CULTURE

Pierre Assouline receives Athens Prize for Literature with ‘Lutetia’

French writer and journalist Pierre Assouline owes his start in journalism to Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras. What’s more, as a photojournalist, the first story he ever covered was an event by Mikis Theodorakis. Assouline was in Athens earlier this month to receive the Athens Prize for Literature, awarded to him in the foreign literature category of the event organized by (de)kata magazine for his novel «Lutetia» (translated into Greek as «Hotel Lutetia» by Spyros Pantelakis and published by Polis). All of Assouline’s professional activities have to do with reading and writing, whether he is writing critiques for Le Monde and Nouvel Observateur, writing his own novels or even communicating with his readers on his blogs. An affable character with a concise view of things, he spoke to journalists a few hours before the award ceremony. «The future of information and journalism lies in the Internet,» said Assouline. «And the future has already begun,» he added, defending his profound involvement with his blogs, saying that he reads every comment that is posted but seldom has the time to answer all of them. Assouline believes that blogs hold the key to the printed media’s future, but he also admits that there is a kind of violence to be seen online that does not exist in daily life. «There is a group of people at Le Monde whose job it is to read all the incoming comments and block all those that contain racist, anti-Semitic or pedophiliac content. I also work in the same way. I allow all comments to be published except for these three categories or those that are about people’s personal lives.» As to whether he considers himself more a critic, a journalist or an artist, his answer was clear: «I am a journalist. Critique is a part of journalism and the perfect example is the blog, where you have the critique, information and thought process of a journalist.» On the subject of his new novel, the Lutetia is a landmark hotel in Paris which the writer selected as the springboard for describing the political and social life of the French capital during World War II. «I am interested in the war years because they condense all that is good and bad about people,» he says. Every time he writes a new book he chooses a new location at which to do it and isolates himself until he’s done. Currently he is writing a new book in the National Library of Paris and in the library of a convent in Normandy. «The location is very important to me. It has a music of its own,» says Assouline, once more impressing his audience with his combination or romanticism and pragmatism.