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Judith Thurman Receives the Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters

Yesterday, Judith Thurman—author, French literature scholar, and staff writer at the New Yorker—was conferred the insignia of chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by Bénédicte de Montlaur, the French Embassy cultural counselor. The ceremony took place at New York’s Payne Whitney Mansion.

Thurman, a lively contributor to French intellectual life, has written extensively on many French cultural figures, such as Coco Chanel, André Malraux, Marie Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour, Gustave Flaubert, Paul Poiret, and Yves Saint Laurent. Her book Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette (1999) was chosen by the New York Times as one of the year’s ten best books and received the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

Thurman has collaborated with philosopher Julia Kristeva, with whom she participated in an academic conference on Colette. She has translated the poetry of Louis Labé, and her New Yorker essay on the Chauvet cave was the inspiration for Werner Herzog’s 2010 documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams. She has worked on a number of French television documentaries regarding novelist Philip Roth, and during the 2015 Festival Albertine at the Payne Whitney Mansion—as an extension of her scholarship on Simone de Beauvoir—she organized an evening of events dedicated to the French writer, thinker, and feminist.