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CULTURE

In Pictures: Paris Grand Palais to get €500 million revamp

France unveiled a spectacular near half-billion-euro ($613-million-dollar) overhaul of one of its beloved buildings Monday, driving a new pedestrian boulevard through the Grand Palais in Paris to link the Champs Elysees with the River Seine.

In Pictures: Paris Grand Palais to get €500 million revamp
he plans for the renovation of the Grand Palais terrace. Photo: AFP
Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said the huge project will completely open up the enormous complex of galleries and exhibition spaces which also houses the city's Palace of Discoveries science museum.
   
First built for the Exposition Universelle world fair in 1900, which helped cement the rise of the Art Nouveau movement, the giant glass vault of its main building has become a landmark of the city.
   
The new light-filled pedestrian street driven through the complex will allow visitors to enter it through a central concourse uniting the museum, the Grand Palais galleries which host blockbuster exhibitions and the main exhibition building, Nyssen said.
 
Photo: LAN
 
She said the French state will fork out 288 million euros of the 466-million-euro $572 million) budget.
   
The French fashion label Chanel, whose designer Karl Lagerfeld uses the Palais for his hugely theatrical shows, is donating 30 million euros towards the costs.
 
In return, the original grand ornamental entrance to the Palais will be named after its founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.
 
Photo: Francois Chatillon Architecte 
 
The building will close completely for more than two years from the end of 2020 so that the work can be completed in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024, when it will host the fencing and Taekwondo events.
   
Nyssen said the complex is unwieldy, under-equipped and in need of serious renovation and in a “state which compromises its capacity to welcome the public and its long-term future.”
   
But that will all change thanks to the masterplan by Franco-Italian architects LAN (Local Architecture Network), which also envisages a new roof terrace with panoramic views over the French capital.
 
Photo: LAN
 
The new “street” through the complex — baptised the “Rue des Palais” — will be open to pedestrians and house ticket offices, cloakrooms and restaurants and end in a garden overlooking the Seine.
   
The first parts of the remodelled complex will open in the early months of 2023, the architects said.
 
Photo: LAN
 
Photo: LAN
 
The outside of the Grand Palais today:
 
Photo: AFP

HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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