Olin Acquires a Valuable Resource for French Studies

Thanks to the extensive efforts of Professor Seth Graebner, Daria Carson-Dussan, and Cassie Brand, Olin Library has recently purchased the Pascal Pia Collection of French literature. Named after the pseudonym of poet and literary critic Pierre Durand (1903-1979), this major collection of rare works includes 1000 items in French literature and criticism published between 1800 and 1977 and acquired by Pia. The collection includes, among other works, a significant amount of unique Surrealist ephemera.

Graebner, an Associate Professor of French and International and Area Studies, has been working on this major acquisition project since first hearing of its existence more than five years ago. The collection, he explains, contains “considerable material by and about Baudelaire and Appolinaire, as well as many items related to the historical avant-garde movements (dadaism, surrealism, the OULIPO, and others) in their original editions, typically issued in very small numbers. While major surrealist publications (their journal La Révolution surréaliste, for instance) are certainly available elsewhere, first editions of other publications are not. Moreover, many libraries’ interest and collections in material from the historical avant-garde movements ends in the 1940s, whereas this material extends significantly later.”

“This will significantly enhance the possibilities for research at Washington U in certain areas of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French Studies,” he says.

Pascal Pia was a poet, journalist, and editor of the Alger Républicain, the postwar literary review Combat, and Carrefour, the first two papers serving as important publications for the career of Albert Camus as well. According to Graebner, Pia “guided the reading careers of an entire generation of French readers with weekly review essays” in his position at Carrefour from (1954-1977), which is where he received many of the original author-inscribed materials now available in this collection.

As these texts have just arrived, cataloging is expected to begin soon. Several volumes in the collection will complement French works currently owned by Washington University. Of particular interest are several works by nineteenth-century poet Charles Baudelaire and modernist poet Guillaume Appolinaire, both of whom are discussed in our current French courses at many levels. Furthermore, the collection contains papers from Samuel Beckett, which will be a welcome addition to the Beckett materials already housed at WU. Also notable is the connection Pia’s French texts will have to Washington University’s British modernist texts, a major interest of the English department.

Cassie Brand, Daria Carson-Dussan, Nadia Ghasedi in Olin Library have been instrumental in helping our department obtain and catalogue these works. The Pascal Pia Collection will be located in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections section of the library, and cataloging will begin this summer.

More information can found on Olin Library's website.