“Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible” May 1968 France

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“Be realistic, ask the impossible” was one of the many slogans of the French unrest in May-June 1968. May last year was the 50th anniversary of the upheaval, which arouses mixed feelings in French society, depending on the political ideas of each individual. There was a debate in 2017 about Emmanuel Macron’s idea of celebrating May 68, when it had been an anti-governmental, non-institutionalised movement; it certainly led to many cultural events in 2018, including the BnF exhibition: The spirit(s) of May 68. Cambridge University Library purchased many of the publications on May 68 which came out around the time of the anniversary, including 1968 : de grands soirs en petits matins (C214.c.7787) and L’esprit de mai 68 (C205.d.9998). Here we highlight some of the books we have received in the past year or so. Continue reading

The Martin Stone collection of French illustrated poetry, 19th-20th centuries at Cambridge

Cambridge University Library has just acquired a collection of about 230 French illustrated poetry books ranging from 1841 to 1970 and beyond. They were collected by Martin Stone, an English guitarist as well as rare books dealer and collector who passed away in 2016. The collection consists mainly of outstanding first editions, many of which printed on special paper and containing signatures and dedications by and to prominent figures of the Parisian art world (Cocteau, Apollinaire, Marie Laurencin etc.). It is very strong from a literary perspective, with major or lesser-known French and Belgian poets, ranging from Symbolist and Decadent writing to the 20th century Modernist avant-gardes, which reverberated across the globe.

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Poèmes de Jean Lorrain. Paris: Léon Grus, 1896. Sheet music. Composer Gabriel Pierné. Cover by Lucien Métivet.

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Princess of Asturias award: Fred Vargas

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By Marcello Casal via Wikimedia Commons

Fred Vargas (pseudonym of Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau) has recently been awarded the Princess of Asturias award in its literary category. Cambridge Professor of  Classics, Mary Beard, received the corresponding award for Social sciences in 2016.

Although Fred Vargas is a historian and archaeologist, she is also known for being a successful crime novel writer. In fact, she started writing thrillers for fun, as an escape from her academic occupation. Her novelist career began with the publication of Les jeux de l’amour et de la mort (C205.d.7969) which won the Festival de Cognac novel prize. Continue reading

“Holocaust Literature” in the Liberation Collection

Everybody knows about Ruth Klüger or Primo Levi; Imre Kertész won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2002, and Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. These authors are famous for their autobiographical texts about the Shoah, which they wrote after having survived the Nazi extermination camps. Their books are well known, they became part of the literary canon and have led to a lot of scholarly research.

The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection in Cambridge University Library offers a promising addition to that field of research, because the collection keeps very similar, though much lesser known books. As the Liberation Collection focuses on books published between the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 and the end of 1946, the collection’s accounts of the Holocaust rank among the earliest testimonies of Nazi crimes, deportation and mass murder during the Second World War. These testimonies range from written accounts to documents and even paintings and illustrations. Even for research focused on books about the extermination camp of Auschwitz, the Liberation Collection offers a diversity of genre, tone, biographical background and emphasis.

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French and German prizewinners 2017

Following on from the recent post on Italian prizewinners, we now turn our attentions to the latest winners of major French (last covered in May 2017) and German (last covered in March 2017) prizes.

The Prix Goncourt was awarded to L’ordre du jour by Éric Vuillard (C205.d.4186).

The Prix Interallié went to Jean-René Van der Plaetsen for Nostalgie de l’honneur       (C205.d.4224).

Daniel Rondeau won the Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française for Mécaniques du chaos (C205.d.4223).

The Prix Médicis was awarded to Yannick Hanenel’s Tiens ferme ta couronne (C205.d.4222). Continue reading