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CULTURE

France’s ‘prince of letters’ Jean d’Ormesson dies aged 92

Jean d'Ormesson, an aristocrat and prolific author who was among France's most popular intellectuals, died early Tuesday, his daughter told AFP. He was 92.

France's 'prince of letters' Jean d'Ormesson dies aged 92
Photo: AFP
Hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as the “prince of letters”, d'Ormesson became the youngest member of the Academie Francaise, France's elite literary body, in 1973.
   
The count — whose full name was Jean Bruno Wladimir Francois-de-Paule Le Fevre d'Ormesson but went by the nickname Jean d'O — wrote around 40 largely autobiographical novels.
   
He made his cinema debut aged 87 in 2012 playing former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand in a comedy, “Haute Cuisine”, based on the true story of the leader's chef.
   
D'Ormesson had been a regular guest at Mitterrand's table.
 
Photo: AFP   
 
Thin, elegantly turned out with mischievous blue eyes, the bon vivant d'Ormesson was a frequent face on French television.
   
Little known abroad because his novels were not translated, he was honoured in 2015 by the publication of his body of work by the prestigious Pleiade publishing house.
 
Born in Paris on June 16, 1925, d'Ormesson spent his childhood as the son of a diplomat, in Germany, Romania and Brazil. Jean d'Ormesson
   
He took a degree in philosophy at the prestigious Ecole Normale, held a number of political posts and headed the conservative daily Le Figaro from 1974 to 1977.
 
Photo: AFP
   
His literary career took off with the publication of “La Gloire de l'Empire” (The Glory of the Empire) in 1971, awarded by the Academie Francaise.
   
After a protracted battle with bladder cancer in 2013, his book “Comme un Chant d'Esperance” (Like a Song of Hope) pondered the origins of the universe and the vagaries of fate.

CULTURE

How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.

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