Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lourmarin Festival du Livres Anciennes

For the 100th anniversary of the birth of Albert Camus,   Monsieur and I went to Lourmarin, near Aix en Provence in the Luberon,  where the Salon du Livre Ancient et de la Bibliophilie was being held.  Lourmarin was once the home of Camus and his wife and his daughter, Catherine Camus who still lives there ( and who we met).   The book festival takes place here about every two years.

  We were pleased to be asked to the dinner at the Chateau which closed the week-long festival.  Monsieur was helpful to the organizers in obtaining some of the exhibits. 

Photo of Lourmarin Castle.  Sisyphus Organization.f

The Lourmarin castle was the setting for the exhibition which consisted of a chronological representation of all of Camus' work... along with precious memorabilia ...some which had never been exhibited.  This included posters, photos, cards, manuscripts and correspondence.

   Saturday evening just after we arrived, was to be a "lecture" by Pierre Arditi.  Having been invited by the Sisyphe organizers of the Exhibition,  we were expected to attend, but I was afraid that the discourse would be way beyond my expertise, would be given by a boring professor ( I knew nothing of M. Arditi at that time) and would test my meager french skills to the limits.  Also I had mis-interpreted  the word "lecture" which means something entirely different in French.  After a 3 hour drive from Nice, I was hardly in the right frame of mind for it all.

   The line was long and when we were finally seated , we waited another 3/4 of an hour in a crowded , overheated"salle"  while I was seriously wondering what in the world I was doing there and "whose idea was this anyway"?

  But all of a sudden my "people watching" was interrupted by a charismatic man walking onto the stage,  letting fall a funny story , putting us at ease,  and beginning to recite passages in a trained and mesmerizing voice.    The audience, myself included, was captured and transfixed from that moment and it was obvious to me that this was no university savant but a talented actor and reader who loved his subject ( Camus).   And it became clear that Lecture means " a reading".

Pierre Arditi  photo by

 After the treat of what I now know was the free offering of one of France's most beloved theatre actors, Pierre Arditi,  we were in a much better mood.  But as we walked up to the castle, I again began to fuss that I would not have the expertise to talk to these obviously serious collectors and intellectuals who had been asked to the dinner.

 Here again I was pleasantly surprised, was treated with all of the courtesy of an honored guest, and got to sit next to one of the most pleasant couples I have ever met.  Dominique was a passionate collector and he and monsieur swapped tales of "search and seizure and the one that got away", while Brigitte and I added our two cents,  joining in the passionate exchange .

 It was a wonderful evening as we sat in our Arabian tent and ate a delicious cous-cous...(a nod to Camus' Algerian upbringing) .  Afterwards I wondered at all the misconceptions that I sometimes still bring to living in France.

I will say this:  where in the States, in a tiny village would you get thousands of enthusiasts pouring in from surrounding towns and cities to attend such a cultural event?

 The cultural life is alive and thriving in France .   All musical events, operas, art exhibits, dance, poetry  and "lectures", especially philosophy have a special place in the hearts of most Frenchmen, and not just those with university educations.       And this really pleases me.  I have so much to learn and such good company to learn it in while I am here.   


  1. Oh fantastic, how my dad would have loved that!


  2. What an amazing experience.


  3. Yes, I was so glad that I didn't crump out. It was great, really.

  4. Loved this blog post. What a cool experience.