4 JULY 1952, Page 50

French Book Clubs

THE high cost of French books since the war has led to the creation of two Book Clubs, whose purpose is to sell selected choices at prices below those generally ruling. The " Choix " French Book Club of 72 Char- lotte Street has been going for a year, and has put out ten books, eight of them novels, selected by unnamed critics, which- they supply, cloth-bound in London, simul- taneously with their French publication, for £5. During this first year they have picked novels by Duhamel, Simenon and Mauriac, and reminiscences of the cinema and the theatre by Rene Clair and Louis Jouvet. Their tenth choice is a most remarkable novel by an author unknown in England, Jean Cayrol : an excellent piece of talent- spotting.

The " Livre de France," under the auspices of Messrs Hachette, has started, more ambitiously. Their intention is to distribute the same number of books for £4 10s. in their French paper jackets. These books are to be chosen in the first place by a panel of French critics, who will compile a short list from which an equally strong team of English critics will make a final selection. Their-first choice, Lelia ou la Vie de George. Sand by Andre Maurois is a sound but not very lively biography. It will be followed by a novel.

When one compares the circulation of contemporary French books in England in the 'twenties with that of today, one cannot doubt the usefulness of these organisations. The " Choix " enables the public librarian as well as the private buyer to put a bound book on his shelves at roughly the same price as ,the paper-bound private selection. The " Livre de France " cuts the book's price for him by upwards of ten per cent. But any such organisation obviously stands or falls entirely by its power of making the right choices.

J. M. C.