I had read only one book of short stories by Nina de Gramont, my talented American cousin, “Of Cats and Men” published in 2001. She has since published six more books and her latest one, “The Christie Affair” was for a long time on the New York Times best seller’s list and is translated into twenty languages. It is a fantastic read. Nina used an article on Agatha Christie’s disappearance for eleven days, at 36, after her first husband Archibald Christie dumped her. And she imagined what the author could have done in her secret hiding place.
Christie had just published “The murder of Roger Ackroyd” and was already a well known figure in England. A clairvoyant, Horace Leaf, is called on the case. On December 14, she is found in Yorkshire at the Swan Hydropathic hotel where she registered under her husband’s mistress’ name, Teresa Neele. When her husband meets her there, she says she doesn’t remember anything. Doctors think she might have suffered amnesia due to the choc of the separation. The book has just come out in French at Le Cherche Midi under the title “L’Affaire Agatha Christie” and it is a perfect read for the long winter months.
This talented young artist, Christelle Téa, visited Fondation Custodia in 2021, wanting to draw its library. Instead, on Ger Luijten’s idea, between March 8 2021 and August 22, 2022, she did 40 drawings in ink of the drawing rooms, reserves and every little corner of the house which is a beautiful 18 th century hotel particulier. The result is a book which will be presented on December 12 at the Fondation, 121 rue de l’Université. “I like to draw, it is as if I was traveling elsewhere”, she says. The book starts with an interview of the artist by Ger Luijten, just a few months before he died. It is the most perfect post mortem present from someone who has given us so much joy. And the good news concerning Fondation Custodia is that after a year or searching, a new director has been found.
Stijn Alsteens, was born in Louvain in 1976 and runs the old drawings department at Christie’s. He has previously worked at Fondaitno Custorida from 2001 to 2006 and at the Metropolitan museum. for ten years subsequently. He will start in the spring of 2024.
Christelle Téa seems to be the toast of the town because she was already present at FAB with a little agenda with 75 watercolors that she made while residing in Kyoto last summer. And she has an exhibition “Esprit d’escalier” at Librairie Métamorphoses, 17 rue Jacob until January 13.
The most snobbish book of presents has to be Silvia de Waldner’s, “Le Livre des Cadeaux” which is bilingual and published by Gourcuff Gradenigo. It opens with Cheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani showing, at Hotel Lambert, the lavish cufflinks in emerald, diamond and pearl by JAR, which his mother gave him for his fortieth birthday. It goes on with Arielle Dombasle showing the silver monstrance (ostensoir) which she bought as a gift to herself. Prince Amyn Aga Khan collects sculptures of dogs while Prince Pierre d’Arenberg was given a very special 6 wheel drive Pinzgauer car by a Norwegian friend. Most presents selected by this very International crowd (Silvia is Brazilian), are rings or art works. But the book ends on photographs of the Normandy property which Gérard de Waldner offered to his wife. A lovely vision of life.
To end on a serious note, I recommend “Optimal Illusions” by Coco Krumme, an applied mathematician trained at MIT who resides in the North Pacific Orcas Islands. “Our obsession with data and algorithms leads us to miss the bigger picture… Why does the quest for the best so often falls short?” is the question she asks in this very clever book. “Optimized models underlie everything from airline schedule to dating site matches. We strive for efficiency in our daily lives, obsessed with productivity and optimal performance… what is lost when efficiency is gained?” (Riverhead books)
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