E6S1 Jonathan Galassi

Jonathan Galassi has been at the helm of the legendary publishing house Farrar, Straus & Giroux—one of the most literary publishers in the U.S.—for more than 30 years. He is the Antoine Gallimard of America, if you will. He’s also an eminent translator of Italian and French poetry and a poet himself.  Jonathan Galasssi walked over to my apartment one spring morning, carrying a giant tote bag of French poetry. We talked about French and American poetry (6:33), how French authors get published in the U.S. (16:05), Michel Houellebecq (20:35), and his favorite spots in Paris (29:34). It was a wonderful and poetic morning, as you’ll hear in this episode. 

Show Notes

The below notes are designed to enrich the listener's experience by further explaining the more obscure French references mentioned throughout the show.

6:33 Yves Bonnefoy

One of the great French poets of the 20th century, Yves Bonnefoy was awarded the Goncourt Prize for Poetry in 1987. His works include On the Motion and Immobility of DouvePoems: 1959-1975 (Random House) and The Curved Planks (FSG). He was also known for his translations of Shakespeare. 

10:05 Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Apollinaire

Three major French poets. Charles Baudelaire (mid-19th century) paved the way to modernity with his collection Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil). Baudelaire greatly influenced the following generation, including Stéphane Mallarmé (second half of the 19th century), a symbolist poet, author of Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance). Its unusual typographic layout anticipated poems by Guillaume Apollinaire (early 20th century) and other surrealist writers. His most famous works include Alcools and Calligrammes.

11:45 Dégueulasse

Informal term meaning disgusting, filthy, but also morally revolting. Sometimes shortened to “dégueu.” The formal equivalent is “dégoûtant.”

12:00 Les Choses by Georges Perec

Les Choses (Things) is Georges Perec’s first novel. Rather than focusing on the two characters, the novel lays great emphasis on things, as the protagonists try to find happiness in material comfort and consumerism.

12:51 Brise Marine

Written by Mallarmé in 1865, this poem expresses a disgust of the present, a fear of the writer’s block, and a drive to go and discover new horizons. 

15:37 Édouard Louis

Author of En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (The End of Eddy), Histoire de la violence (History of Violence) and Qui a tué mon père (Who Killed My father), Édouard Louis is known for his depictions of violence – physical, moral, and social – as a literary subject. He is also a politically engaged intellectual supporting the left.

17:23 Jean Echenoz

Contemporary French writer, author of twelve novels, including Cherokee (Prix Médicis 1983) and Je m’en vais (I’m Gone) which won the Prix Goncourt in 1999.

20:37 Michel Houellebecq

From Extension du domaine de la lutte (Whatever) to Les Particules Élémentaires (The Elementary Particles)Soumission (Submission) and most recently Sérotonine (Serotonin), Michel Houellebecq has been a bestselling author in France and internationally. He has been involved in several controversies around accusations of misogyny, racism, and islamophobia.

23:43 HHhH by Laurent Binet

This debut novel recounts the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 known as Operation Anthropoid. It was awarded the Prix Goncourt for a First Novel in 2010.

29:47 Palais-Royal

Former royal palace located in the 1st arrondissement in Paris, opposite the Louvre, it was home to figures like Richelieu and Queen Mother Anne of Austria. It is now the seat of the Ministry of Culture, the Conseil d’État, and the Constitutional Council. 

List of French authors mentioned in the episode: Guillaume Apollinaire, Charles Baudelaire, Laurent Binet, Yves Bonnefoy, Emmanuel Carrère, Jean Echenoz, Michel Houellebecq, Maylis de Kerangal, Édouard Louis, Amin Maalouf, Stéphane Mallarmé, Georges Perec.