More articles Wednesday 17 July 2019 3:00pm
Director awarded the Ordre National du Mérite
Nick Barley, the Book Festival’s director was awarded the Ordre National du Mérite yesterday evening by French Ambassador Jean-Pierre Jouyet at a ceremony in London. Leading publishers, translators and literary journalists as well as representatives from our fellow Edinburgh Festivals and the Booker Prize Foundation gathered at the French residence in Kensington Palace Gardens to honour Nick Barley’s longstanding commitment to the promotion of writers and books in translation and his contribution to the cultural dialogue between France and the UK.
During Nick’s nine years at the helm of the Edinburgh International Book Festival the Festival has grown, now putting on over 900 events and welcoming around a 1000 writers, translators, journalists and speakers from 65 countries in 2019, with a footfall of 260,000 last year. Chair of the judges of the Man Booker International Prize in 2017, Nick Barley is also a founding member of the Word Alliance, a network of international literary festivals including Étonnants Voyageurs Festival in Saint-Malo.
Jean-Pierre Jouyet thanked Nick for his personal contribution to a “golden age of translated fiction”, and his “strong defence of the idea that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.” The Ambassador thanked him in the name of the countless French writers he has personally invited to the Book Festival over the last decade, including Mathias Énard, Annie Ernaux, Marcus Malte, Adélaïde Bon, Mireille Gansel in 2019, and saluted his “thoughtful, active multilingualism”, saying “the multilingualism which we believe in France finds a kindred spirit in Edinburgh.”
He quoted the publisher, Christopher MacLehose, saying, “The northern Athens has once more its agora, its forum. The selection, meticulously curated by M. Barley and his team, is excellent and their generous welcome is an essential cultural campaign for Britain today.” The Ambassador also quoted Fiammetta Rocco, cultural editor at The Economist, saying that Nick Barley and those who work with him are personally responsible for improving the public profile of translated literature today, and Allan Little, chair of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, who celebrated the passion and thoughtfulness with which Nick pursues the founding idea of the Edinburgh International Festival: that the arts are a bridge between people and countries.