Former French president Jacques Chirac died on September 26th at age 86. After one of the longest political careers in this country - he was twice Prime Minister, twice President (1995-2007), and mayor of Paris for 18 years - he left a mixed legacy of hits and misses. Best known for his strong opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, he was the first French president to apologize for France’s role in the Holocaust. He ended military conscription, improved road safety, and reduced the presidential term from seven years to five. But he also resumed nuclear testing in atolls in the French Pacific, and when his center-right government tried to pass much-needed reforms to combat high unemployment and growing inequalities, the country suffered paralyzing strikes and widespread urban rioting. He made no more attempts at reform.
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AIX BOOK FESTIVAL
This year's guest of honor at the annual Fête du Livre of Aix-en-Provence was Louise Erdrich, American author best known for her writing on American Indians and their fading and threatened culture. Amerindian herself, Erdrich was born to a German father and an Ojibwe Indian mother, and is a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa nation of North Dakota. In the tradition of William Faulkner, she shines a light on today's Native Americans so long ignored in literature, and has been compared to Toni Morrison and Arundhati Roy as a woman writer dedicated to making the voice of her heritage heard worldwide. Her seventeen novels to date have garnered many prizes, including the National Book Award in 2012 for The Round House, and she has received the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction as well as the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
German actress Hannah Schygulla (Werner Fassbinder's muse) gave a reading from Erdrich's work.
Louise Erdrich was accompanied by Lisa Halliday who rose to instant fame in 2018 with her debut novel Asymmetry, and by Nurrudin Farrah, exiled Somali writer currently living in South Africa, whose novels and plays have been recognized with a number of international literary prizes in Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, as well as the US-based Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the Lee Hochul Literary Prize for Peace in South Korea.
As always, it was a fascinating multi-cultural event, highlighting the importance and the limitless reach of art, more than ever needed today in our divided and conflict-ridden world.