Home News Influential French book TV host Bernard Pivot dies aged 89

Influential French book TV host Bernard Pivot dies aged 89


Bernard Pivot, the French television host whose weekly book chat show made and broke writers and attracted millions of viewers, died Monday in Neuilly-sur-Seine, outside Paris. He is 89 years old.

His daughter Cécile Pivot confirmed the news that he died in hospital after being diagnosed with cancer.

From 1975 to 1990, France would watch Mr. Pivot’s show every Friday night to decide what to read next. The nation watched as he cajoled, sweet-talked novelists, memoirists, politicians and actors, and the next day people went to bookstores to buy tables marked “Apostrophe,” the title of Mr. Pivot’s show .

In France’s world of serious writers and intellectuals vying fiercely for public attention to become superstars, Mr. Pivot never competed with his guests. He achieved a high-toned small talk that entertained the audience without burdening the invitees.

During the program’s heyday in the 1980s, French publishers estimated that apostrophes drove a third of all book sales in the country. Mr. Pivot’s influence was so great that in 1982 the left-wing intellectual Régis Debray, one of President François Mitterrand’s advisers, vowed to “get rid of” “a The power of someone with truly authoritarian power in the book market.

But the president stepped in to quell the resulting protests and reaffirmed Pivot’s authority.

Mr. Mitterrand declared that he liked Mr. Pivot’s show; he himself appeared on “Apostrophe” early on to promote his new memoir. Mr. Pivot responded to Mr. Mitterrand’s condescension with humor. The hallmarks of the young TV presenter were already evident in that 1975 episode: sincere, sharp, focused, affable, respectful and gently provocative.

He’s aware of his power but doesn’t seem to revel in it. “The slightest suspicion on my part can end the life of a book,” he Tell Le Monde 2016.

French President Macron, Reacting to death on social mediawrote that Mr. Pivot was “a popular, demanding and beloved communicator among the French.”

Pivot’s death made the front page of popular tabloid Le Parisien on Tuesday under the headline “The man who made us fall in love with books.”

Still, “Apostrophe” had its low points, which Mr. Pivot later regretted: In March 1990, he welcomed the writer Gabriel Maznev He laughed and boasted about his exploits, for which he is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation 20 years later. rape of minors. “He’s a real sex education teacher,” Mr. Pivot said humorously when introducing Mr. Maznev. “He collects little candies.”

The other guests chuckled, with one exception: Canadian author Dennis Bombardier.

obvious disgustShe called Mr. Maznev “pathetic” and said in Canada “we defend the right to dignity and the rights of children,” adding that “these little girls, 14 or 15 years old, were not only seduced but abused.” In a relationship between an adult and a minor, this is known as an abuse of power. She said Maznev’s victims were likely “tainted for their entire lives”. As the discussion continued – with Mr Maznev claiming to be angry at her intervention – Ms Bombardier added: “No Which civilized country is like this? “

The old video caused public outrage in late 2019 as the accusations against Mr Maznev mounted. Mr Pivot responded: “As a presenter of a literary TV show, it takes a lot of sobriety and strength of character on my part not to become part of the freedom that my colleagues in the written media and broadcast are accustomed to.”

On his show, there are sometimes confrontations between rivals. Usually it’s just Mr. Pivot and one guest. Six million people watched him, and almost everyone wanted to be on his show.

This is true of almost everyone, including French literary giants such as marguerite durasPatrick Modiano, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, Margaret Yourcenar and George Simonon. In one episode, while discussing his novel “Lolita,” Vladimir Nabokov asked for a teapot filled with whiskey to be served to him and asked questions to be submitted in advance; he simply read the answers .On the other side, the face is haggard Alexander SolzhenitsynHe spoke through an interpreter shortly after leaving the Soviet Union.

mr pivot Historian Pierre Nora tells historians In 1990, after the show, the anthropologist was quoted in the magazine Le Débat as saying that his favorite shows were the ones he watched with the great people whose homes he was allowed to enter Claude Lévi-Strausswait. “I left them with the spirit of a conqueror who had found his way into the private lives of ‘great men’,” he told Mr Nora. “I left with a wonderful feeling of being a thief and a predator.”

Mr Pivot admitted in an interview with Mr Nora that most of his guests have since been forgotten. “How many forgotten titles, covered by other forgotten titles in 15 and a half years! But it seems to me that journalism is not necessarily just about the beautiful, profound and lasting things,” he said. Mr. Solzhenitsyn, he admitted, “made me feel really, really small.”

The reactions he elicited were often deeply ordinary, humanizing his distinguished guests. “Literature is just a funny thing,” Ms. Duras said quietly after winning the prestigious award. 1984 Prix Goncourt.

The TV host was not happy with her remarks. “But, but, how did you create this style?” he asked. “Oh, I’m just taking things as they come,” Ms. Duras replied. “I’m in a hurry to grab something.”

Several American writers also appear on the show: William Styron, Susan Sontag, Henry Kissinger, Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy and others.poet Charles Bukowski In 1978, he was kicked off the platform after getting drunk on Sancerre and molesting a fellow guest. “Bukowski, go to hell, you’re bothering us!” shouted the French writer François Cavanna, who sat at the table.In a later episode, a young Paul Auster Revel in your hosts’ praise of the American writer’s French.

Bernard Claude Pivot was born in Lyon on May 5, 1935, to Charles Pivot and Marie-Louise (Dumas) Pivot. ) Pivot), who own a grocery store in Lyon. He attended schools in Quincy and Lyon in the Beaujolais region, studied law at the University of Lyon and graduated in 1957 from the Paris Training Center for Journalists.

Mr. Pivot was born in 1958 when he was hired by Le Figaro, the literary supplement of Le Figaro, to write tidbits about the literary world that the French press loved. He hosted various television and radio programs in the early 1970s, helped found Lire, a magazine about books, and aired his first episode of “Lire” on January 10, 1975 at 9:30 p.m. Apostrophe”, 723 episodes in total. Another program hosted by Mr. Pivot, “Cultural Soup,” ended its run in 2001 after 10 years. In 2014, he became director of the Academy Goncourt, which awards one of France’s most prestigious literary prizes, a position he held until 2019.

In 1992, Pivot refused France’s highest civilian award, the Legion of Honor, from the French government, saying professional journalists should not accept such an award.

“My father was very humble,” his daughter Cécile, also a journalist, said in an interview. “He wanted nothing to do with it.”

Mr. Pivot is also the author of nearly two dozen works, mostly about reading, as well as several dictionaries.

In addition to his daughter Cécile, Mr. Pivot is survived by another daughter, Agnès Pivot, brother Jean-Charles, sister Anne-Marie Mathey and three grandchildren.

“Do I have any interviewing skills?” he asked Mr. Nora in a 1990 interview. “No. I have a way of being, of listening, of speaking, of asking again, that is natural to me, that was there before I started doing television, and that will be there when I stop doing television.”

Aurelien Breeden Reporting from Paris.

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