Archive for Stephen Zweig

the 101 favourite novels of Le Monde readers

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2020 by xi'an

Le Monde called its readers to vote for their five favourite novels, with no major surprise in the results, except maybe Harry Potter coming up top. Before Voyage au bout de la nuit and (the predictable) A la recherche du temps perdu. And a complete unknown, Damasio’s La Horde du Contrevent, as 12th and first science fiction book. Above both the Foundation novels (16th). And Dune (32nd). And Hyperion Cantos (52). But no Jules Verne! In a sense, it reflects upon the French high school curriculum on literature that almost uniquely focus on French 19th and 20th books. (Missing also Abe, Conrad, Chandler, Dickens, Ishiguro, Joyce, Kawabata, Madame de Lafayette, Levi, Morante, Naipaul, Rabelais, Rushdie, Singer, and so many others…) Interestingly (or not), Sartre did not make it to the list, despite his literature 1953 Nobel Prize, maybe because so few read the (appalling) books of his chemins de la liberté trilogy.

I did send my vote in due time but cannot remember for certain all the five titles I chose except for Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit (2nd), Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (74th) and maybe Fedor Dostoievski’s Brothers Karamazov (24th). Maybe not as I may have included Barbey d’Aurevilly’s L’ensorcelée, Iain Pears’ An instance at the fingerpost, and Graham Greene’s The End of the affair, neither of which made it in the list. Here are some books from the list that would have made it to my own 101 list, although not necessarily as my first choice of titles for authors like Hugo (1793!) or Malraux (l’Espoir). (Warning: Amazon Associate links).

Claire Voisin’s CNRS Gold Medal

Posted in pictures, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , on December 27, 2016 by xi'an

voisatrLast week, I attended the award ceremony of the Gold Medal of the French Scientific Research Council, which may well be the most prestigious scientific award in the country. It was awarded this year to Claire Voisin who is a specialist in algebraic geometry.

While I ended up in the meeting by the chance occurrence of Jean-Michel Marin visiting me, it was an impressive event with great talks from Claire Voisin (with a poetic praise of the complex exponential) and the CRNS Head, Alain Fuchs, but also quite enjoyable and mostly a-political discourses from the two Ministers attending the ceremony, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Thierry Mandon, who both mixed quotes from classics with some appreciation of Claire Voisin’s work. Even if one may suspect that those discourses were not (completely) written by the speakers (even though Mandon went looking for a Zweig’s quote during the meeting and ended up reading it from his phone, which was clearly unrehearsed!), they were delivered with enough conviction to be, well, convincing!

voiseuxThe event took place in the Grand Amphithêatre de la Sorbonne, which looked much nicer in the evening than when I attended the IUF rentrée a few weeks ago. And the classic (19th) paintings on the walls of this part of La Sorbonne made the ensuing cocktail even more classy. (Not that we had any opportunity to mingle with the Ministers, who are most likely too risk-adverse to be drawn in potential debates on the status of [funding] French Academia and academics…)

An update: on the road to Normandy, to visit my mother, we listened to a one-hour interview of Claire Voisin on France Culture that was a very good layman introduction to the maths she works on. (In French only.)