In this month’s edition of its Literary Majlis, Paris – Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi hosted famed French writer Jérôme Ferrari, professor of philosophy at Lycée Louis Massignon – Abu Dhabi and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt. The salon touched on this year’s rentrée littéraire, or literary season, in France, its main characteristics and advantages.
The salon was attended by Dr. Fabien Chareix, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs, and Mr. Vital Rambaud, Mr. Vital Rambaud, head of the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi French Studies Department., as well as a host of young writers and PSUAD students.
Mr. Rambaud noted that PSUAD’s literary majlis seeks to introduce French and Arabic literature. It is a platform for young talent to share their ideas and creative energies and to discuss the challenges of producing their works; it also casts light on success stories to encourage young literati to sally forth.
As moderator of the literary salon, Mr. Rambaud said, “It is crucial for students to recognize the role of literature in their lives and the importance of studying literature. It is necessary to turn such knowledge into general cultural for the public. Any renaissance stems from “feeling”, that burning force that drives people toward their goals. Then the mind sets in and acts as a guiding light for this drive. Literature is thus the language of “feeling”. No culture, no civilization can flourish without literature.”
Jérôme Ferrari observed that the French literary season is indeed a national event that celebrates the release of hundreds of new titles every year and is testimony to the vibrancy of French publishing.
“The literary season is without a doubt a major highlight of French cultural life and generates tremendous enthusiasm in the media and among the public. Every year, no less than 600 titles are published during the rentrée littéraire to the great delight of book lovers whether they enjoy detective, historical, or science fiction,” Mr. Ferrari said.
Mr. Ferrari observed that there are “over 10,000 publishers in France, including the Big Three, or Galligrasseuil for short (Gallimard, Grasset, and Éditions du Seuil), and small regional and specialized publishers whose catalog features over 50,000 titles each. There are another five thousand publishers who release less than 10 books per season.”
Mr. Ferrari said that such diversity allows literary activity to thrive, despite French readers’ preference for how-to books, arts books, comic books, and YA books. French readers are showing a growing interest in modern novels, plays, and poetry, not to mention the highly popular literary essays genre.
Mr. Ferrari noted that 70% of the French population are avowed readers, although they are still partial to print books despite the rise in digital publishing and electronic downloads. This can be seen in the soaring sales generated by the literary season across bookstores in France which enjoys one of the world’s densest publishing networks.
Mr. Ferrari affirmed that the UAE is helping to cement cultural and intellectual ties between peoples. He revealed his wish to write a novel about his stay in Abu Dhabi and the city’s international population and diverse cultural communities, its unique environment that he had never experienced elsewhere, as well as the UAE’s unequaled blend of authentic heritage and modernity.
Mr. Ferrari said that his interest in teaching philosophy to high school seniors is rooted in his conviction that students at this stage enjoy the maturity, eagerness, and capacity for critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis.
“At this point, students are young adults and need to think for themselves. Philosophy is taught as a methodology for thinking. I personally place the power of imagination as a foundation for exposure to everything else,” he observed.
It is worth noting that Jérôme Ferrari was born on the French island of Corsica in 1968. He has published seven books since 2001: Variétés de la mort; Aleph zéro; Dans le secret; Balco Atlantico; Un dieu un animal; Où j’ai laissé mon âme; and Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome which was awarded the 2012 Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary honor and one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes.
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