A presentation of the book “To Marry a Frenchman: 50 Success Stories” by Yana Zhilyayeva was held at Mart (March) Cafe in the Museum of Modern Art on Petrovka on Nov. 23. The book division of Alpina Business Books/United Press organized the party with support from Bisol Italian Prosecco and the Baravi-T French bakery.
A number of distinguished guests gathered in the Orangery hall that evening: friends of the publisher and author — including the entire staff of the French Embassy’s Press Service — the heroine of the book, Sophie Lanfranshi and her husband, legendary rocker Caiman, Gorbachev Foundation Public Policy Center director Olga Zdravomyslova, Claudalie cosmetics in Russia representative Natalya Bondina and many others. A Christmas tree graced the hall, light French music played and the atmosphere was pleasantly festive. Guests enjoyed complimentary wine, croissants, tarts and other hors d’oeuvres.
Alpina Business Books/United Press publisher Yelizaveta Barakhtina opened the event by offering some words about the publishing house and introducing the author. Yana Zhilyayeva is a professional journalist and interviewer with more than 20 years of experience. Zhilyayeva wrote about the first woman cosmonaut in the first issue of the Russian version of Elle, about Russian actresses for InStyle and about the new theater and contemporary art for Harper’s Bazaar. More recently, Zhilyayeva conducted an independent study and wrote about daily life in France through the eyes of Russian women.
Yana Zhilyayeva was very lively and enthusiastic in speaking about her book. “To Marry a Frenchman” is a collection of dozens of real and incredibly fascinating stories of Russian women who have managed to create happy families with French men. Not all of the stories she collected made it into this book, so a sequel is a real possibility. Zhilyayeva described the “sneaky spy network” that enabled her to find the stories for this book — and that consisted of all of her friends and acquaintances.
Guests at the event vied with each other to ask questions. They discovered, for example, that French husbands are more frivolous and less inclined to be overly dramatic and that Zhilyayeva’s sister — who married a Frenchman — forbade her to translate the book into French or to bring a copy of it into France, saying, “Your story will cost me my marriage!” They learned that many French wives consider themselves to be Russian goddesses and look nothing like any other French women. The discussion touched on a wide range of topics — from French tractor drivers to the difficulties involved in getting a “lighthearted” interview from young world basketball champions.
Everyone was happy with the presentation and after the official part of the evening, the party began. The assembled guests congratulated the author, purchased copies of the book, enjoyed sipping wine, became acquainted with each other and posed for photographs. That evening at Mart Cafe will be remembered as yet another happy story.
The startling yet accurate conclusion of the evening was that marriages to Frenchman are a regular social phenomenon: It turns out that, one way or another, each of us knows somebody who is married to a Frenchman.
Photo: Alexander Arno.