3.00 FYI France: Enewsletter and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Mar 15, 1997 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on March 15, 1997.
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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France enewsletter, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Enewsletter subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us .


From kessler@well.com Sat Mar 15 14:14:53 1997

Date: Sat, 15 Mar 1997 13:59:39 -0800 (PST)

FYI France: "Magazine Littéraire" on Libraries

1) Hello to everyone at the Salon du Livre! In honor of the event, File 5 of the FYI France Online Service -- Book - Dealers in France -- will continue to be available for free for an additional month, along with File 1 Print Libraries in France and File 9 Internet Training & Consulting. Come visit -- http://www.fyifrance.com .

2) "Magazine Littéraire's" December issue, devoted to "L'Univers des Bibliothèques d'Alexandrie à Internet", should make fascinating reading for anyone here.

Among its several excellent features:

* Roger Chartier, historian of the book and of reading par excellence and chief "scientific advisor" to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, is interviewed in depth about the histories of "manuscripts", "collections", "classification", "catalogs", and "transitions in media". "The great risk is," Chartier says, "that once a text has attained some sort of electronic status, its traditional media format will be abandoned... this is the risk of a loss of memory, a loss of significance, a loss of procedures, a loss of the very understanding itself of a written culture, for which the primary textual medium was the printed book." [All quotations which appear here are translated from the French by JK.]

* Arlette Farge, CNRS researcher and author of a recent book on archives, evokes the different "atmospheres" of different libraries: how the "Arsenal" differs from the "Ville de Paris" from the "Musée de la Police" -- a matter of "architecture", "collection contents", the attitudes of librarians and readers...

* Jean Roudaut presents a passionate "evocation" of libraries in all their different roles, as gathering places, monuments, places of power and ostentation, and sometimes symbols of daily life as mundane as "green plants, coffee tables and TVs".

* Jean Favier, historian par excellence and recent President of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, is interviewed in depth about that institution's plans: "on schedule", "open to the public", "well - organized, along modern rather than its old 19th century lines", "online", with "online cataloging already containing 13 million records" -- Favier is a fierce and formidable proponent of the institution which he has been heading. The BnF head had better be. The BnF is controversial globally as it is even more in France. It has been expensive. It continues to take great chances and to run great risks. But it is open and under way, and this chief has been up to the challenge of defending and promoting it.

* Nathalie Ferrand then presents the dream, "Les bibliothèques virtuelles", an easier task than Favier's at the BnF where digital access is only one part of the problem. Ferrand's "digital library" excursion tours through "libraries... which exist merely on computer screens connected to the Internet", "Frantext and ARTFL", "Electro - chroniques de François Rabelais", "Voltaire électronique", "ABU" and "Project Gutenberg" and Ted Nelson's "Xanadu". This is ironically an easier world to imagine now, to denizens of the "digital age", than the messier and much more difficult 10+ million decaying printed volumes which the BnF -- also enamored of the new digital technologies -- must pack and move and somehow preserve and make accessible.

* Olivier Corpet then is interviewed about his fascinating "Institut Mémoires de l'Edition Contemporaine / IMEC" project, to assemble and make accessible the vast archives of French commercial publishing firms: names such as Flammarion, Hachette, Larousse -- over 150 of them, to date -- and including journal archives ("Esprit", "Revue des Deux Mondes", etc.), and authors' papers (Althusser, Barthes, Beckett, Camus, Duras, Paulhan, etc., etc.).

* Jean - Christophe Abramovici then writes on as interesting a topic: the history, and only recent disappearance, of the "Enfers" in French libraries to which books thought objectionable for taste but also other reasons traditionally have been consigned -- hoards of historical information now being mined by many historians and writers.

* Michel Delon describes the burning of books: the cultural symbol which has evolved from the historical myths of the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria to the recent cruel realities of the bombing of Sarajevo's library. A dramatic photograph of the Sarajevo Library ruins offers evidence that the cultural philistinism of the end of the first half of this century still is very much alive now at the end of its second.

* Claude Leroy presents an "inventory" of the ways in which books and the ideas which they contain can in fact completely disappear. Among the more recent "Phantom Books" which he describes, evoking Eco's warning of the burining of the Aedificium in "The Name of the Rose", are Dante's sonnets for Angelieri, Büchner's "L'Arétin", Dostoevsky's first version of "The Idiot", Aragon's and Breton's "Troisième Faust"...

* Gérard de Cortanze then suggests the ideas of "library" which have been formulated by its most assiduous users, authors: from Agatha Christie's "The Body in the Library" to Charlie Bukowski to Sartre and Cannetti, Valéry and Cervantes, and of course Borges, writers have included their place of sometime ecstasy and much labor and despair in the very works which they research and often write there.

* Eco, finally, is brought inevitably into the discussion, here by Alexandre Laumonier. Laumonier is taken -- perhaps more than Eco himself is -- with the parallel between medievalist semiotics and the Italian writer's fascination with libraries. "The Name of the Rose", says Laumonier, "is the work of a semiologist who was formed, at least in part, by structuralism... it is thought about signs, apparently in play but in reality serious, which interests Eco..." Signs perhaps, but also medieval theology and manuscript preparation and human motivations and medicinal herbs and a good mystery and even a little sex: Eco is a complicated person -- "The Name of the Rose" is not a simple book.

Whether Umberto Eco has as straightforward a "message for libraries" as Laumonier believes him to have is questionable: "a library is nothing more than a great book formed by other books" -- but the words are Laumonier's, not Eco's -- Eco's "library certainly is unrealistic for the Middle Ages, the descriptions which we are given make us think more of Lovecraft or Borges than of medieval historical documents...". But as a description of the medieval mind -- and certainly of the late medieval theological mind -- Eco's Aedificium "library" imagery perhaps is without peer. (Eco's closest direct assault -- published -- on "library definition" advocates, "above all, no toilets".) Still, we owe to Laumonier, whatever are the complexities of describing Umberto Eco, his having brought the Italian savant into the discussion.

* "Magazine Littéraire" also has been careful to include a fascinating array of illustrated sidebars: "La Bodleian Library", "La Bibliothèque Apostolique du Vatican", "La London Library", "La Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal", "La Bibliothèque Ducal" [Wolfenbüttel], "La Bibliothèque Laurentienne", "La Bibliothèque de l'Escurial", "La Bibliothèque National de Russie", "La Newberry Library", "Trinity College Library", "La Bibliothèque du Congrès", "La BPI de Beaubourg", "La British Library".

* There also are the short book reviews which are the magazine's raison d'être, these on subjects of much interest to readers attracted to the above articles: "Le Pouvoir des bibliothèques" by Marc Baratin and Christian Jacob, "Le Livre interdit, de Théophile de Viau à Sade" by Abramovici who contributed the article on the "Enfers", "Trésors de la Bibliothèque nationale de France" by Marie - Hélène Tesnière [see FYI France for Jan 15, 1996 -- Fyarch/fy960115.htm ], and the new and magisterial "Nouvelles Alexandries. Les Grands Chantiers de bibliothèques dans le monde" by Michel Melot.

"Magazine Littéraire", No. 349 December 1996, 30 F on the newstands in France, $8.25 in San Francisco. Not inexpensive, but well worth it this time. So little time, so many books -- and magazines...


FYI France (sm)(tm) e - newsletter        ISSN 1071 - 5916

      |           FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic newsletter,
      |           published since 1992 as a small - scale, personal,
      |           experiment, in the creation of large - scale
      |           "information overload", by Jack Kessler. Any material
     / \          written by me which appears in FYI France may be
    -----         copied and used by anyone for any good purpose, so
   //   \\        long as, a) they give me credit and show my e - mail
  ---------       address and, b) it isn't going to make them money: if
 //       \\      if it is going to make them money, they must get my
                  permission in advance, and share some of the money
which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their
permission. FYI France archives are at  http://infolib.berkeley.edu
(search for FYIFrance), or via gopher to  infolib.berkeley.edu 72
(path: 3. Electronic Journals (Library-Oriented)/ 6. FYIFrance/ , or
http://www.univ-rennes1.fr/LISTES/biblio-fr@univ-rennes1.fr/ (BIBLIO-FR
econference archive), or via telnet to  a.cni.org , login  brsuser
(PACS / PACS-L econference archive), or at  http://www.fyifrance.com .
Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison - pen
letters all will be gratefully received at  kessler@well.sf.ca.us .

        Copyright 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.

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Last update: June 23, 1997.