Address given by Frédéric Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, on the occasion of the ceremony of the remisedes insignes of Commander in the order of the Legion of Honour in Benîte Groult, of Officer in the order of the Legion of Honour in IrèneFrain, Venus Khoury-Ghata, and Nicole Lattès, Commander in the Order of Arts and Letters to Maurice Denuzière, and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters to Anne Golon
Dear Benoîte GROULT,
With passion and generosity, you have never ceased to be
beating with a luminous dignity that won the hearts of all for the
cause of women, and I would like to pay tribute tonight to this
extraordinary lesson of freedom and irreverence that you give us
for so long.
Your childhood has for scenery the privileged universe of the faubourg Saint-Germain,
supervised by your mother, fashion designer, your father, big
decorator, and your Irish nanny who teaches you English at
cradle. And you bathe, very early, in culture, surrounded by your uncle
the great stylist Paul Poiret and rubbing shoulders with the great names of the time, from
Picabia to Picasso, including Marie Laurencin, your godmother, and
Dorothy Parker, whose translation will be your first publication. Férue
of humanities, you study Greek and Latin literatures and
philosophy, which then constitute your reference horizon.
You embark, after the war, in journalism: some short
radio reports, some television reports,
some summaries of films said on the airwaves, remember,
“in a stressed young girl’s voice”. These are your first steps in
writing, first in the company of your accomplice and lifelong friend,
your sister Flora. You dive back into your war diaries,
find the charm of these young girls of Giraudoux, and you share
with enthusiasm your fears and dreams. This Journal to four
hand, published in 1962, places you, Flora and you, in the foreground of a
a struggle that will soon become the battle of a lifetime.
It was in 1975 that you finally entered feminism with Soitelle,
whose success is resounding, even beyond our borders. You
then can find the right words to say femininity, pleasure, body,
offering a whole generation of women the path of liberation. You
struggle in the vessels of the heart against all forms of misogyny,
breaking taboos and freeing writing. You spread your message
feminist to a wider audience through F Magazine that you created
with Claude Servan-Schreiber.
And you have accompanied, throughout your life, all the great
struggles of women of the 20th century, from the right to divorce to the right to
abortion, including the rehabilitation of great feminist figures
and parity in politics. But the feminist battle is also, for you,
a symbolic struggle, including a question of words. As
President of the Commission for the Feminization of Trade Names,
you defend equality even in speech, and seek to free this
language “colonized” by men. President Mitterrand had you
even admitted not to have dared to say «ring» of the Legion
of Honor during your decoration.
Your struggle meets many echoes: women taste little by little
freedom and recognize themselves in your works. Through your writings and your
action, you have succeeded in restoring dignity and nobility to the cause
by presenting a different face - to the greatest benefit of
this constant struggle against these stigmatations which are firands
those who wish they could reduce this major cause of our
It is a matter of harpies and petrol.
You pursue, with equal determination, writing and activism,
with History of an escape, your autobiography, by which you
reach an even larger audience that transcends our borders,
especially in Germany where your books are torn apart. While sharing
your life between Brittany, Hyères and Ireland, you actively participate
to the jury of the Femina Prize which allows you to support the authors
and implement your gift as a talent watcher.
Great defender of freedoms and rights, you are also
one of the lawyers of the Association for the Right to Die
in dignity, especially alongside Mireille Jospin and Claire Quillot.
In The Star Touch, you wonderfully evoke this right that is
for you a positive act, a way of saying that we love
passionately life, real life.
Dear Benoîte Groult, you are one of those women who live up to
their dreams and give up nothing. In this tormented 20th century you
have gone through, you played a major role in
the advancement of women’s rights. Your very name is one of the oriflammes
that this fight needs most.
Dear Benoîte Groult, on behalf of the President of the Republic and
powers vested in us, we make you Commander of the
Legion of Honour.
Dear Irene Frain
When the invitation to travel and the roots intertwine, you are not
never very far. Your writing is indeed the one that knows how to subtly combine the
“horizon blue” from India and Tromelin Island to the “square meadow” of your
Natal Brittany, the one that shapes the imagination of Ernest Renan in his
Memories of youth or the one who inspires Mona Ozouf in Composition
French: Back on a Breton childhood. With you, I am happy
to pay tribute to a great literary personality
and journalism, which has distinguished itself through its
for the defence of the French language and the
Your life began in 1950 in Lorient, a Breton port founded in the 17th century
century by the Compagnie des Indes, Lorient was written in two
words and according to André Breton’s belief in the imperceptible links
weave during a lifetime, in Nadja you will have a predilection all
particular for East and India. From a modest family, from a father
who first belongs to the rural world and then becomes a teacher
long years of captivity in Germany and a mother seamstress who
conveys its interest in fashion, you give a place
and empathy in your life and in your
work. At 22 years old you are the youngest member of Classics in
You and France have brilliantly begun a career as a
Latin literature at the University of Paris III Sorbonne then Classics
at Jacques Decour high school.
In 1979 your career took off again with the publication of your
first essay on the maritime history of your native province, When the
Bretons inhabited the seas, and your notoriety with Nabab will only
growing up. Alongside an important and rewarded literary work,
you make yourself known by regularly writing articles for the
famous Paris-Match magazine, articles that are always noticed because they
analyze brightly, a certain touch of lightness and sometimes a touch of
novelism of current events or portraits of
There are two deep currents in your work: a
passion for issues related to the status of women and a
predilection for the Orient, the two often overlapping.
Your commitment and your humanism are on the stage
Jetsun Pema, the sister of the Dalai Lama,
in a conversation book For the world to flourish, where emerges
a discourse between modernity and tradition, hope and serenity. You take
the defense of Taslima Nasreen, who is engaged body and soul in a struggle,
too often muzzled, against religious fundamentalism and oppression
Bangladeshi women’s rights. Your latest book The Shipwrecked
of L'Ile Tromelin, remarkable for its high literary dress as
the emotion that seizes at the reading of this epic of the survivors of the Useful
received the Grand Prize for Historical Fiction. It illustrates the generosity and
the humanism that inhabits you, in a permanent dialogue between a
“past that does not want to pass” and a present at all image that you
made your own, when you evoke the “true pleasures” that you derive from
small screen by defining yourself as a “television polygamist”
whose appetite feeds your «collection of romance channels» and
your “imaginary frequency”.
Catulle, Tibulle, Properce, Julien Gracq and Lewis Carroll formed between
your literary pantheon. Today it is your acute sense of
intrigue, your sometimes dry writing, sometimes flamboyant, your humour,
your abundant imagination but also your quest for freedom and
justice that is rewarded.
Dear Irene Frain, you convey admirably my idea of the
France, that of a «world country» open to the great wind of history, but
also shaped by the dialogue between peoples and cultures. It is
why, on behalf of the President of the Republic and by virtue of the
which we are conferred, we make you Officer of the Legion of Honor.
Dear Venus Khoury-Ghata,
It was from Sidon that Zeus took Europe, daughter of the king of Phoenicia, cradle
of the alphabet, creating an inseparable link between the Eastern Mediterranean and
the European continent. Like Adonis and Salah Stétié, you belong to
this category of poetic writers whose voice establishes a bridge between two
cultures, two traditions, two languages. You yourself confided that
from all the windows, all the doors of your childhood home in
Beheaded, the gaze was on the tomb of Khalil Gibran.
Your life and being will be marked by the seal of poetry, of writing,
the death of a country or beloved, and the poetess of intensity, you
raise a word of fire, whether it be of love, revolt or
Writing for you traces its groove in existence, creation can
draw its sources from the tragic, this dark source, and as the
river rising to the sea to multiply its strength, you attribute to the words
a saving power, the power to ward off fears, the power to awaken
I would also like to quote you, “setting fire” to the
public hatred. Your Francophone writings are sown with breath
epic Arab storytellers, and if your true homeland has always been the
poem, you cannot forget your country of birth and inspiration,
you cannot ignore the unbearable images of a Lebanon
“who drowned in his blood” as evidenced by this wonderful collection
poems by the individual and the universal The Shadows and their cries.
In 1972, you settled in France out of love and collaborated with the
prestigious magazine Europe, then directed by Louis Aragon, that you
translate into Arabic as well as other poets such as Jean-Claude Renard or
Alain Bosquet. Like poetry and the Francophonie, you are
Spokesman of pain, tension and woman, your work has
also gave pride of place to the critical denunciation of domination
and the raising of women’s voices through literature. Your
poetic work is rewarded with the prize of the society of
Letters in 1993. You are awarded the Mallarmé prize for Le
1987 Death Monologue and Academy Poetry Grand Prize
in 2009 and are among others and in parallel with your admirable
writing work member of the jury of the Mallarmé Prize and Max-Pol Fouchet. The
flame and demand, rigor and exaltation, wisdom and magnitude of
your polyphonic and intimately coherent work are guarantors of the
the major place of poetry within, at the very source of society.
You who knew an intellectual Beirut, a radiant Beirut, a
Beirut of dreams, you who loved a brother poet crushed by
intolerance, cruelty and then stupor, you breathed your breath and
your struggle across borders, genres and languages. The taste of the
fable, the pleasure of storytelling, the meandering of the word, the parable, the image
characterize your poetry as much as the requirement of a writing
virulent and emancipatory. You reveal and criticize in your work
the hypocrisy and avatars of a degraded Lebanese society to which you
remained deeply attached and to which you extend the best of your
weapons: words, with the hope of awakening consciences and making
to revive the moral requirement.
Dear Venus Khoury-Ghata, I am happy to honor a very great
writer and poet, a true «Orpheus au féminin» who
distinguished by its essential contribution of Arabic colors and melodies to the
French language, by a new style manifesting a sensitivity outside the
but also by a frantic quest for life and truth. Venus
Khoury-Ghata, you are a resistant and a poet of flowers
carbonized, those flowers that rise from the ashes and long
winters of life.
Also, dear Venus Khoury-Ghata, on behalf of the President of the Republic
and by virtue of the powers vested in us, we make you an officer
of the Legion of Honor.
Dear Nicole Lattès,
So you knew how to apply your motto, a quote from Faulkner, according to
which we must always have dreams big enough not to
lose sight of them while they’re being pursued.” Your love of books and
Authors is measuring your impressive career in publishing.
You are what we call a great publisher, you are a discoverer of
talents, you know how to accompany and guide writers in the
Sometimes complex, twists and turns of publishing.
Your adventure begins at Gallimard, then goes home
Lattes, which you run with authority and elegance for 10 years. Your
Sabbatical year, in 1992, is somewhat your «road to Damascus»: no
that you are converting – your experience has been forged beforehand
in the patient and so decisive work of reader and assistant, these figures of
the shadows that give life to the book and give birth to the authors. You benefit from
this break to travel: from these wanderings comes the name of
Editions Nil that you founded in 1993, but also, without doubt, this
openness to the world and the refinement of proximity that you
characterized. The Heather who liked to paint the Characters did not say
We must not judge a man’s merit by his
great qualities, but by the way he knows how to use them».
Your footprint in the French publishing landscape is important. This
are primarily formats and books that shape taste and form
the spirit that distinguish you, like the complete series of portraits
of 20th century writers directed by Daniel Rondeau or
curiosities, these small jubilant volumes and delicacies
literature, often borrowed from antiquity, of which only you have the secret.
I would not forget the reissue of the History of Philosophy
of the late Jean-François Revel, a brilliant and
encyclopaedic which was, throughout his life, a true 'smuggler of
Your activity as an editor is also the discovery of young authors,
the image of Jean Rolin or Matthieu Ricard, both of which you publish
most read books: The monk and the philosopher and The infinite in the palm of the
hand. Your passion for the great outdoors and your appetite for discovery
leads you to find him in Nepal, in this monastery of
Schechen which is both the «end of a world» and the opening of a horizon.
With you, we see the letter is never very far from the mind and you
since then, cultivate a strong spiritual dimension and an unflattering intimacy
with Buddhist philosophy.
You have also been able to gather, under the banner of Nile, a plethora of authors
prestigious in the image of Jean d'Ormesson, Peter Mayle, Jacques
Lacarrière or Daniel Rondeau, this «quartet of Avenue Marceau» that does not
would not deny a writer as talented as Lawrence Durrell, also
edited by you. Your flashes and intuitions force admiration and
respect the publishing community. In 1999, you were entrusted with the
Managing director of Robert Laffont-Nil-Julliard-Seghers.
You like to remember that the work of editor is based on a team and
on traveling companions, but everyone here knows how much your
radiant personality, your persuasive charm and insight
inspire the respect and admiration of your peers. Attention,
goodwill and the trust you place in authors, whatever
or their notoriety, make you a unique personality in publishing.
I also want to salute your fight and your ambition for the book, no
only for the benefit of your big house, but also in favor of the
book and the future of reading, this often decisive point of contact
culture, the arts and ultimately towards what still feeds today a
certain idea of Europe», to use the expression of Georges
Steiner, a Europe where Pessoa coffees in Lisbon echo the
meditative walks from Kierkegaard to the counters of Palermo.
In fact, last year you signed the petition in favour of
reduction of the VAT rate on the digital book, an objective set by the
President of the Republic on the occasion of his 2010 greetings to the world of
culture and for which, as you know, I am personally involved in
of the European Commission, parliamentarians and publishers. In
explorer - you are an editor, it must be remembered, of the
correspondence from L.R. Stevenson - you understood this was
a “new frontier” for books and publishing in the 21st century.
Also, dear Nicole Lattès, it is with great pleasure that on behalf of the President
of the Republic and by virtue of the powers conferred upon us, we
You’re Officer of the Legion of Honor.
Dear Maurice Denuzière,
You are a prolixe writer, an example in the historical novel, but
you have dipped your pen in the battles of the century and the time
heroic opinion and investigative press.
After a career in naval aeronautics, you launch yourself
in resolute journalism. In 1951, you became a columnist
for France evening and for the newspaper Le Monde, major national dailies
where you will spend a good part of your career. As a
world and spirit traveler, you make many reports
of the day, studying the slightest tremors of that time when the
Cold War agitates international relations. You know these
«Thirty Glorious» of the press during which magazines
innovation in the way in which facts are told by deciding to use the
photo to show, always testify, sometimes accuse.
For Le Monde, you follow many great trials, including
of the Ben Barka affair, and carry out numerous investigations, on the opera
in the world, the trafficking of art objects or Haiti. Your experience of
great reporter, long of fifteen years, your travels sharpen your gaze,
with this critical distance that you know so well. In
parallel, you hold a weekly column of humor and society,
Wink, lucid and sharp reflections on the contemporary world.
In 1978, you left journalism and continued your
with your experience and imagination at the service of a
demanding genre, the historical novel. From «committed spectator», you
become a travel writer. Your first series, Louisiana, is a bestseller
which resulted in 24 translations, a television series and
a feature film by Philippe de Broca. The first volume is
awarded the Prix Alexandre Dumas in 1977. The freshness of writing,
the personality of the heroes, the abundant intrigue, all contribute to train
your very many readers.
This success paved the way for two other series, Helvetia and Bahamas, which
you are definitely a «master» of the historical novel.
Inspired by the great epics, you manage to evoke these epochs
with elegance, offering readers a vision of history renewed by
that epic breath that gives it all its power.
Versatile writer, you like to write works with a lighter tone, such as
that Le Cornac, extraordinary satire of contemporary society on
which you look lucid, caustic and tender and which has given
place to a very beautiful adaptation for television. Your humorous novels,
A seasonal dog and To amuse ladybugs are also very
enjoyed by the general public.
Essayist and amused observer of the world, you publish books
as diverse as the delights of the port, dedicated to aging, or
Travel stories, but also your tale for youth, Alert in
Stéphanie. Through your works, you approach subjects
must-haves and current with an ever sharpened pen and
While your history book, I name you Louisiana, has just been republished
by Fayard, a few years ago, on the occasion of the
the bicentenary of the sale in the United States of the former French colony,
you are overflowing with projects. Your latest historical novel, L'Alsacienne,
that I myself greatly appreciated, retraced, with detail and sensitivity,
this period of the late nineteenth century when Alsace and part of the
Lorraine were still German, and you skillfully brush the
portrait of a flourishing Third Republic, that of history textbooks at the
Malet and Issac, that of the “fathers of secularism” and that of the province
the unbearable horizon of any foreign policy until the
Great War. And we wait patiently for the exit of your next
book, probably a humorous critique of the excesses of our
Dear Maurice Denuzière, through your work so rich, you offer
vision of the generous and lyrical history, nourished by your imagination
a story accessible to all and making everyone aware of a
"time found", that of history lived as a novel.
Dear Maurice Denuzière, on behalf of the French Republic,
let us make Commander in the order of Arts and Letters.
Dear Anne Golon,
Just as Sofia Coppola made us discover a Marie-Antoinette
renewed, just as Françoise Chandernagor offered us the portrait
of a Madame de Maintenon reinvented, you knew how to wear, with this
freshness in writing that you know so well to show, a look
contemporary on the great century. You have thus arrived, through your writings,
to seduce an ever more numerous audience, like this great cinema
French cape and sword we all know, by Gérard Philipe
in Fanfan the tulip in Bourvil in Bossu memorable. I wish so,
today, pay tribute to your monument-work, your epic
history, Angelique, but also your exceptional personality
that has captivated hundreds of millions of readers around the world.
This work known to all, all over the world, is that of a woman
out of the ordinary, always driven by the passion of writing and
life holds perhaps as many adventures as his novels. At 18, you
publish your first novel then, while pursuing your vocation, you
you are embarking on the path of journalism. War cannot hinder
your thirst for freedom and, as soon as the occupant arrives, you rush
your bicycle, to reach Spain from Paris. Dear Anne Golon,
you have also been an explorer who fears neither virgin territories,
nor the limits. The Amerindians and the origins of the New World do you
are no strangers and have largely inspired your taste for epic and
“frontier”. With a strong temperament, your life has the
flavor of the epic. This same thirst for freedom leads you to Africa
Equatoriale Française (AEF) where you meet Serge, the man who you
will help in your work and in your life.
In 1957 appears in the bookshops of France the fiery and impetuous
Angelique, in what will be the first volume of a true saga,
Angelique, Marquise des anges. Success is not long in coming and it is
All of France, dare I say, has for Angelique the eyes of
Joffrey! And what about your many admirers in the world,
fully revealed today in the age of internet and social networks.
Immersed in the history of the Century of Louis XIV, Angelique amazes and seduces
by its modernity: independent, it is through it and for it that live the
men, recalling in this the psychological density and the enthusiasm of a
princess of Montpensier or a Manon Lescaut. The enthusiasm of
readers, far from curbing your pen and stopping the adventures of the heroine,
will only rekindle your love, quickly shared, of the history of France. Each
novel is a new exploration of the Great Century, and a new
success. From Eugene Sue to Gaston Leroux, the popular novel has deepened its
groove in the 19th century and you are in this powerful vein that
has been able to combine the character of the novel with historical myth.
You have a rare gift, the gift of bringing to life a wide public
rhythm of the adventures of a heroine of the past. Some contemplaters
could see in your unanimous success the mark of an ease, but you
translate admirably the idea that a prolix work can also
be a dense and demanding work. True Dumas of the present times,
you write only after a huge research work and you revive
the history of France by the breath and the verve of your pen
all his humanity, his closeness, his greatness also. In other
terms, Angelique might not be Angelique without greatness…
Your literary success is then doubled by a consecration
film, which roots, even more broadly, the character
of Angelica in the imagination of each and makes vibrate a whole epoch.
Everyone remembers the delicious Michèle Mercier interpreting
Angelic and the scarlet figure of Robert Hossein in Count of Peyrac.
Your taste for novelty and your spirit of adventure lead you to
publish again all the Angelique in an edition without
cuts and increased new adventures, for the greatest pleasure
of your readers. This decoration, dear Anne Golon, is also a
reparations for I know the legal battle that was yours with your
agents and your publishers to enforce your rights. These battles in
in favour of authors, as you know, I make them my own in all areas
today confronted with the question of downloading and
illegal reproduction on the internet.
Dear Anne Golon, on behalf of the French Republic, we make you
officer in the Order of Arts and Letters.