a number of critical studies.
Beaux rivages, JC Lattès, 2016, C204.d.9787
Tous les hommes désirent naturellement savoir, JC Lattès, 2018, C206.d.1617 (All men want to know / Nina Bouraoui ; translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins. London : Viking, 2020 & 2021, LSF)
Otages, JC Lattès, 2020, C206.d.6938
Satisfaction, JC Lattès, 2021, C206.d.7485
Critical studies :
Rabiaa Marhouch. Nina Bouraoui : la tentation de l’universel. Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2023, 739:47.c.202.1
Belgacem Belarbi, Nina Bouraoui, une nouvelle sensibilité littéraire, Sarrebruck, Editions Universitaires Européennes, 2022, C219.c.4993
Myriam-Naomi Walburg. Zeit der Mehrsprachigkeit : literarische Strukturen des Transtemporalen bei Marica Bodrožić, Nina Bouraoui, Sudabeh Mohafez und Yoko Tawada. Würzburg, Ergon Verlag, 2017, C213.c.7656
Rosie MacLachlan. Nina Bouraoui, Autofiction and the search for selfhood, Oxford ; New York, Peter Lang, 2016, 735:44.c.201.92
Kirsten Husung. Hybridité et genre : chez Assia Djebar et Nina Bouraoui, L’Harmattan, 2014, C209.c.4543
Mokhtar Atallah. Études littéraires algériennes : Albert Camus, Nina Bouraoui, Boualem Sansal, Ahmed Kalouaz, L’Harmattan, 2012, C207.c.1905
Almost as soon as the European Languages Across Borders blog was created, it started recording prizes for French language books (see French prizewinners for 2013). Before that, French literary prizewinners already featured in the webpages dedicated to Cambridge University Library’s French Collections. Prizes have long been an indicator of literary and cultural trends, reflecting the reception of contemporary writing, and contributing to its promotion and diffusion, on a national and international level. 2022 can be remembered as the year when Annie Ernaux became Literature Nobel Prize laureate. Prizes are also a useful tool in collection development. Here is a list of French and Francophone prizewinners for 2021-22. Among Francophone prizes, the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Mondestill has to be awarded.
Comar d’Or: En pays assoiffé / Emna Belhaj Yahia, Des Femmes Editions, 2021, C206.d.6950
Annie Ernaux received the 2022 Nobel Prize in Literature “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory”. Although a prolific and successful writer who from the 1970s has tackled personal and provocative subjects (such as abortion and female sexuality), she has often been criticized for the alleged poverty of her style. Continue reading →
CAIRN is a Francophone online platform originally founded by four French and Belgian publishers: Belin, De Boeck, La Découverte and Erès, focusing on social sciences and humanities periodicals. More recent partners include the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the University of Liège and the Centre National du Livre. In the past few years, especially since COVID (when the platform offered the library free access to all their ebooks for the month of May 2020), we started acquiring CAIRN ebooks, as well as receiving statistics about our readers’ attempts to access ebook titles on the platform.
Based on these information, and in order to continue diversifying the range of French and Francophone material available to our readers, while also taking into account the pricing of the ebooks, we recently made a bulk purchase of more than 200 titles selected from the Cairn catalogue, including both new and older publications that we did not already have in print. Members of Cambridge University Library now have access to about 450 CAIRN ebooks titles, available through Raven, either on iDiscover, or directly on the CAIRN platform and other websites, if you use the Lean library plugin. We are now in the process of upgrading online catalogue records for the newly acquired ebooks, which includes adding subject headings. Continue reading →
In my previous blog post, I examined a selection of the texts in the Bibliotheca Hermetica series, a recent addition to our catalogue. In this post, I wish to take a wider view of alchemy, and how the material connects people of different time periods. History is inherent to each manuscript, not only detailing the provenance and creation of each work, but also how the content shaped the lives of the people who read it. In this way, the collection of alchemical texts in the UL is a rich fabric of interwoven connections and textual interpretations, which spans centuries of academic understanding, creating almost a visual mind-map of human curiosity and giving the impetus to discover and learn more.
Carl Jung, circa 1935.
One particular example of how ideas interconnect across time, is Carl Jung, the Swiss 20th century psychiatrist, and The Secret of the Golden Flower(9840.b.17). Although psychology and alchemy may appear to be vastly different fields of enquiry, Jung’s approach to his specialism had a lot in common with the historical alchemists he researched. Like them, he was concerned with the unification of opposites, focusing primarily on the conscious and the unconscious, a theme he noted in a variety of Eastern archetypical images. Jung’s concept of individuation is also reminiscent of Western alchemical practices. In differentiating the self into conscious and unconscious elements, Jung was applying to psychology techniques which alchemists had applied to early approaches to natural science. Continue reading →