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La Grande Arche

Laurence Cossé

Real life is sometimes more fabulous than fiction. That is what this book proves, with its very explicit title. It retraces the adventure of the Grande Arche of la Défense, a colossal project awarded during Mitterand’s presidency to an unknown Danish architect. When the envelope with his name inside was opened, there was total dismay. Who was this Otto von Spreckelsen, whom even the Danish embassy in Paris knew nothing about? It was impossible to tell him he had won as he could not be reached as he was out fishing for whiting in the Jutland region! The book is more of an investigation than a novel, in spite of its title, shows how this clear-eyed idealist, with the approach of an artisan - something like his compatriot Jorn Utzon -, working solitarily, without an agency, the author of a few bare churches, would be crushed by the bureaucratic mechanisms of the French administration. This is a fable on creation and power, pouring over with known names such as Robert Lion, Jacques Attali, architect Paul Andreu, critic François Chaslin, etc.) but which reads like a thriller.
La Grande Arche, by Laurence Cossé, Gallimard, 2016, 368 p., €21.

La Grande Arche - Laurence Cossé

Review published in the newsletter #414 - from 21 January 2016 to 27 January 2016

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