13 Novembre

Comme vous le savez déjà, Paris et Saint Dennis ont été la cible d’attaques terroristes avec fusillades et explosions suicides. Ces attaques ont tuées 129 personnes et ont fait des centaines de blessés ; les événements du 13 Novembre sont en somme les plus meurtrières depuis la fin de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale. Ils nous laissent des conséquences pour des années à venir non seulement sur la direction politique du pays, mais surtout dans les mœurs du peuple Français dans son quotidien et avec son rapport au monde.

2015 n’a pas été une année respectueuse de l’être humain. Déjà il y avait 10 mois les bureaux de Charlie Hebdo et un supermarché Kascher avait été lâchement pris pour cible, ce qui avait été déjà le pire des attentats depuis 1994 dans le métro de Paris. Durant les mêmes délais, un village au Nigeria avait été pris pour cible par une secte s’intitulant verbatim « L’Education Occidentale est un Péché ». Quelque mois plus tard une université Kenyane fut la scène d’un carnage atroce. Ensuite vint l’image choquante d’un petit garçon de 3 ans couché face à terre sur une plage Turque, devenant l’emblème du drame perpétuel en Méditerranée de la course des réfugiés vers l’Europe. Et moins de 24 heures avant le 13 Novembre, la capitale Libanaise a connus sa pire attaque des 25 dernières années. Le brusque rappel à la réalité de cette année 2015 est celle de la banalité de la violence, et de l’incompréhension obstinée de ses causes.

Ce qui c’est passé en France n’est pas unique ni isolé. Nous vivons dans un monde interconnecté mais tout aussi inégale. Nous nous devons de ne pas perdre de vu ce qui fait le mieux de nos valeurs humaines communes : la compréhension de l’autre, la pensée critique, la résilience de l’espèce humaine. En tant que français de l’étranger et fils d’étranger, je suis conscient de la chance d’être né dans un pays doté d’une culture, d’arts, et d’une langue préservé, partagé, et en constante évolution. Ce blog est un humble effort d’intéressé ceux dans la région de New York de se permettre de nous connaitre. Même si la France peut agir avec hypocrisie et contradictions dans sa politique étrangère, et quelle doit assumer son héritage colonial pas du tout glorieux, ce pays est aussi capable d’apprendre, de grandir, et de s’épanouir. Les idées de la France ont une résonance dans le monde parce qu’elles ont le mérite d’être entendue ; malheureusement cette affirmation évidente d’existé reste un privilège pour trop peu de la communauté humaine.

Le 13 Novembre rappelle à la vigilance de notre monde, de ci qui s’y passe, et de lever la voix quand il le faut. Sinon ça risquera d’être trop tard.

Rassemblement à Washington Square Park, dans Manhattan, New York, le 14 Novembre. Photo prise par l'auteur.

Rassemblement a Washington Square Park, dans Manhattan, New York, le 14 Novembre. Photo prise par l’auteur.

Publicités

November 13

As you all may know, Paris and Saint Denis were the stage of terrorist attacks in the form of shootings and bombings. These attacks have claimed 129 lives and injured hundreds. The events of November 13th are the deadliest since the end of the Second World War on French soil, and will have deep ramifications for the years to come not just on domestic and foreign policy, but more so on how the people of France will interact among themselves and the world.

2015 has not been a kind year to people. Paris had 10 months prior endured what had been the worst terrorist attacks since the Paris Métro bombings of 1994 with the shootings at the office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. In the meantime, a Nigerian village was butchered by a group calling itself « Western Education is a Sin ». Months later a Kenyan university was the site of incredulous horrors. Then the world saw the image of a little 3 year old boy named Aylan lying facedown on a beach in Turkey, encapsulating the perennial Mediterranean tragedy of refugees journeying to seek shelter in Europe. And about 24 hours prior to November 13th, Lebanon’s capital was rattled by bombs in what became the worst attack in the country in 25 years. The sobering reality of this year is the banality of violence, and the stubborn incomprehension of its source(s).

What happened in France did not grow in a vacuum. We live in an interconnected world, an unequal world. But we should not diverge our attentions from the things that characterizes the best of humanity: empathy, critical thinking, resilience. I started this blog because I’m fortunate to have been born in a country with much of its culture, art, and language preserved, shared, and constantly evolving. Despite the real hypocrisy and contradictions of France’s foreign policies and the weight of its shameful colonial history, France is a country that learns, grows, and shares. The ideas that come from France are heard because they are worth something, and sadly this simple affirmation of existence remains a privilege for too few of Earth’s people.

November 13 is a reminder that we all need to be vigilant in and of our world, and to speak up when it counts. Otherwise it might be too late.

Gathering at Union Square, 11/13. Photo taken by the author.

Gathering at Union Square, Manhattan, New York on the night of November 13th. Photo taken by the author.

Albertine Festival 2015 : Coming of Age through comic strips

Guests: Phoebe Gloeckner and Riad Sattouf; Curator: Françoise Mouly

From left to right: Riad Sattouf, Françoise Mouly (moderator), Phoebe Gloeckner

I’ve been fond of comics for as long as I have been able to read. France, like the United States or Japan, has a graphic novel/cartoonist culture that runs pretty deep. In fact it would be fair to also include Belgium and Switzerland as well, who have made contributions to the canons of French-language comics and cartoons.

Tintin, Astérix, the Smurfs (or rather, Les Schtroumpfs) may be some of the most recognizable titles outside of Europe; although of late names like Persepolis‘s author Marjane Satrapi  or Guy Delisle may also gather some recognition outside of the French-speaking world.

Last Friday I had the chance to hear two graphic novel authors/cartoonists/artists talk about their work: The Arab of the Future‘s Riad Sattouf (former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, also a film director sometimes) and Diary of a Teenage Girl‘s Phoebe Gloeckner, the latter whose work has been adapted into a film released earlier this year.

Although I had read neither of their works, I did have some trepidation about Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future, a memoir of his (very) early childhood years living in Libya and Syria. I’ve become a complete sucker for biographical graphic novels after having read Persepolis, it left its mark.

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Riad Sattouf in The Arab of the Future

Browsing The Arab of the Future in the Albertine BookstoreSattouf’s accounts is quite comical as the story centers around a small child trying to adjust to new surroundings of unfamiliar cultures, languages, and norms. Much of it deals with Sattouf’s father, an academic who turned down an Oxford teaching position to live in Libya in the hopes of taking parts in the construction of a Pan-Arabic ideal state. The younger Sattouf of the book is unaware and compliant with his father’s wishes, like any child would, in contrast to the adult Sattouf who recognizes his father as a fascist who held backward views and disillusions. Sattouf’s work is not a denunciation of his father, with whom he empathize without condoning his views, rather it’s his way of coming to term and making sense of whom exactly was the man that raised him. It’s like the old motto: « at first you hate your parents for being flawed, mortal human beings, and then you grow up to forgive them for it ».

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Phoebe Gloeckner in Diary of a Teenage Girl

Phoebe Gloeckner expressed a similar philosophy, being that writing validates memories, and that it plays a cathartic role in coming to term with the past, that story which we tell ourselves. Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl follows Gloeckner’s sexual awakening as a teenager in 1970’s San Francisco, a story which gets much more complicated when she hooks up with her mother’s boyfriend. The mother didn’t seen to mind much the film adaptation, according to Gloeckner, since she was cast by a good-looking actress. The boyfriend, he, was much more coy about seeing the film, sneaking into a late night screening and later bragging to strangers that he had been portrayed on the screen. Facebook is quite a people finder.

So what of all this? Well it’s one thing to tell a story, especially about one’s life, but it is far more importantly to seek out the emotional truth of what we once were. Check them out, as I will myself once I get copies, two great artists who are both inviting us to the intimacy of their memories.

 

Missed the event? The talks were filmed and are available for your viewing pleasure:

http://livestream.com/frenchembassy/explosive-graphic-novels

Sex & Seduction at the Alliance Française

If you are remotely familiar with the Alliance Française–also known as the French Institute–you know it is a reliable place to sign up for French classes of all levels, as well as the host of a library of French print and digital material. The AF:FI in Manhattan also organizes cultural events, including exhibitions and talks. One series of discussion you might be surprised to find is one entitled Sex and Seduction, which AF:FI has organized for the past three years. And as this year’s series is coming to an end, but I may well share what I have learned from attending last’s week event, La Jalousie (Jealousy):  The Truth About Love, Mistrust & Suspicious Minds.

But before that, a question might be: why would a French cultural association hosts a series on sex and seduction (and many others might simply ask « why wouldn’t they? »). Sex and relationships are in the fabric of every cultures, although there are various taboos and degrees of reserve when those topics are brought up in discussion. As a French person living in the U.S., it was quite surprising to discover the prudishness of how sex was discussed in the media, in popular culture, and in sex ed. The American’s reputation of exacerbated sexuality as transmitted via films, music, and television did not match my expectations in everyday’s discourse (or censorship practices, for that matter), and surprisingly enough it rather seemed that it is we, the French, who are the erotically exhaled ones. And yet, amusingly enough, the French-dubbed Pepé Le Pew (an enamored cartoon skunk chasing a poor unwilling cat) speaks with an Italian accent, as opposed to a French-accent for American audience.

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One’s Frenchman is someone’s Italian.

Although some of the talks in the Sex & Seduction series focus on France’s cultural relationship and taboo to sex, some others are more generalized. Last week’s talk was the latter, where an academician, a psychotherapist, and a best-selling author discussed the role of jealousy in shaping our relationships and sex lives. What I learned? Basically: jealousy is a good thing, albeit in moderation and self-awareness.

Peter Toohey, classics professor at the University of Calgary, mentioned the cultural manifestation of jealousy in tandem with the concept of romantic love in early European literature; and how the emotion has been framed in negative light from Christian traditions and norms (i.e. as a conductor to sinful behavior). Interesting enough, in the visual medium, jealousy is emphasized via the ears and eyes, those organs being the purveyors of infidelity. Although if there’s something that stuck out from Toohey, it is that jealousy is difficult to define since it is the gateway to a variety of hard-hitting and exuberant emotions (shame, anger, fear).

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Edvard Munch’s (The Scream) portrayal of jealousy, as a man looks away from an Eve’s like figure. The use of yellow is apparently widespread in the visual representation of jealousy.

Dr. Gail Saltz brought the discussion aligned with evolutionary biology: biological imperatives stemmed from adapting survival behaviors along gender roles (the male provider and the female caretaker). She further mentioned differences in cerebral mapping between males and females, although those are not predeterministic to choices but rather instinctive, gut-feelings in our decision making. When it came to jealousy, sexual infidelity was more often a red line for men in contract to emotional infidelity for women. Again, those are generalizations, and we’re perhaps more culturally inducted our whole lives when conditioned into gender roles, but the argument was not to say that nature predefined nurture. We feel jealousy as a result of our nature, the nurture shapes our response and rationalization to the feeling of jealousy, something that extends beyond cultural assimilation as it also includes childhood experiences.

Neil Strauss, a journalist for the New York’s Times and best-selling authors of self-help books such as The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists was an entertaining speaker, talking about the functional and dysfunctional utility of jealousy. Jealousy, after all, is an alarm response that the object of one’s desires is « threatened » by a competitor, or should we say, that the subject of jealousy feels threatened. Because one’s cannot control the surge of emotions, especially those of another person, jealousy is a gateway feeling of powerlessness, vulnerability, and worse, fear of abandon. But functionally speaking it’s a trigger to protect of something which may have been taken for granted, and best perhaps, the needed spark to rekindle waning desires (be it sexual, emotional, or both). The darker side, of course, can be one of possessiveness, rage, and destructive behavior. An interesting word Strauss brought up was compersion, and as he defined it: the ability to feel joy for your loved one’s happiness, even if you have no part in it. Although Strauss found out that he couldn’t help but feel jealousy in practice, he had to come to term with it instead of repressing something that may have grown into accumulated grief, frustration, and confused anger.

So, what about jealousy? Maybe it does have a bad rep, one which it doesn’t deserve, since it’s only one of many biochemical responses cooked up by our complicated brains to enable us, vulnerable meatbags, to adapt and survive. Maybe the same could be said about a relationship turned soured by jealousy: because isn’t your brain then telling you that you have something at least worth fighting for?

Cool event, although a bit pricey ($20 for AF:FI members, $25 for non-members).

Looking for a place to discuss French literature? Check out Albertine’s book club

The Marcel Proust reading room’s gorgeous ceiling, upstairs from Albertine bookstore.

Right on the outskirt of Central Park’s fifth avenue at 79th street you will find the Albertine bookstore, where you can browse through a vast selection of French and Francophone literary works, original and translated, including the latest publications to come out in France.

Albertine is quite young as it came to be in 2014 sharing the building with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.  As you might expect, Albertine is host to cultural events throughout the year, namely the Albertine Festival, running from November 5th to the 9th.

So seeing how I actively advertise events on Twitter and routinely update the calendar, yours truly finally managed to attend one of said events. And although I had not read the book in question, I had a pleasant time learning about the work and life of one of France’s most revered–or pedantic, we can differ on opinions–thinkers of the last century.

The book club took place in the marvelous Marcel Proust reading room–whose ceiling is pictured above–where about 30 people of all ages were in attendance. The discussion was moderated by Antonin Baudry, who I was surprised to find out is not just a former diplomat, but the graphic novel scenarist of the politically themed Quai d’Orsay (the commonly referred euphemism of the diplomatic wing of the French government). That’s cool, I’ll have to investigate on that later.

The subject of discussion was Jean-Paul Sartre Les Mots, The Words, an autobiography described by some as an « anti-memoir », partly because the veracity of the events presented in the book are disputed and because the book is a thematic deconstruction of Sartre’s psyche starting from his childhood throughout the self-described imposture of adulthood. Interestingly enough some French readers felt that the piece was an analogy of France, or rather of the perception of the French archetype as self-aggrandizing and yet self-deprecating, as non-French readers did not draw on this idea. Debatable.

Sartre’s most recognizable contribution to intellectual thought is the concept of « existentialism », and most of his literary works are devoted on expanding this brand of philosophy. Existentialism is, in very layman terms, existence which precedes essence and not the opposite. So what does that mean? Well, the way I understood it, is that there’s no inherent ascribed status, beside the one(s) we create for ourselves. A chair exists to be used as a chair, that is the essence of a chair because it is designed to be so. But a person? A person has to create his or her own meanings and values throughout life. Thus by this idea, there is no such thing as fate and we are slave to free will in tandem with the hazards of existence, there is no greater meaning but those we make for ourselves. Is this the basis of Sartre’s famous quote: « l’enfer, c’est les autres » (Hell is other people)? Well feel free to send your complains about possible and probable misinterpretations at nycenfrancais@gmail.com.

Les Mots is apparently different, since it is a less abstract and more personal, humanizing piece of literature, in which Sartre poses himself as both patient and therapist. If I followed the discussion attentively enough, Sartre’s influence of his worldviews came from his experience of World War II–notably the Nazi occupation of France–and his familial structure and history. He also did a bunch of speed, met Che Guevara and refused the Nobel Prize for literature ’cause that’s what being a total badass was like back in 1970s France.

Yea, I learned all that without even reading a page, how d’ya like that? So join the club, read a book, and come experience a one hour and a half of fruitful and interesting open conversation with interesting people who know a lot more than I do (and whom, by the way, might debate your points). The conversation was mostly in English, you can both read the book and participate in English or French, and no RSVP are required.

Oh! And refreshments are offered afterward.

 

PARIS’ DOPPELGÄNGER

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Map of Eiffel Tower replicas around the world.

I’m re-posting a blog article I wrote a year ago for National Geographic Education, about the city of Tianducheng in China.  The city is a real-estate project aiming to attract Chinese Francophiles by replicating the French’s capital, with its very own Eiffel Tower! The project failed and the city became a ghost town, or rather a doppelgänger, given it never had inhabitants to begin with. Link to the article below.

http://blog.education.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/16/paris-doppelganger/

 

Bienvenue!

Ceci est un blog dédié pour ceux qui apprennent le français à New York et ses environs. Je mets à votre disposition des suggestion de lecture, d’écoute, et d’audiovisuel, ainsi que des tutorielles d’apprentissage et un calendrier d’événements francophone et francophile.

Ayez un plaisant séjour,

Hadrien

This is a blog dedicated to those learning French in the NYC area. I have gathered at your disposal a set of reading, listening, and video recommendations including language-learning tutorials and a calendar of francophone and francophile events. 

Have a pleasant stay,

Hadrien