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October 2004 - Festival America

Americans have long had an interest in French literature. Many, for example, are at least aware of the names Jules Verne (Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea), Alexandre Dumas (The Count of Monte Cristo) and Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past).

Festival AmericaHowever, few may be aware that many French have a great interest in American literature. Travelers to Paris this October will have the opportunity to appraise the extent of this interest during an extraordinary event entitled “Festival America – Literatures of North America”. The conference, to be held on October 14 – 17, is organized by the Festival America Association and the city of Vincennes, a small town adjacent to Paris. It is sponsored by numerous agencies and organizations including the French Ministry of Culture and the American Embassy in France.

The festival will bring together fifty writers from the North American continent and the Caribbean, including Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans. During the four day event, literature aficionados will be regaled with readings, panel discussions, literary debates, a book fair and book signings. Among the writers that will participate in this event are Sherman Alexie (Ten Little Indians), Michael Cunningham (The Hours), and Jane Smiley (Good Faith). Jake Lamar (Rendezvous Eighteenth), an American writer living in Paris, will participate in a panel discussion entitled “Americans in Paris”. Professional interpreters will provide translation for panel discussions and encounters with the writers.

More than a literary event, the festival is a cultural extravaganza of considerable importance. Full-length films will be shown, adapted from the works of a number of the invited authors, including Wonder Boys (written by Michael Chabon, directed by Curtis Hanson), The Ice Storm (written by Rick Moody, directed by Ang Lee) and The Divorce (written by Diane Johnson, directed by James Ivory). Documentaries are also featured, including Howard Fast, Histoire d’un Rouge (a film about American writer Howard Fast, directed by Richard Hamon) and Le Secret des Navajos (a film about Navajo Code Talkers, directed by Michel Viotte).

Photograph exhibits are also on the agenda, including “From the East to the West – Route 66”, by Patricia de Gorostarzu, “The Border”, by Patrick Bard, and “American Dreams” by Caroline Desnoëttes. And finally, to round out this packed program, music concerts will be held, including a mariachi concert on Thursday night, a jazz concert on Friday and Saturday night (performed by Sara Lazarus, an American singer living in Paris and Manuel Rocheman, a French pianist), and a piano recital of American melodies on Saturday night (performed by Bruno Fontaine, a French composer and arranger).

First organized in 2002, the festival celebrates the diversity of North American culture, “a formidable, dynamic cultural mosaic…Indian, Hispanic, African, Anglo-Saxon, French…” The event provides a place where Old Europe meets the New World to exchange ideas and contribute to dialogue between the cultures.

More complete information about the festival is available (in French) on the Festival America web site. Americans who want to meet some of their favorite writers, as well as meet French people who are interested in American culture, will surely not want to miss this event!

Paris Panorama Newsletters for 2004