Inside the French Heritage Society’s Book Awards
French Heritage Society bestowed its third annual Book Award upon Caroline Weber, author of Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris. Gathering at a private club on the Upper East Side last week, the evening began with cocktails before moving into a larger salon for the award presentation and program.
“It is our goal to foster Franco-American friendship, amité, and understanding,” said Elizabeth F. Stribling, Chairman of the Board of Directors of French Heritage Society. “What better means to learn about France than through books!”
In presenting the award, Jennifer Herlein, executive director of French Heritage, spoke on behalf of Christian Draz, French Heritage Society Book Award Co-Chair and Board Member: “Whatever offense her three society divas may have taken at being used as creative fodder for Proust’s satirical fiction, they would surely be highly flattered by the extraordinary lengths to which Caroline went to document the truth of their real and often difficult lives.” Said Ms. Weber, “I was excited when the French Heritage Society asked me a few years ago to moderate the discussion with their Book Award winner, Luc Sante. I did not imagine I would be in the other seat — ever. Thank you for this honor.”
In a staged conversation with Cheryl Hurley, former president of the Library of America, Weber illuminated Proust’s milieu with insights culled from her extensive research.
Guests at the diner that followed included Barbara de Portago, Bénédicte de Montlaur (Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States), Anne-Claire Legendre (Consul General of France in New York), Geoffrey Bradfield, Cece and Lee Black, Odile de Schietere-Lonchampt, Patricia Forelle, Sana Sabbagh, Steven M.L. Aronson, Veronique Bich, Victoria Wyman, and Yann Coatanlem.
The French Heritage Book Award recognizes and honors a nonfiction work of literary, scholarly or aesthetic distinction that illuminates for the general public either an important element of French cultural or historical patrimony or the considerable and noteworthy influence France, its citizens and its culture have had in shaping American history, thought and culture.
The evening was made possible by Co-Chairs Elizabeth Stribling and Christian Draz; the Book Award Steering Committee, Yann Coatanlem, Janet Desforges, Patricia Forelle, and Clydette de Groot; and the New York Chapter Co-Chairmen, Guy Robinson and Odile de Schiétère-Longchampt.
A jury comprised of Anne Poulet, Bruno Racine, and Elaine Sciolino chose Proust’s Duchess unanimously from a shortlist of four non-fiction titles that illuminate elements of French cultural or historical patrimony in interesting ways.