French Classics à la Nintendo (With a Little Help from Gallimard)

In Europe by Olivia Snaije

By Olivia Snaije


PARIS: On March 5th, Nintendo France will release its 100 Classic Book Collection in a deal with publisher Gallimard, becoming the third country after Japan in 2007 and the UK in 2008 to make literary classics available to read on its DS portable games consoles.

Gallimard’s 25,000 title-strong backlist catalog includes a great majority of France’s best known classics, including Baudelaire, Corneille, la Fontaine, Maupassant, Musset, Montaigne, Racine, Jules Verne, Voltaire and Zola. Alban Cerisier, who heads the conservation of Gallimard’s patrimonial collection as well as its digital development, worked with his team for over a month to select a list that included literature, theater, poetry, detective and adventure novels (excluding any works in old French), all the while trying not to end up with a collection that was too “scholarly.”

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Although the works were taken and adapted from Gallimard’s Folio Classique collection, which is often used by teachers and students, the Gallimard team “lightened” up the presentation while keeping the original texts. There will also be eleven authors in translation including Homer, Cervantes, Defoe, Poe, Tolstoy, Wilde, Dickens, Gogol, and Mark Twain. Ten more books will be available to download at no extra charge besides the internet connection.

At €27, the cartridge is aimed at women between 25 and 49 years old, said Anne-Marie Baufine-Ducrocq, project manager at Nintendo France.

Fifty percent of Nintendo DS buyers in France are over 20 years old, added Baufine-Ducrocq, and of the overall buyers, 50% are female. Given that in most Western countries women read more novels than men, Nintendo’s Classic Book Collection is in line with the company’s strategy of broadening the audience for its products — cookery guide cartridges, for example are already a feature.

When the 100 Classics collection in English (HarperCollins) for Nintendo came out in English last year, readers lamented the lack of contemporary classics, and it’s true that for the French list, including books by authors such as Simone de Beauvoir or Sartre would make the collection more attractive. But the answer lies in the fact that all the books included in these collections are in the public domain, and therefore affordable, (proprietary rights for authors in France last for 70-100 years after their death) although lack of funds is certainly not a problem for Nintendo.

Another long-term project that Nintendo France might eventually develop is Flips in French, a range of interactive books for the Nintendo DS that are already available in Japan, the US and the UK.

VISIT: Nintendo’s Web page describing the project.

SEE: A list of all 100 titles.

LEARN: More about Nintendo’s 100 Classic Book Collection available in English

DISCUSS: Does turning classics into video games indoctrinate new readers?

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.