FRANCE: The Immortals

Under the stately cupola of the Institut de France, some 20 Living Immortals buzzed away busily last week. In the most felicitous phrases of the world's most crystallized and elegant language, they were discussing the nuances of the word "art." They were the French Academy, founded by Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, the tangible concretion of the ineffable essence of French culture. Since 1935, unhurriedly, imperturbably, through World War II, the fall of France, the German occupation, and liberation, they had regularly donned their plumed bicornes and green-gold uniforms, regularly gathered to compile...

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