How to Talk About Books that You Haven’t Read


Well,  zut alors! A distinguished French literary professor has become
a surprise bestselling author by writing a book explaining how to wax
intellectual about tomes that you have never actually read.

Pierre Bayard, 52, specialises in the link between literature and
psychoanalysis, and says it is perfectly possible to bluff your way through
a book that you have never read — especially if that conversation happens to
be taking place with someone else who also hasn’t read it. All of which just
goes to confirm what I’ve always thought about French academics, which is
that mostly they are oversubsidised frauds.

Obviously I haven’t read Mr Baynard’s book; but it is in the spirit of his
oeuvre that I shall proceed to write about it anyway. The first thing to say
about   Comment Parler des Livres que l’on n’a pas Lus (
How to Talk About Books that You Haven’t Read) is what a
wonderfully French concept this is. The French take great pride in their
intellectual patrimony, considering themselves to be pretty much the
inventors of most forms of high art, something that irritates other nations,
especially the Italians, a great deal. For them it is crucial to be able to
hold their own in a literary conversation, a mark of cultural honour that is
the very essence of French-ness. The trouble is, in these busy times, who
apart from Alain de Botton has time to really get to the bottom of Proust?

Read the full article at The Times Online

View the Télérama vidcast (
Réalisation :Pierrick Allain, in French)

[Thanks Chris!]


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