Maud Simonnot: "The issue on women is an amused response to the apprehension aroused by my arrival at the NRF"

Maud Simonnot: “The issue on women is an amused response to the apprehension aroused by my arrival at the NRF”

Since your arrival at the head of the NRF, have you operated a small revolution in this institution which is more than a hundred years old?

In reality, the change is essentially “physical”: I enlarged the format of the magazine and decided to offer each issue under a different cover, with images and titles in colour. It seemed to me that when we relaunched the NRF on sometimes burning social issues, it was necessary to illustrate this new birth with a more current model. For the content, I subscribe to a certain continuity, even if the choice of thematic files allows me to propose contributions to authors of all ages and all nationalities, sometimes unexpected authors from very varied backgrounds. I like the idea that a great wind of freedom is blowing on the magazine in this way.

The sequel after the ad

A woman at the head of the legendary Gallimard review is a first…

First of all, it should be noted that even if she was not officially “director”, before me, Dominique Aury (known by her author name, Pauline Réage), worked for a long time in the shadows for the review. Then I am certainly a woman but also a publisher and a historian of publishing. I believe that this is above all what guided the choice of my appointment by Antoine Gallimard. I am also one of the youngest people to have been offered the management of this venerable institution: it is this sign of confidence and this involvement in the present and the future that seem to me the most important.

Precisely the issue to be published devoted to a dossier on women. Can you tell us more?

The choice of theme was essential because it is deeply rooted in our time. It is also for me a form of amused response to the apprehension that I felt in some people when they learned that I was inheriting the mythical magazine. And I am very proud of this rich dossier which brings together novelists like Julia Kerninon, Nathalie Azoulai or the philosopher Claire Marin and men paying homage to Clarice Lispector or Lesley Blanch, Romain Gary’s first wife. Reading a text like that of Hélène Gestern on “The neutral”, we understand that writers have their place in the public debate, with their finesse and their acuity. Finally, this March issue will welcome Annie Ernaux. She opened her “ideal library” to us when she had just received the Nobel Prize.

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48 hours in Italy with Annie Ernaux, Nobel Prize for Literature

You also discuss the new unreleased Louis-Ferdinand Céline?

It was natural for the NRF to accompany the end of the publication of Céline’s found manuscripts. However, we take a step aside from the exegeses that have already appeared thanks to interventions by Céline connoisseurs, but also more fanciful fictions. We will finally have the chance to present in this March issue an unpublished short story by Céline entitled “The disgusting old woman”… I won’t tell you more so as not to spoil the surprise effect for our readers!

Do you think magazines still have a role to play in our world of immediacy?

There’s no denying that journals are losing momentum. But for me, magazines do not belong to a bygone era, they allow writers to have a privileged space of expression for their poetic texts and to participate in the debate of ideas. This is why I want to offer two dossiers in each issue, one societal and the other more literary. After Proust and Céline, the NRF will focus in the fall on “The other side of publishing” with tributes from writers to unknown personalities and professions. Which are nevertheless essential cogs in the world of books.

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The New French Review, Spring 2023published on March 23, 144 ill. pages, 12.99 euros.

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