Writings of the extremes exhibition at the BNF until 7th July 2019

Close to our hotels, the French National Library (BNF) has a new exhibition exploring how extreme circumstances – Prison, passion, peril, possession -often produce extraordinary handwritten notes.

Delving into its archives, together with pieces lent by over twenty museums, libraries and individuals, the exhibition displays around 150 letters and cards handwritten in dire circumstances: while the author was imprisoned, in extreme danger or distress, subject to madness or influenced by passion.

Exposition Manuscrits de l'extrême à la BNF jusqu'au 7 juillet 2019

It’s definitely an unusual subject for an exhibition, with letters from some well-known personalities (Marie Curie, Napoleon, Alfred Dreyfus, Guillaume Apollinaire…) and anonymous individuals, written in dramatic circumstances.

You’ll see a letter written on birch bark, an inscription made by a prisoner under a chair used by the Gestapo, a letter dating from 1761 written in the author’s own blood… The materials used for these letters are often as incredible as their content.

Exposition Manuscrits de l'extrême à la BNF jusqu'au 7 juillet 2019
D.R.

Some of the writings are deeply moving, displaying distress, madness or passion expressed with urgence. Sometimes the writing is microscopic, or the paper tiny. It shows that extreme situations produce extreme texts.

Exposition Manuscrits de l'extrême à la BNF jusqu'au 7 juillet 2019

The exhibition has workshops and visits on offer, and if you want to study the texts in the non-extreme comfort of your own home, the official catalogue has just been published (208 pages, 100 illustration, 29€ here at amazon.fr).

The exhibition Manuscrits de l’extrême – Prison, passion, péril, possession is at the BNF (here) until 7th July 2019

Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-7pm and Sunday from 1pm-7pm

Admission: 9€ / 7€ or 11€ / 9€ for two exhibitions

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