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A first look at dreamy French bookshop Albertine

A first look at dreamy French bookshop Albertine
Photo: Jess Nash
Albertine bookstore

Francophiles, rejoice: Opening tomorrow, the 27th, this new Upper East Side specialty bookstore will be your one-stop shop for all the Proust, Houellebecq and Colette you could ever want. An initiative of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Albertine is devoted to French works in both English and French and will offer the largest selection of French literature in the United States, with (get ready to swoon) more than 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries. The two-floor space is truly an escapist's dream, with a designated reading room and lush sofas and armchairs, all housed in the French Embassy (a.k.a. the Beaux-Arts Payne Whitney mansion, one of many beautiful NYC buildings).

Antonin Baudry, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy and Albertine's creator, remarks, "Albertine is designed to be a peaceful haven at the edge of Central Park, away from the bustling city, where those passionate about books and culture can immerse themselves in literature and reading in a setting conducive to reflection, inspiration and discussion. We are also looking forward to hosting lively debates and conversations with thinkers that will open minds, challenge taboos, and continue to reinforce the often lively and thrilling French-American relationship."

Named after the iconic love interest in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, Albertine will celebrate its opening with a six-day festival next month, October 14–19. Curated by author Greil Marcus, the festival will highlight both French and American artists, thinkers and tastemakers, like Mad Men's Matthew Weiner, filmmaker and graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi and author Emmanuel Carrère. All the programs are free but require reservations with the Office of French Culture; see the full schedule and reserve your spots here.

Before saying bonjour to Albertine at tomorrow's opening, please sigh over these photos of the newly-finished space, filled with elegant volumes and, of course, a certain je ne sais quoi.

Albertine bookstore. Photo: Jess Nash 

The painted ceiling in Albertine. Photo: Jess Nash 

An intimate reading nook in Albertine. Photo: Jess Nash 

Some of the French language titles Albertine carries. 

Albertine
972 Fifth Avenue between E 78th and E 79th Sts
Monday–Thursday, Saturday: 11am–7pm
Friday: 11am–10pm
Sunday: 11am–6pm
(212-650-0070, albertine.com)

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Comments

3 comments
C. Z
C. Z

I thought the French Embassy was located in Washington, D.C.  Is the Albertine bookshop not located at the French Consulate office in NYC, then?

Emanuel M
Emanuel M

he French Cultural Counselor openly proclaims "sales aren't the primary goal." Albertine has been underwritten by sponsors including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Total Corporate Foundation and Air France as well as the French government at the astonishing cost of millions of dollars. "There is no rent, which is a big New York problem," he said. "We have the freedom to show the books we love."


There is not a business entity in the world that  would not dream of being subsidized by its government, as well as multinational conglomerates and French charities (Patrimoine de France) and pay neither rent nor taxes.  Not astonishing that most independent booksellers are rapidly disappearing. 


The internationally-reputed Librairie de France, founded in 1928,  carried on in Rockefeller Center for 74 years without financial assistance. It was  forced to close in 2009, paying at that time a staggering rent of $1,000 per day.  Pleas for partial rent assistance to the French government fell on deaf ears. An editorial in the Nouvel Observateur proclaimed " Emanuel Molho alerted the Cultural Service of the Embassy of France, who did not deign to reply. No one moved. No help was offered. Le pays de Montaigne regarde mourir, dans l’indifférence, l’unique vitrine, là-bas, de son génie et de son humanisme. A croire qu’ils sont bel et bien revolus."


The millions spent on the beautiful Albertine in the French embassy could have been more- wisely-allocated in recreating the Librairie de France to become the world's finest French bookstore, a shining symbol of Francophonie and France in the Channel Gardens Rockefeller Center, one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the world (accessible to  350,000 American and international visitors per day, and double when the Christmas tree is lit in December).  It could have showcased  French literature and culture in double the Albertine space at a fraction of the cost  to millions of American and international visitors, not just the handful of New Yorkers will to travel to 79th Street and FIfth Avenue


Difficult to understand.


Emanuel M
Emanuel M

The French Cultural Counselor openly proclaims "sales aren't the primary goal. The project has been underwritten by sponsors including LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Total Corporate Foundation and Air France at the astonishing cost of 5 million dollars. There is no rent, which is a big New York problem," he said. "We have the freedom to show the books we love."


Can you imagine, considering the enormous expense of this enterprise, far from any business district, what could have been accomplished if the same financing were given to the internationally-reputed Librairie de France at Rockefeller Center for almost a century."? Difficult to understand. Moreover, how can any small business compete with a French-government-financed-institution who pays no rent, probably no taxes and sells books at a profit, underwritten by the likes of  billion dollar conglomerates and French charitable organizations.


Our internationally-reputed bookstore carried on in Rockefeller Center for 74 years, closing with a staggering rent of $1,000 per day.  Pleas for assistance to the French government fell on deaf ears. The amount spent in the French embassy could have created the world's finest French bookstore at  Rockefeller Center, one of the most-visited tourist attractions, catering to millions of international visitors. An editorial in the Nouvel Observateur proclaimed " Emanuel Molho alerted the Cultural Service of the Embassy of France, who did not deign to reply. No one moved. No help was offered."  Le pays de Montaigne regarde mourir, dans l’indifférence, l’unique vitrine, là-bas, de son génie et de son humanisme. A croire qu’ils sont bel et bien révolus.