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What Is Going On?

The news from France (Le Monde, June 17) today is that an Algerian woman, writer and film director Assia Djebar, is the first person of that nationality ever to be elected to the Académie française. American readers may know her because she has taught French literature in the United States, in Baton Rouge and then in New York. It is often rumored that she is generally being considered to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

As if that were not enough, an article by Pierre Gervasoni (Une Finlandaise à la tête de l'Ensemble Intercontemporain, June 16) for Le Monde relates that Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki has been awarded the directorship of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris, succeeding British conductor Jonathan Nott. To do this, she needed to be the best in a long interview by a jury of musicians from the group, representatives from its executive council, and its founder, Pierre Boulez. Quite a daunting task. Her selection means the official offer of a term of three years as director, but Gervasoni quotes a rumor that she may have been asked to stay at least until 2011. So, who is she, you ask?

At present, the artistic director of the Stavanger Symfoniorkester in Norway, Susanna Mälkki proves again the efficacy of the Finnish school of conductors with this nomination, as unexpected as that of her compatriot Sakari Oramo, in 1988, who succeeded the British conductor Simon Rattle at the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra when Rattle left to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic. This nomination confirms France's taste for Scandanavian maestros: Jukka-Pekka Saraste is must appreciated by the orchestras of Radio-France, and Esa-Pekka Salonen is one of them that Gérard Mortier would like to see regularly at the Opéra de Paris.
Since France is feeling open right now about inviting foreign cultural representatives, I know one American musician/historian/culture blogger who would love to relocate to Paris. I speak French fairly well, believe strongly in l'exception française, and despise la mal bouffe. I'll be waiting by the phone, France.

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