September 26, 2014
Bonjour, Albertine! French embassy to open a bookstore in NYC
by Julia Fleischaker
When you’re opening a bookstore in New York, it’s a pretty big bonus to have a space that costs you nothing. Which is the fortunate position that Antonin Baudry finds himself as he prepares for opening day at Albertine Books, a new bookstore and reading room inside the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue. The embassy’s Cultural Counselor (and the author of Weapons of Mass Diplomacy), Baudry told the Wall Street Journal he wants the store to be “welcoming, in the spirit, if not the Bohemian quality, of beloved bookstores like Shakespeare and Company in Paris.” From the embassy’s website:
Named after the beautiful, omnipresent and unknowable female character in Marcel Proust’s classic In Search of Lost Time, Albertine will offer the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in New York, with over 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries in genres including novels, non-fiction, art, comic, or children’s books.
Housed in one of the few remaining iconic Stanford White-designed mansions on Fifth Avenue, Albertine was designed and fashioned by French architect Jacques Garcia, in the model of a grand private French library. The two-floor space includes a reading room and inviting nooks furnished with lush sofas and armchairs.
Albertine will have everything from the classics to contemporary literature, and stock books both in French and English. The store will also have an active events program, kicking things off with a six day program curated by Greil Marcus.
“The good bookshops are not only bookshops. The good bookshops are something more,” he said, walking through the new store on a recent morning as construction workers made finishing touches.
At Albertine, Mr. Baudry added, visitors “can stay here for four hours and read books. Nobody is going to push them to buy anything.”
Publishers Weekly quotes Baudry, “Albertine brings to life France’s conviction that literature and the humanities are essential to increasing understanding, empathy, and friendship across borders and cultures.” The store opens Saturday, September 27.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.