You can be there for democracy. . . Vive le Festival Albertine 2018!

author against a bookshelf

Journalist Masha Gessen curates provocative 2018 Festival Albertine.

“To be a democracy,” writes courageous and prodigious journalist, Masha Gessen, “a country has to be engaged in the pursuit of imagining a democracy. In times of crisis of democracy . . . we need to be doing the work of imagining.

“The insistence that ‘it can’t happen here,’ betrays a failure of the imagination,” counters Russian-American Gessen. “The experience of seeing a country turn away from democracy trains the imagination to know that ‘it’ can happen anywhere. But the demagogue dangles a carrot for the imagination: he traffics in what the social psychologist Erich Fromm called “the imaginary past.” The antidote for the appeal of the imaginary past is a vision of a glorious future, and this is where we fail… [T]ragically.” As we see – daily.

“. . . Can we come back from tragic failure?” At the behest of the French Embassy Cultural Services and their Albertine bookstore, Gessen imagined six Festival programs to inspire our vital effort.

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Try to imagine how your grandchildren will relate to Work!

photo portrait of bearded man

Economics Nobelist Joseph Stiglitz is known for his critical view of laissez-faire colleagues:

The future of work, or, rather, the world after work. . . . Can we imagine a time, suggests Masha Gessen, when we value people not for what they produce but for who they are – and what might this future look like? Note: Eventbrite RSVP required. This session of Festival Albertine 2018 will incite you to consider how your descendants will relate to work – in the company of an American Nobel economist, plus a leading AI scientist and teacher, and a distinguished economist, both of the latter, French.

Not only the founding director of Facebook AI Research and of the NYU Center for Data Science, Yann LeCun now is Chief AI Scientist at Facebook, teaches at NYU (Silver Professor) and  Continue reading

Set in 1944 Paris, “Memoir of War” resonates now

Mem of War posterNovelist Marguerite Duras’s Hiroshima Mon Amour scenario, directed by Alain Resnais (1959), was the first French film to leave a permanent mark on my psyche. Many years later, Duras authored a semi-autobiographical story of the German occupation of Paris, La Douleur (1985) that seems to have had a similarly durable effect on director Emmanuel Finkiel. An effect he tried and – fortunately – failed to resist. “I remember telling myself: I will never dare to adapt La Douleur!” he told an interviewer.*

I saw Finkiel’s film version of La Douleur (2017) at a Paris premiere. Titled Memoir of War; the film played at prestigious U.S. cinema venues and will represent France as the country’s official submission to the 2019 Academy Awards.


In a haunting adaptation of her semi-autobiographical novel, already famous author Marguerite Duras (consummately interpreted by Mélanie Thierry) must navigate the Resistance and the Gestapo to find her imprisoned husband. His deportation to Dachau propels her into a desperate high-risk game of psychological cat and mouse with a Nazi collaborator (Benoît Magimel is beyond duplicitous). But as the months wear on without word, Marguerite must begin the process of confronting the unimaginable. Using subtly expressionistic images and voiceover passages of Duras’s writing, director Emmanuel Finkiel evokes the inner world of one of France’s most cherished contemporary writers. Continue reading

Hear author Gérôme Truc on Shell-shocked: The Social Response to Terrorist Attacks

Author / sociologist Gérôme Truc dissects our response to terrorist attacks.

Author / sociologist Gérôme Truc dissects our response to terrorist attacks.

Whenever they occur, terrorist attacks elicit expressions of grief and solidarity from millions of people around the world. Why do so many feel intimately connected to events they may not have experienced personally?

Sociologist Gérôme Truc draws from his field work in cities targeted by terrorism to better understand the impact of terrorism on contemporary societies.

Gérôme Truc is a tenured research fellow at the CNRS and Member of the Institut des Sciences sociales du Politique. He teaches at the École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay. Truc’s work focuses primarily on social reactions to terrorist attacks with particular attention to moral and political sociology. He also wrote, Assumer l’humanité. Hannah Arendt: la responsabilité face à la pluralité (Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 2008

Shell Shocked movie poster

Break-through book: Shell Shocked explains contemporary societies’ response to the impact of terrorism.

“Je suis Charlie.” Revisiting how ordinary individuals lived through, and responded to, the attacks of 9/11, of 11 March 2004 in Madrid and 7 July 2005 in London, the author of Shell-shocked sheds new light on these events. Analyzing the political language and the media images — the demonstrations of solidarity and the minutes of silence, as well as the tens of thousands of messages addressed to the victims — Truc reveals the vast ambiguity of our feelings about the Islamist attacks. And he brings out the sources of the solidarity that, in our individualistic societies, finds expression in the first person singular, rather than the first person plural: ‘I am Charlie’, ‘I am Paris.’

Like many who lived through one of these cataclysms, I remain residually shell shocked, and drawn to the subject. If that’s how you feel, (re)visit the 9/11 Memorial (Museum Auditorium, Atrium Terrace Level) to hear and question a sociologist who’s studied the subject in new depth. Details: Link via the red Calendar button below.

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