European authors support Ukraine

Olivier Guez publishes “Le grand Tour” (Grasset), a 27-hand European anthology in which an author from each EU country recounts a place that evokes the Old Continent. They were at the Hôtel de la Marine on Wednesday afternoon for a round table.

As night fell on the Place de la Concorde, the authors installed themselves in a luxurious room at the Hôtel de la Marine. Shimmering gold and heavy dark green velvet set the tone for an EU Council presidency also placed under the sign of French culture. “It is one of the most beautiful jewels of the ministry”, rejoices Roselyne Bachelot. So elegant.

The Minister of Culture, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, and Olivier Guez, who signs the anthology, confronted the ten authors present. Emmanuel Macron was the great absentee from this evening, but obviously the war in Ukraine leads to other priorities.

“Our emotion takes on the colors of Ukraine tonight,” begins Clément Beaune. The tone is set. The conflict at the gates of Europe is on everyone’s lips. “Long live ‘Le grand tour’, long live free Ukraine and long live Europe”, concludes Olivier Guez in a vehement speech in support of Zelensky’s people. Just before moving on to the debate, Ukrainian writer Andrei Kurkov made sure to send a video message to the authors present tonight. “I ask you to support Ukraine with your talent, your word and your concern for my homeland. The more books you read about Ukraine, the more you will understand why its people are willing to give their lives for the independence of their country. The history of Ukraine is not the history of Russia, it is the history of Europe.

For them, literature should be able to be the cement of the continent

This was followed by more than an hour of debate on Europe, its values ​​and its scars, more raw than ever, by Claire Chazal. Audio guides were prominently placed on the tables but were of little use, most of the authors spoke perfect French. In turn, each one contributed a small piece of their vision of today’s Europe, shaken by the Ukrainian conflict. Several authors emphasize the fragility of the notion of border, constantly pushed by departures or requests to enter. For them, literature should be able to be the cement of the continent. The names come up in the conversations: Zweig, Churchill, Kundera, Diderot, Cervantes too, and his irony admired by Olivier Guez. They reflect a desire to go back to basics, to seek out the fathers of Europe in order to follow in their footsteps.

Maylis de Kerangal advocates the urgent need for an incarnated Europe, while until now it represented only an abstract idea. Everyone regrets that it took an armed conflict to see it.

The evening ends in the courtyard of the Hôtel de la Marine where the languages ​​and accents of happy and worried authors resonate. You could almost hear a new European motto: united in adversity.

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