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6.2.04

Year of George Sand

Eugène Delacroix, Portrait of George Sand, 1838On July 1 of this year, novelist and revolutionary George Sand (1804–1876) would be 200 years old, so be prepared for all sorts of celebrations in France (here is the official Web site of the Année George Sand). If you needed any more proof that the French are crazy for this sort of literary event, you will be happy to know that Sand will be honored in France as part of the Journée des femmes [Women's Day], the Printemps des poètes [Springtime of Poets], and the Semaine de la langue française, as well as a special national birthday celebration on July 2 and a local one in Berry on July 4, and a special stamp with her picture will be issued. This information comes by way of an article (Lancement officiel de l'année George Sand [Official start of the Year of George Sand], February 6) in the Nouvel Observateur:

On Tuesday, the president of the National Assembly [the French national legislature], Jean-Louis Debré, and the Minister of Culture, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, opened the Year of George Sand, which will be celebrated with numerous tributes to the author of La mare au diable who was born two centuries ago. They were expected at the Hôtel de Lassay at 7 pm to attend a reading/performance presented by high school students around the novelist's texts.

The ceremony could not take place in the Assembly's official chamber (hémicycle), as emphasized the organizers of the year, coordinated by the Ministry of Culture, because that is a place "where she refused even to consider sitting, at a time when women did not have the right to vote and civil law authorized inequality between men and women." George Sand was recognized by her contemporaries as one of the greatest writers of her time. Nevertheless, the 20th century largely misunderstood this exceptional woman who fought so much for the ideals of freedom. Today, there is no finished version of her complete works and few of her books are available in bookstores, out of the 244 listed in the bibliography established for the Web site about the year.
She was born Aurore Dupin and took on the name George Sand. According to the year's organizer, Reine Prat, her extraordinary output includes tales, short stories, novels (feminist, light, or "peasant"), plays, articles, and more than 30,000 letters which are "one of the most beautiful bodies of correspondence in our literary history." George Sand's home in Nohant is now classed as a French national monument. You can see Nadar's photograph of her in her later years from the Getty, but her portrait by Delacroix (shown above) is far more flattering.

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