Today (29th March) the Acadamie Française welcomed it’s newest member into their secretive and prestigious ranks. Founded in 1635 by the Cardinal of Richlieu, L’Acadamie Française is one of France’s long-standing cultural institutions. It’s role is to regulate the French language and ensure that it remains unchanged and therefore untarnished.
The most unusual thing about this newest member is her gender. Danièle Sallenave is only the seventh woman, in the academy’s entire 377 year history, to be accepted as an ‘imortelle’ (an immortal [feminine] – the name for members of the academy). Currently the Academy has 36 members filling a total of 40 seats. All immortals hold their seats for life, unless the holder resigns. New members are elected in the event of a death, which explains why the Academy is presently 4 immortals short as the election process takes a long time to complete.
The first woman to be accepted into the academy was Marguerite Yourcenar in 1980. Yourcenar is best known for winning the Prix Femina in 1968 for her work L’Oeuvre au noir (The Abyss). Of the eight women ever elected to the post of ‘imortelle’, six are alive today.
Sallenave earnt her honour through the publication of over thirty works and for her achievements as a journalist. She won the Prix Renaudot in 1980 for her novel Les portes de Rubbio and now sits on the judging panel for the Prix Femina. Sallnave was already known and respected by the academy, as she won the Academy’s prestigious prize for literature in 2005 in recognition of her entire body of work.