Thursday, January 21, 2010

Taipei International Book Exhibition to offer rare glimpses of French authors’ manuscripts

By Nancy T. Lu

Men who wanted to put down their thoughts and ideas in readable form sat down to literally write them long before the invention of the typewriter and the computer.

Famous French writers like Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, Honore de Balzac, Emile Zola, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marcel Proust and Colette left behind painstakingly handwritten manuscripts now in the safekeeping of the Bibliotheque national de France.

Visitors at the forthcoming Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE) 2010 will be able to see reproduced manuscripts, including mainly but not confined to the literary scribblings of French authors like Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud. Of the manuscripts on view, the one attributed to composer Hector Berlioz is expected to arouse special interest, too.

The book fair will open at the Taipei World Trade Center’s Hall 1, 2 and 3 on January 27 and will run until February 1. France, as the country in special focus once more this year, will present some of the manuscripts.

In 1988, the Bibliotheque national de France undertook to organize an exhibition showing the use of the French language by writers all the way beyond France’s borders. Original manuscripts in the archives were selected to become highlights in a rare display.

No less than 439 titles were included in the exhibition as told in the book, “En francais dans le texte: Dix siecles de lumieres par le livre” (Text in French: Ten Centuries of Knowledge Through the Book)

The manuscripts of French writers of renown promise to be a subject of great curiosity. The photographs in the published book unravel the classic beauty of the lines and strokes executed perhaps with a traditional plume. Changes and corrections mar and even dirty some of the pages. Margins are often covered with more scribblings. The consistent individual writing styles of these pen-pushers, however, can only draw admiration.

Reproduced photographs from “En francais dans le texte: Dix siecles de lumieres par le livre” show the manuscripts of (from top) Marcel Proust, Honore de Balzac and Guy de Maupassant.

Meanwhile the interesting black-and-white photography of Robert Oisneau will put writers like Francoise Sagan (see picture at the bottom) and Samuel Beckett in the spotlight.

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