Albertine Books Opens in New York

Posted in books by Editor on October 10, 2014


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It’s an intriguing model for a what bookstore might be, a model that underscores the cultural and ideological work such a store can do, and this at a time when we seem to hear only about the economics of bookstores. William Grimes covers the story for The New York Times (9 October 2014). The next step will be getting the store to host an eighteenth-century festival. CH

From the Albertine:

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York is pleased to announce the opening of Albertine Books in French and English, the new reading room and bookshop devoted to works in French and in translation on Saturday September 27, 2014. Named after the beautiful, omnipresent and unknowable female character in Marcel Proust’s classic In Search of Lost Time, Albertine will offer the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in New York, with over 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries in genres including novels, non-fiction, art, comic, or children’s books.

Housed in one of the few remaining iconic Stanford White-designed mansions on Fifth Avenue, Albertine was designed and fashioned by French architect Jacques Garcia, in the model of a grand private French library. The two-floor space includes a reading room and inviting nooks furnished with lush sofas and armchairs.

Albertine will also be a venue for French-American and European-American debates and discussions on subjects varying from politics to economics to art, literature or sciences and will explore classical culture through a modern and global lens. To highlight its role as an exciting new hub for intellectual debate in New York City, Albertine will present a six-night festival from October 14–19, curated by cultural critic and author Greil Marcus, featuring French and American artists and thinkers.

The Albertine team looks forward to welcoming you to our bookshop!

Spread the word to all your francophile and francophone friends.

972 Fifth Avenue (between 78th & 79th street)

Opening Hours
Monday to Thursday and Saturday: 11–7
Friday: 11–10
Sunday: 11–6

Follow Albertine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @albertinebooks

2 Responses

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  1. Emanuel Molho said, on October 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    The mandate of the French Ministère de la Culture is clear; it is to HELP bookstores— NOT compete against them (please see below)

    Published March 26, 2013

    French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti has unveiled part of the government’s plan to shore up independent booksellers, despite earlier fears that she would be unable to commit any money because of France’s huge budget deficit. The government wants to ensure that France “never suffers the same fate as the United States” with “the collapse of several [bookshop] chains.”

    Ironic, is it not, that the funds have somehow been found to spend millions on a government bookstore within the French embassy in New York?

    The French Cultural Counselor openly proclaims “sales aren’t the primary goal.” Albertine has been underwritten by sponsors including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Total Corporate Foundation and Air France as well as the French government at a collossal cost of millions of dollars. “There is no rent, which is a big New York problem,” he said. “We have the freedom to show the books we love.”

    There is not a business entity in the world that would not dream of being subsidized by its deficit-laden-government as well as strangely altruistic (wonder what the quid pro quo is)) multinational conglomerates and French charities (Patrimoine de France) and pay neither rent nor taxes. Moreover, the heavily-subsidized Albertine disingenuously competes on a very unlevel playing field with all the American independent booksellers—the very ones they purport to be helping, but cannot because of “France’s huge budget deficit”— who import and sell books from France (un soutien financier aux acquisitions de livres français par des librairies implantées à l’étranger (dispositif géré par le Centre National du Livre).

    The internationally-reputed Librairie de France, founded in 1928, carried on in Rockefeller Center for 74 years with no financial assistance whatsoever. It was forced to close in 2009, owing to a staggering rent of $1,000 per day. Pleas for partial rent assistance to the French government fell on deaf ears. An editorial in the Nouvel Observateur proclaimed ” Emanuel Molho alerted the Cultural Service of the Embassy of France, who did not deign to reply. No one moved. No help was offered. Le pays de Montaigne regarde mourir, dans l’indifférence, l’unique vitrine, là-bas, de son génie et de son humanisme. A croire qu’ils sont bel et bien revolus.”

    The millions spent on the beautiful Albertine inside the residential French embassy could have been more wisely-allocated in recreating the Librairie de France to become the world’s finest French bookstore, a shining symbol of Francophonie and France, in the Channel Gardens Rockefeller Center, one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the world (accessible to 350,000 American and international visitors per day, and double when the Christmas tree is lit in December). It could have showcased French literature and culture in double the Albertine space to millions of American and international visitors, not just the handful of New Yorkers who may or may not travel to 79th Street and FIfth Avenue.

    Difficult to understand. Then again, c’est normal.

    • Editor said, on October 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks, Emanuel. All really interesting. -Craig

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