Mr Senator-Mayor, Mr Minister, Dear Jean-ClaudeGAUDIN,Mr Deputy, Mr Minister, Dear Renaud MUSELIER,Mr Director of the Library of Alexandria, Dear IsmailSERAGELDIN,Mr President of the BnF, dear Bruno RACINE,Mr President of the SNCF, dear Guillaume PEPY,

"There are doors on the sea that one opens with words," said the
great Spanish poet Rafael Alberti.
This beautiful maxim seems perfectly suited to what
we are – what you are doing today: opening
doors to the sea, that is, to the bottom, to the world with these
fragile, harmless and yet so strong: books.
It is a question here, in their epicentre that is Marseille, of making dialogue at
open book two metropolises, and two libraries among the most
the National Library of France and of course,
the most mythical of all, the Library of Alexandria,
ashes after more than fifteen centuries of annihilation.
This is a new, unheard-of, almost unusual gesture, that of
from hundreds of thousands of books to one library at a time
new and old and which is, in all consciences, the image of
the Library par excellence, this Library of Alexandria
that Alberto MANGUEL evokes with very strong words: Indistinct,
colossal, omnipresent, tacit architecture of the Library, which none
has never described, continues to haunt our dreams of a universal order".
This large convoy is, in a sense, a modest contribution to a
"universal order", in any case to a universal dream which is the dream of the
knowledge and Enlightenment.
The Universal Library is a paradoxical place. It is both outside the
world and the world – because in the billions of pages it contains, there are
place for a thousand times our world. It is a fascinating place, because at the
both circumscribed and infinite, both closed and open to the worlds
and the infinite openings to which it initiates.
No one spoke better than Jorge-Luis BORGES of silent murmuring
and vertigo that haunt libraries, especially the first
and the most famous of them.

Every library is a challenge to time and so is this whole adventure
in its own way. The same time challenge as underwater research
teams of Jean-Yves EMPEREUR who have helped to wrest
waves and to the oblivion of the fragments of the no less prestigious Lighthouse
of Alexandria. The same challenge at the time as the rebuilding of a new
Library of Alexandria resolutely modern, where the old had
a lasting memory. And today, this generous and
unusual to make all these French books cross the sea has something
of antiquity. It is a challenge to time that sounds like a belated response
the original gesture of PTOLEMY SOTER (that is, in Greek, the
Savior), the founder of the city of Alexandria and its famous
This general of Alexander had in fact written to all the sovereigns that he
knew for them to send him all the books published in their
realms. He thus sketched, at the bottom, a kind of legal deposit on the scale
a dream that no one else has yet taken up – not even
Google!… I’m kidding, but in the digital age, it’s not absurd
to think that these accumulated heritages can one day be reunited and
made available on the screen. It’s a gigantic task, but
exciting, because the communication of cultures, their
and their universal transmission. You know that I have
asked the Commission du Grand Emprunt to make a special effort
dedicated to digitizing our printed materials – such as those of the
National Library of France – but also of our cultural heritage
in general, images, paintings, films… Because I am convinced
that the digitization of funds is the great challenge of tomorrow’s culture
which can finally be, thanks to the Internet, a culture for everyone.
This is one of the many common points between the Bibliotheca
Alexandrina and the National Library of France which are both
engaged in impressive digitization programs, which will
are launched, both, in the archiving of the Web, which both finally
participate with UNESCO and the Library of Congress in the
World Digital Library. Because that’s all your talent, sir
the Director, dear Ismail SERAGELDIN, that to know how to organize the fidelity
to the ancient and prestigious ancestor that was the Library of Alexandria not
by developing a pale and vain copy, but by making the Bibliotheca
Alexandrina a heritage institution resolutely focused on the future,
at the cutting edge of modernity.
And this also applies to the other great tradition that the ancient
Library: the organization of knowledge. Because, if completeness offers the
guarantee to find everything, it does not at all ensure that we will
I’m thinking of General STUMM, this fun
character of The Man without Qualities, Robert’s masterpiece
MUSIL, which, in another famous library, the one in Vienna, seeks
the key to knowledge, the book of books. But the good general
of course, they can’t do it and they end up in a mess. Nobody
can help him find "this summary of all the great thoughts of
"Humanity", this "book on the realization of the essential", which he seeks ... This
fable not only reminds us that such a book does not exist, but also
that quantity is nothing without protocols, experiences, knowledge
structure. This is valid on the Internet as
in a Library.

There is the time of the quest for books, their progressive accumulation that
aims to create a total, universal memory. Then comes the time of the
control imposed by an order, alone capable of allowing navigation once
in the ocean of papyrus, today in that of data
There resides, from Alexandria, the specific work of the librarian who
tirelessly invents tools for sorting, cataloguing, cataloguing, linking
the data between them, gather or constitute corpus and sometimes
become in turn publisher as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina us in
sets an example with the superb digital edition of the priceless
Description of Egypt, as the BnF also shows with its files
or the exciting France/Brazil portal it comes from
with its Brazilian counterpart.
The digital does not sign the death of the librarian, it gives him
a new youth. Nor does it sign the death of the book,
I even think he can to some extent revive it. The
photos I saw from the superb reading room of the Bibliotheca
Alexandrina seems very eloquent to me. It shows hundreds of
readers, often young, with a stack of books on their very table and
especially when the screen is on at the same time.
This is why I am delighted that Bruno RACINE, President of the BnF,
has chosen to relaunch cooperation between the two libraries through a
gesture as spectacular as this donation of 500,000 French books and I am
very proud to send today the first container.
I am pleased that such a wide range of publishing production
thus become easily accessible in Egypt, to the
library of Alexandria, and may be made available to a public
francophone, more than we think here, who have
our culture of deep, close ties that continue to enrich us
in return.
It is of course the other dimension of this gift that I would like to emphasize.
Thank you, dear Ismail SERAGELDIN, for your work in support of the
Francophonie, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina being one of the members
founders of the Réseau des Bibliothèques Numériques Francophones
launched in 2008, to which the BnF also works with determination. Thank you
for the place that French already has and will have even more tomorrow
Library of Alexandria, as the impeccable testimony of your
commitment to cultural diversity and the dialogue of cultures.
Because France has actively supported the Bibliotheca since the beginning
Alexandrina is of course because of the special relationship that exists
between Egypt and our country, it is also because from the outset the
new library in Alexandria was considered a symbol
culture and peace. It is by pooling our books, not
by taking us to whatever single book we find the
path of dialogue. Democratic and cultural pluralism begins
by the plurality of readings. What more beautiful symbol than a

With this donation, the BnF strengthens its professional ties with your
institution but above all it illustrates France’s desire to
so that, alongside Egypt, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is the
library not only of Egypt and the Arab-Muslim world,
but also the whole Mediterranean, its languages and cultures.
As you know, this is the wish of the Cultural Council of the
Mediterranean, chaired by Renaud MUSELIER, whom I thank
for the support he was able to implement as soon as he had
knowledge of this beautiful operation.
I know that other equally remarkable projects are being prepared in the
and I want to assure him that my department will bring everything
its support. Because the development of cultural relations between the
France and the Mediterranean basin and, more broadly, between Europe and the
south shore of the Mediterranean is for me a priority. MARSEILLE, where
where this afternoon we will lay the foundation stone of the MUCEM, the
Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean is, as I said,
the epicenter. And it is no accident that the Union for the Mediterranean is co-chaired,
as everyone knows, by Presidents MUBARAK and
SARKOZY, both determined to advance this great project.
Finally, thanks to Bruno RACINE and his teams and thanks to Guillaume PEPY
and the SNCF, which, through its generosity, allows the
works to Alexandria. I understand that this operation will
to March. So I am giving you an appointment for the month of
March for its sequel and its extension. You know, it exists in France
operations called "pass-books", to share his love of
books and reading: you leave a book on a bench, someone gets
and so on. Well, even before these
operations have developed significantly in our country,
I have the pleasure of launching today a sort of gigantic bookcase,
from one shore to the other of the Mediterranean.
And at the same time, these transhumance books just go back to
within the myth of the Universal Library of which Alexandria has
Knew, for millennia, to embody the face.
Thank you.