A little new dress

A little new dress
A little new dress

She was 86 years old and published her first book. It was almost the first for me too, but she was the author and I was the beginning editor. I write author, not author, because that’s how we spoke then. You can guess precisely what year it was, thanks to this clue: on the back of the book in question, we found, just after its price in francs, its price in euros. This was the beginning of what was called dual pricing.

Exactly a quarter of a century ago, therefore, Bayard editions (publishing group of The cross) published a promising book, entitled The School of my life. The name of Lucette Allègre, its author, will tell you something, and you are not mistaken, it is indeed the mother of the then Minister of National Education, Claude Allègre. He was, like most of his predecessors, loudly contested, and had, upon taking office two years earlier, become famous for having displayed his intention to “degrease the mammoth”. The demonstrations have since multiplied, to the point that his mother, considering her son unfairly criticized, came out of anonymity to write to the weekly The Express, who published it, a platform to defend him.

France will fall in love with her!

Based on the tone of this forum, and discovering that the minister was the son of a teacher like no other, we contacted the latter. Her roundness, her liveliness and, let’s admit it, her resemblance to Claude, the eldest of her four children, reassured us in the idea that she had a lot to tell and could interest the media. She immediately agreed to write a book based on her memories and her beliefs. If only this magnificent one opens his story: “To be a good teacher, you must have lived your childhood with passion. »

Everything is going well and we, the three or four people directly involved in the publication of this book, learn that Bernard Pivot is interested in it. Everyone holds their breath but, in our small offices, hearts start beating. I myself am convinced that, if my author is invited to the set of “Bouillon de culture”, France will fall in love with her. She is so real! She doesn’t even need to be the mother of a minister to excite us about her destiny, the archetype of the little country girl, ward of the Nation determined to fully live her vocation as a hussar of the Republic.

The invitation is confirmed, a date is set, we are happy and proud, but we hold back our joy: let’s not sell the bear’s skin before having killed it. This does not prevent us from taking the necessary measures to ensure that sufficient copies are available in bookstores the day after the broadcast. On the phone, Lucette Allègre tells me that she bought a little new dress for the occasion. We chat like two kids before their first party.

Bernard Pivot, the pleasure of sharing

The day before D-Day, at the end of the day, Bernard Pivot’s team informed us, with great regret, that a strike of lighting engineers had been announced on the second television channel, and that the broadcast, still live, cannot take place. Will our author be rescheduled for a later show? Unfortunately not. Balancing a set is a delicate matter, and there will be no catch-up for the few authors scheduled for that Friday. I called Lucette Allègre, already informed, to share our disappointment. She is in no way discouraged and believes in her book. When we leave our office that evening, we feel like the day after partying.

To salute the memory of Bernard Pivot, I would have liked to have told a story with a better ending! But the gift of this man is to have known, it seems to me, not to leave bitter memories with anyone, even those who failed his shows. His professional entourage was accessible and charming, the relationships were always simple, and the sense of sharing permeated the backstage of the show, between book professionals, as well as the set and the homes, between authors and viewers – I was going to write between authors and readers.

Because the books that Bernard Pivot invited their authors to present to us guaranteed a first precious pleasure, that of sharing, of the shared desire to discover both the work of a great name in literature and the book of an unexpected guest who, like Lucette Allègre, would never write another. We were far from criticism, prices and clubs, which play another role. It was a long time ago, we still spoke in French! For once, let us allow ourselves without scruple a famous formula which was never that of Pivot, tireless lover of the present: for books, thanks to him, frankly it was better before.

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