With the restoration of Notre Dame in people’s thoughts around the world, the mission of The French Heritage Society, to preserve France’s defining architecture, has never been more in focus. The Society bestowed its third annual Book Award upon Caroline Weber, author of Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris, at a private Upper East Side club earlier this month. In presenting the award, Jennifer Herlein, executive director of French Heritage, spoke on behalf of Christian Draz, French Heritage Society Book Award Co-Chair and Board Member: “Whatever offense her three society divas may have taken at being used as creative fodder for Proust’s satirical fiction, they would surely be highly flattered by the extraordinary lengths to which Caroline went to document the truth of their real and often difficult lives.”
In a staged conversation with Cheryl Hurley, former president of the Library of America, Weber illuminated Proust’s milieu with insights culled from her extensive research.
Guests at the diner that followed included Barbara de Portago, Bénédicte de Montlaur (Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy in the United States), Anne-Claire Legendre (Consul General of France in New York), Geoffrey Bradfield, Cece and Lee Black, Odile de Schietere-Lonchampt, Patricia Forelle, Sana Sabbagh, Steven M.L. Aronson, Veronique Bich, Victoria Wyman, and Yann Coatanlem.
The evening was made possible by Co-Chairs Elizabeth Stribling and Christian Draz; the Book Award Steering Committee, Yann Coatanlem, Janet Desforges, Patricia Forelle, and Clydette de Groot; and the New York Chapter Co-Chairmen, Guy Robinson and Odile de Schiétère-Longchampt. A jury comprised of Anne Poulet, Bruno Racine, and Elaine Sciolino chose Proust’s Duchess unanimously from a shortlist of four non-fiction titles that illuminate elements of French cultural or historical patrimony in interesting ways.