Economy

Bernard Pivot, Host of Influential French TV Show on Books, Dies at 89

Bernard Pivot, a French television host who made and unmade writers with a weekly book chat program that drew millions of viewers, died on Monday in Neuilly-sur-Seine, outside Paris. He was 89.

His death, in a hospital after being diagnosed with cancer, was confirmed by his daughter Cécile Pivot.

From 1975 to 1990, France watched Mr. Pivot on Friday evenings to decide what to read next. The country watched him cajole, needle and flatter novelists, memoirists, politicians and actors, and the next day went out to bookstores for tables marked “Apostrophes,” the name of Mr. Pivot’s show.

In a French universe where serious writers and intellectuals jostle ferociously for the public’s attention to become superstars, Mr. Pivot never competed with his guests. He achieved a kind of elevated chitchat that flattered his audience without taxing his invitees.

During the program’s heyday in the 1980s, French publishers estimated that “Apostrophes” drove a third of the country’s book sales. So great was Mr. Pivot’s influence that, in 1982, one of President François Mitterrand’s advisers, the leftist intellectual Régis Debray, vowed to get “rid” of the power of “a single person who has real dictatorial power over the book market.”

But the president stepped in to stanch the resulting outcry, reaffirming Mr. Pivot’s power.

Mr. Pivot speaking with François Mitterrand in 1978 during one of Mr. Mitterrand’s appearances on “Apostrophes,” which he said he liked “a lot.”Credit…James Andanson/Sygma, via Getty Images

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