My dear Lisbeth,
At first I really thought about it. How can we talk about you, about our long editorial companionship in the editorial staff of Le Temps, about the passion you have put into chronicling books since 2002, but also about your human qualities without seeing this laudatio turn into hagiography. A literary genre which, I’m sure, would hardly be in your favour, knowing your critical spirit and your long association with the world of publishing, you, the heiress of a line of Italian printers and publishers who notably published Pirandello and d’Annunzio. Line embodied before you by your father Alexis who was, among other things, secretary general of the International Union of Publishers, based in Geneva, between 1970 and 2000.
So I thought of novels, authors, literature to tell your itinerary as a cultural journalist from your entry in the Nouveau Quotidien at the end of 1994, then a literary critic who has always been anchored in Geneva although you were born on February 25, 1970 in Brussels. Yes, an itinerary, at the confluence of so many origins: Russian, French, Italian, Swiss. In short, an accomplished European who, in earlier times, would no doubt have counted Germaine de Staël among her friends, chatting about literature and politics under the windows of the Chateau de Coppet.
A literary journey
So, let’s embark on a literary journey together, at the Koutchoumoff, in the hope of saying both who you are and how much you deserve to join this teeming assembly of Gutenberg’s companions in which Jean-Clément Texier, always wise Grand Chamberlain, wanted to welcome you. Your sense of repartee, your modesty, the clarity of your ideas, but also your interest in a subject such as artistic property, the subject of your higher law studies in Paris, will, I am sure, make us the greatest good.
If you were a heroine Lisbeth, you would no doubt resemble one of Doctor March’s daughters, more discreetly passionate than the Scarlett O’Hara of Gone with the wind. Perhaps you would be Amy, this model sister who always finds it unfair to publicly go behind Jo (a nod to Natacha!), and who, against all odds, embodies the warm solidity of the clan.
Unless, Lisbeth, your passion for books, authors, but also for distant Afghanistan, in short, for words and what they say about men, brings you closer to Lizz Bennet, the indomitable heroine of Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice. ” You won’t succeed in swaying me every time you flatter me repeats this one — a quote that should be remembered more by those who employ you.
Here you are presented in a few words: determined not to let yourself be impressed, discreet to the point of sometimes appearing needy, always inclined to look upwards because literature requires it.
Dedicated and caring
If you were an author — or author, I no longer know what to say — you could, my dear Lisbeth, be the Genevan reincarnation of JK Rowling. Yes, no doubt you were waiting, you the Books expert in various Commissions for the State and the City of Geneva, literary prizes and Foundations – these are your own words – which I refer to you, literary canons oblige, to George Sand, Colette or Marguerite Duras.
But these comparisons would not take into account your frenzied taste for life, your ability to make people laugh and smile, the simplicity of your style which never yields to preciousness. J. K Rowling, mother of global hero Harry Potter who, speaking once about the corporate world, had this inspired phrase: “Don’t judge a leader on how he treats his equals, but on how he likes his subordinates.You are, at Le Temps, a devoted and attentive staff spokesperson. These words could have been yours.
If you were finally a book, Lisbeth, one of those books that you place week after week in the little room in the editorial office reserved for this purpose, you could be—come on, I’m taking a risk—something betweenAnna Kareninaof Tolstoy andAnnihilateby Michel Houellebecq. The first obviously for the Slavic passion that is nestled in you. The second because hope always ends—perhaps—by triumphing over the absurdity of the world.
The prowess of Houellebecq
Yes, Lisbeth, you have achieved this feat: convincing Michel Houellebecq to dip his pen in rose water so that empathy remains in the chaos of our societies. You even whispered one of his responses to Le Monde:It is with good feelings that we make good literatureconfessed one day the hermit of the thirteenth arrondissement. Correct.
And this formula applies perfectly to you, dear companion of Gutenberg: it is with good feelings that, since the beginning of your career, you have been doing excellent journalism. In the name of those who are lucky enough to meet you and know you, and especially in the name of the Gutenberg Companions that you are joining today: thank you!
photo credits © Fabrice AYGALENQ
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Lisbeth Koutchoumoff, literary journalist at Le Temps, joins the Companions of Gutenberg
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