Tag Archives: French

A New Year’s Gift

In this last blog post before Christmas, we take a look at a festively themed quatrain written by the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé in 1896. One of a group of poems called ‘Dons de fruits glacés au Nouvel an’ [Gifts of glazed fruits at the New Year], these four lines commemorate the turning of the year in a single crystallised image:

Le temps
                nous y succombons
Sans l’amitié pour revivre
Ne glace que ces bonbons
A son plumage de givre.

[Time
                we succumb to it
Without friendship to relive
It glazes only these sweets
With its feathers of frost.]

Stéphane Mallarmé

A very brief bit of background about Mallarmé…

Stéphane [Étienne] Mallarmé was born in Paris in 1842 and died in 1898 in Valvins, near Fontainebleau. He is one of the most famous French poets of the second half of the nineteenth century and is often linked to the Symbolist movement, although Mallarmé himself resisted this categorisation to a degree. The Symbolists were broadly interested in pursuing the ‘Idée’ and adopted Mallarmé’s attempt to ‘peindre, non la chose, mais l’effet qu’elle produit’ [paint, not the thing itself, but the effect it produces]. They sometimes took an avant-garde approach to poetic form, and were amongst the earliest writers to experiment with vers libre and prose poetry. Mallarmé himself produced poetry in both verse and prose, as well as critical work and the long experimental poem Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le hasard. His poetry is known for its syntactic playfulness and linguistic precision, each poem representing a challenge to the reader and opening up a space for potentially limitless interpretation. Blank space, nothingness, the void – these become the source of artistic creation as the poet sought to bring something out of nothing, striving to evoke no one flower but, rather, ‘l’absente de tous bouquets’ – the ideal flower that cannot be found in any real bouquet.

So what about the poem itself?

This quatrain is an example of what Mallarmé called ‘vers de circonstance’: circumstantial poems, written for a particular occasion or in response to stimuli he encountered in his everyday life. For instance, in addition to writing a number of poems around holiday times to mark the Christmas, New Year, and Easter periods, he wrote toasts to be given at special dinners, birthday poems for his friends, and even snippets of poetry to his correspondents when he sent them letters, the poems a playful way of representing the recipient’s address.

These vers de circonstance are often amusing but they can also gesture towards some of the more serious themes within Mallarmé’s wider work, a more lighthearted way for him to reflect on the deeper questions he had explored elsewhere. Let’s dive deeper into this example…

Close reading

The opening words of the poem reveal its central concern: time and the effect of time on personal relationships and on the writing process. We are told that ‘nous succombons‘ – we succumb – to time, thereby personifying it in an image that suggests oppression or temptation and yielding. Time is also the subject of the verb ‘glacer’ and the possessor of a ‘plumage de givre’: two icy images of an abstract temporal figure.

And yet, there is someone else also present in this poem: the speaker. And the speaker is not isolated and solitary, but speaks in the first person plural, ‘nous succombons’. Who is this ‘nous’? With whom is the speaker interacting? We don’t know exactly, but what we do know is that the poem accompanies a ‘don de fruits glacés au nouvel an’, a gift of glazed or candied fruits, or bonbons, to commemorate the new year. We might therefore assume a degree of friendship between the speaker and the addressee as they are close enough to exhange this gift. The bonbons are an illustration of intimacy and this is also true of the poem itself, where that ‘nous’ acts as a link binding two people, a textual representation of their friendship.

Speaking of friendship, that ‘sans amitié’ might feel out of place at first (this is one of the challenges of reading Mallarmé!). Who, we might ask, is friendless? We are tempted to assume it is the person most recently referred to in the line above – the speaker and his nameless addressee. But this does not make sense, because we know that the speaker and his addressee are exchanging a festive gift and that neither of them can therefore be thought friendless. The only other option is that time itself must be friendless. The personification of time, together with the icy imagery, suggests that time is a lonesome figure, which can only freeze the world around it, whereas the speaker and his addressee have the warmth of companionship.

Candied orange slice.

But it’s not all solitude and misery because there’s an element of humour at work in this poem as well. Immediately, our eye is drawn to the split first line: by breaking the line in this place and indenting ‘nous succombons’, Mallarmé offers us a visual pun on the verb ‘succomber’ as the second half of the line submits to the first by continuing below it.

Moreover, the more oppressive tone of ‘succombons’ is offset by the fact that it rhymes with ‘bonbons’. The reference to sweets lightens the mood: we may be talking about submission but we are also talking about candy. Putting aside the possibility of some nightmarish Willy Wonka vision, the bonbons add a dose of characteristic Mallarméan playfulness to a serious reflection on our relationship to time. In this reading, time might appear less as an oppressor exerting pressure, and more as a temptation to which we might reluctantly give in – and it is difficult not to hear the echo of ‘temps’ in ‘tentation’.

Besides the succombons/bonbons pairing, there is another important rhyme in the poem: revivre/givre. ‘Givre’, meaning frost, is a reference to the sugar which coats the fruit offered in the poem. If we speak of ‘une orange givrée’, we mean a candied orange, with ‘givré’ in this sense a synonym for ‘glacé’. If you picture a slice of candied orange, it is easy to see how the sugar resembles frost. But this is no accidental allusion to frost, just as ‘glacer’ is no accidental allusion to ice: winter imagery is common in Mallarmé’s poetry and is a means for him to think about the creative process. In his earlier poetry, this is a way of figuring sterility, an anxiety about writing in the fin de siècle (the late nineteenth century) when Mallarmé would write in another poem, ‘Brise marine’: “La chair est triste, hélas! et j’ai lu tous les livres” [The Flesh is sad, alas! and I have read all the books]. Creativity has been exhausted and time, that icy figure, has rendered poetry infertile.

In this sense, the winter imagery of this quatrain is in dialogue with some of Mallarmé’s other, more extensive texts. We might think particularly of his text ‘Hérodiade’, a dramatic poem related to the story of Salomé, and which centres around a virgin princess who frets over her own purity. Sterility is a central theme in this text, and Hérodiade expresses this with reference to both coldness and her mirror: ” la froideur stérile du métal,/ […]/ Assez! Tiens devant moi ce miroir./ Ô miroir!/ Eau froide par l’ennui dans ton cadre gelée […]” [the sterile coldness of the metal,/ […]/ Enough! Hold this mirror before me./ O mirror! Cold water frozen by ennui in your frame […].].
This alignment of the mirror with coldness recalls the double meaning of ‘glace’ as both ice and mirror. Thus, when this new year’s quatrain refers to time’s ability to ‘glacer’ the bonbons, we might consider that time is not only glazing the fruit but is also mirroring it or rendering it double. Where might we look for the reflection or double of the fruit? Perhaps to the poem itself, which acts as the fruit’s double, a glazed offering of friendship as a riposte to temporal suspension.

Besides ‘Herodiade’, the other clear intertextual reference is to Mallarmé’s sonnet ‘Le vierge le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui’, which focuses on the image of a swan trapped on a frozen lake, unable to fly. Traditionally, swans have been a metaphor for poets, and the fact that Mallarmé’s swan is grounded indicates we are once again dealing with the question of poetic sterility. This poem alludes to many of the things mentioned in our New Year’s quatrain, evoking in particular “Ce lac dur oublié que hante sous le givre/ Le transparent glacier des vols qui n’ont pas fui!” [This hard, forgotten lake which is haunted beneath the ice/ By the transparent glacier of flights which have not taken off!] and also referring to the swan’s ‘plumage’. The fact that ‘plumage’ appears again in the New Year’s quatrain reinforces the suggestion that this quatrain was written with Mallarmé’s earlier sonnet in mind. In the quatrain, the word ‘plumage’ gestures towards the fronds of sugar on the candied fruit which may resemble feathers, but it also alludes to a ‘plume’, a feather or quill, and is therefore a nod to the act of writing. By reading this quatrain alongside Mallarmé’s other writing, we see the themes of sterility and writing come to light.

So it becomes clear that this is a poem about poetry: about what it means to write and the frustrations of the creative process, which can feel sterile or infertile. Nonetheless, while the Mallarmé of the 1860s, who wrote ‘Hérodiade’ and ‘Le vierge le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui’, was anxious about sterility, we should bear in mind that Mallarmé’s later poetry moved away from this preoccupation and towards a different way of understanding the bare white space of winter: as a blank canvas waiting for the writer and reader to bring it to life. The mirror’s surface, the icy lake, the blank page: these become a space of endless potentiality. The New Year’s quatrain, written in 1896, may be more reflective of this later Mallarmé than the early Mallarmé. This is why it is important that ‘givre’ rhymes with ‘revivre’: there is room here for renewal and creative hope. What’s more, the ghost rhyme latent in a poem such as this must surely be ‘livre’, another reference to writing. In this light, time may offer potential for renewal as opposed to a sterilising of creativity, and we might indeed read that ‘succomber’ as an indication of temptation rather than oppression.

This lighthearted quatrain, therefore, is more than simply a few trite lines composed on the occasion of sending a friend a gift of candied fruit. The poem itself is a present, an embodiment of friendship, and it is also a comment on the writing process. Permanence, the act of creation across the blank page, fin-de-siècle stasis and renewal: all are encompassed in this small text. Poetry thus becomes a way of submitting to, but also resisting, time. It is a new year’s gift to us, as readers, an offering of renewal.

We hope you enjoyed that reading of a festive quatrain in our last post before Christmas. We’ll be back on 8th January and all that remains to be said is Happy New Year – or bonne année!

Flash Fiction Competitions Launch

It’s the time of year again when we launch our annual competitions in French and Spanish! If you are learning French and/or Spanish in Years 7-13, you are invited to send us a very short story to be in with a chance of winning up to £100. Read on to find out more…

What is Flash Fiction?

We’re looking for a complete story, written in French or Spanish, using NO MORE THAN 100 WORDS.

How short can it be?

Well, candidates for the World’s Shortest Story include a six-word story in English by Ernest Hemingway:

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’

Or a seven-word story in Spanish by Augusto Monterroso, called El dinosaurio:

‘Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.’

You don’t have to be as brief as that, but anything from six to a hundred words will do. Just not a single word more.

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

What are the judges looking for?

We’ll be looking for imagination and narrative flair, as well as your ability to write in French or Spanish. Your use of French or Spanish will be considered in the context of your age and year group: in other words, we will not expect younger pupils to compete against older pupils linguistically. For inspiration, you can read some of last year’s winning entries and runners up for French here, or for Spanish here.

What do I win?

There are two categories: Years 7-11 and Years 12-13. A first prize of £100 will be awarded to the winning entry in each category, with runner-up prizes of £25. The winning entries will be published on our this blog, if you give us permission to do so.

How do I enter?

The deadline for submissions is noon on Tuesday 31st March 2020.

If you would like to submit a story in French please do so via our online sumission portal here.

If you would like to submit a story in Spanish please do so here.

You may only submit one story per language but you are welcome to submit one story in French AND one story in Spanish if you would like to. Your submission should be uploaded as a Word document or pdf.

The online page will ask you to fill in some details, which are used for the purpose of administering our outreach activity. To understand how your data is used for this purpose, please read the Privacy Policy. Please note that, because of GDPR, teachers cannot enter on their students’ behalf: students must submit their entries themselves.
If this is the first time you have entered a competition with us, you will be sent an automated email (check your spam folder if you can’t find this), which will include a link to verify your email address. Please click this link, which will take you to the Modern Languages Faculty website (you will be given an option to sign up to the newsletter. You do not have to sign up to the newsletter in order to enter the competition, although you are welcome to do so). Once you have clicked the confirmation link in the email, your entry has been submitted.
If you have entered this competition before you won’t receive an automated email as it is simply to check that the email address you’ve submitted works so that we can email you the results.

If you have any questions, please email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk

Good luck! Bonne chance! ¡ Mucha suerte!

Paper Frenchmen: Francophone Indian literature

In late November, Oxford welcomed the writer Ari Gautier and his translator into English, Prof. Blake Smith, for a discussion about Francophone Indian Literature and about Gautier’s writing in particular. Part of the ‘World Literatures’ strand of the Creative Multilingualism programme, this event was convened by Prof. Jane Hiddleston and Sheela Mahadevan. Here we reflect on a few highlights…

Currently based in Oslo, Ari Gautier spent his childhood in former French colony Pondichéry, India. He is the author of Carnet Secret de Lakshmi and Le Thinnai, two novels which creatively intersperse Tamil, Hindi, Créole and English with French, reflecting the multilingual identities of those living in Pondichéry. His works give an insight into the impact of the French rule on the lives of Pondichéry citizens, their constantly vacillating identities, the multicultural aspect of the city, the Indian caste system, and the history of Pondichéry.

The ‘World Literatures’ strand of Creative Multilingualism is interested in texts where multiple languages brush up against one another, prompting questions about the boundaries of what a language is. This research wants to explore how worldliness and cultural transfer is present within a text from the moment of its inception, and how multilingualism speaks to multiculturalism. The research aims to expose interactions between different languages within a text, not just by examining the different languages in which a text is written, but also seeking out the traces of other languages through allusions to them or even by the notable absence of certain languages in a text. Gautier’s novels, with their interspersing of at least five languages, therefore seem like a perfect fit.

Prof. Smith gave a useful overview of the status of Francophone Indian Literature. To begin with, he acknowledged that it’s not necessarily something the general English reader will be aware of. When we think of Francophonie, we perhaps automatically think of certain countries in West Africa, Canada, or French-speaking East Asia or Oceania. However, France had a colonial presence in India from the seventeenth century. That said, Francophone Indian Literature was only really published from the late nineteenth century onwards and, during the twentieth century, French acted as a secondary language for many writers who were primarily writing in other languages. Academic interest in the French colonial legacy within Indian writing is fairly recent, and Prof. Smith recommended an anthology of Francophone Indian short stories for anyone who wishes to explore further: Écriture indienne d’expression française, edited by Vijaya Rao (Yoda Press & La Reunion par Le GERM, 2008).

Photo by Muhammed Jiyadh on Unsplash

The panel then turned to a discussion of how multilingualism operates within Gautier’s writing. Here is an extract from Gautier’s novel, Le Thinnai:

— Gilbert, va m’acheter un Suruttu à la boutique. Il te reste encore de la monnaie, n’est-ce pas ?
Voyant Gilbert fouiller désespérément ses poches, mon père lui dit d’aller chez Karika Bhai et d’acheter un paquet de Suruttus sur son compte.
— Oh, je suis à la retraite depuis une bonne dizaine d’années. J’ai fait le strict nécessaire sous les drapeaux pour pouvoir bénéficier de la retraite et je suis retourné au pays, répondit mon père après s’être allumé une cigarette.
— Pourquoi vous n’y êtes pas resté ? Vous ne vous plaisiez pas en métropole ?
— Ce n’est pas une question de s’y plaire ou pas. J’avais juste envie de revenir parmi les miens. Même si je m’étais fondé une famille là-bas, il me paraissait tout à fait naturel de rentrer chez moi.
— Mais la France, c’est aussi chez vous ! Vous êtes citoyen français.
Papa laissa échapper une bouffée de fumée ; il tapotait la cigarette sur le bord du cendrier et parut réfléchir.
— Oui, je suis français. Mais je suis indien en même temps. C’est ici que je suis né, mes ancêtres sont d’ici. Mes racines sont là. Même si j’ai vécu en métropole pendant quelque temps, il m’a paru normal de rentrer chez moi. Il n’y a aucune différence entre moi et un Breton ou un Normand qui aurait envie de retourner chez lui après avoir passé du temps en dehors de sa région natale. Sauf que moi, c’est un peu plus loin… Il marqua un temps d’arrêt pour tirer une bouffée. Mais vous connaissez aussi bien que moi l’histoire de notre pays ; surtout, l’histoire de Pondichéry. Ma famille est française depuis deux générations et je fus le premier à partir en métropole. Jusqu’ici nous n’avions que le statut de Français sur les documents ; mais nous étions profondément indiens. Enfin, nous le sommes toujours. Comment pouvez-vous vous sentir français, sans avoir jamais mis les pieds dans ce pays. Mes parents viennent d’un milieu modeste et n’ont pas eu accès ni à la langue ni à la culture française. L’univers français nous était totalement étranger. La seule chose qui nous rapprochait des Européens était le culte de la religion catholique. À part ça, nous vivions dans deux mondes différents. Notre allégeance à la France se trouvait enfermée dans une vieille malle en ferraille dans l’espoir qu’un jour, un des descendants l’ouvrirait et utiliserait ce morceau de papier. Pendant longtemps, nous ne fûmes pas considérés comme citoyens français ; nous n’étions que des sujets de la nation.
—Mais, toute ces années passées dans l’armée française n’ont pas su éveiller en vous un sentiment d’appartenance à ce pays ?
Mon père écrasa la cigarette au fond du cendrier et se versa une nouvelle rasade. Il se leva pour aller servir le vieil homme et vint s’asseoir sur le petit thinnai. Il tenait le verre de whisky dans sa main droite et regardait les bulles de soda qui remontaient à la surface du verre. Il reprit la parole en se passant la main gauche sur les cheveux d’avant en arrière ; geste qu’il avait l’habitude de faire quand il réfléchissait longuement.
— Je ne connais pas votre histoire, l’ancien, mais vous avez l’air de quelqu’un qui connaît la vie. Vivre en exil est une énorme malédiction. Certes, mon éloignement fut volontaire ; mais à mon époque, nous n’avions pas beaucoup de choix. Partir était le seul moyen d’échapper à une vie indigente. Nos parents et grands-parents qui avaient opté pour la nationalité française avaient fait de nous une génération d’immigrés dans notre pays qui était la France. Indigènes de la nation, nos vies n’ont connu que les tranchées, les coups de feu et les rations militaires. Inconscients et aveugles ignorants, nous sommes partis combattre nos frères malgaches, indochinois et algériens. À aucun moment, la notion que nous étions coupables de complicité involontaire aux massacres d’un pouvoir colonial ne nous a effleurés. Nous nous battions contre des ennemis de notre Mère patrie. Nous en étions fiers. Mais malgré notre fidélité envers elle, l’idée du retour fut plus instinctive. Après tout, nous n’étions que des indigènes des Troupes Coloniales ; la France n’a jamais été notre patrie. Cet attachement ambivalent que nous avons envers elle est une anomalie de l’histoire.  

And here it is in Prof. Smith’s English translation:

 “Gilbert, go buy me a suruttu at the shop. You still have money, don’t you?”
Watching Little Gilbert fumble despairingly in his pockets, my father told him to buy a suruttu from Karika Bhai, and add it to the soldier’s account.
“Oh, I’ve been retired for twelve years now. I did the absolute minimum to earn my pension, and now I’m back.” My father answered, lighting a cigarette.
“Why didn’t you stay? You didn’t like it in France?”
“It wasn’t a question of liking it or not. I just wanted to come back to my own people. Even if I started a family there, it seemed natural to come back home.”
“But France, that’s home too! You’re a French citizen.”
My father exhaled a puff of smoke. He tapped the cigarette on the edge of the ashtray and seemed to think it over.
“Oh, I’m French. But Indian, too. I was born here. So were my ancestors. My roots are here. And after spending some time outside their own province, even a Breton or a Norman wants to go home. It’s the same with me. But my home is a little farther… you must know the history of Pondicherry as well as I do. My family has been French for generations, but I was the first one to go to France. Until then we were just paper Frenchmen; really we were Indians. Really we still are. How can you feel French, if you’ve never set foot there? My parents came from nothing; they didn’t know French or French culture. The only thing that connected us to the Europeans was the church. Besides that, it was two different worlds.”
“But all those years in the French army, didn’t they make you feel like you were part of the nation?”
My father crushed his cigarette in the ashtray and poured another drink. He got up to fill the old man’s glass and sat back down. He held his whisky in his right hand, watching the soda bubbles rise to the surface. He ran his left hand through his hair, which he always did when he had to think hard about something.
“I don’t know your story, old one, but you seem like you know a thing or two about life. Living in exile is a curse. Sure, I chose it, but back then there wasn’t much to choose from. Leaving was the only way out of poverty. Trenches, gunshots, and rations, that was all we knew. We fought our brothers in Madagascar, Indochina and Algeria. We never thought we might be guilty of anything. We felt nothing, saw nothing, understood nothing. We fought the enemies of the motherland. We were proud. But in spite of our faithful service, we wanted to come home. We were just colonial soldiers. France was never our country. What we had with it was just a quirk of history.”

The question of French culture and how far it can coexist alongside an Indian identity is central to this passage, a fact that is emphasised and complicated by the fact that the novel is written largely in French. But, of course, this passage is not entirely in French. What about that reference to a suruttu? A suruttu is a cigar, what we would call in English a ‘cheroot’, from the French cheroute, which itself comes from the Tamil curuttu/churuttu/shuruttu/suruttu. In this way, a single word, referring to an everyday item, can illuminate a complicated multilingual interaction.

Similarly the reference to the Tamil word thinnai is an example of what we might think of as an untranslatable word. A thinnai is a raised platform built adjacent to the main entrance of a house. It is common in Tamil Nadu, a state in the south of India. Traditionally, it was a place where elders could rest to talk to neighbours and friends, and where strangers could stop for respite when passing through the town. Thus, in a text written mostly in French we see how a reference to another language can evoke a whole set of cultural values – hospitality, community, conversation. The porous borders between languages can facilitate and reveal the coexistence of multiple cultures.

Gautier talked about his own multilingual background, explaining that he spoke French with his father but Tamil with his uncle. Growing up in Pondicherry, he said that every street seemed to have its own language and he moved around a lot: his universe evolved with languages. When asked about the fact that his first novel included footnotes to explain Tamil words to non-Tamil speakers, but his second novel did not, Gautier confirmed that this was a deliberate decision. Footnotes could be seen as a form of linguistic colonisation – an attempt to make the Tamil words fit more comfortably within a French-language text. By deciding not to explain the Tamil in his second novel, Gautier refused to compromise Tamil. He said that using footnotes made him feel alien to his own language.

The wide-ranging discussion moved on to cover many aspects of Gautier’s writing, including its cinematic quality, the role of received memory in constructing his narratives and the question of mythology. While we don’t have room to touch on all those topics here, we will end by mentioning one further question that was raised, and which again highlights the porous potentiality of multilingualism: the use of Creole in Gautier’s novels.

Le Thinnai includes a character called Lourdes, a servant who speaks in Creole. One of the important roles Creole plays in a novel written largely in French is to recognise a community that has been overlooked. Gautier explained that in Pondicherry there is a problematic hierarchy between what is known as ‘haut-créole’ and ‘bas-créole’. Someone who is ‘haut-créole’ is of mixed French and Indian descent, whereas someone who is ‘bas-créole’ is not of French descent but nonetheless speaks a creolised form of French. The character Lourdes is ‘bas-créole’. She insists that she speaks French but other characters think she is speaking in Creole. The inclusion of Creole in this novel therefore performs the difficulties of thinking about translingualism: how far is it a language in its own right? How far is it a corrupted form of French? Might we think of it as an enhanced form of French?

These are just a few of the questions raised by the notion of multilingualism and translingualism in World Literatures. You can dig a little deeper into Francophone Indian literature by reading Prof. Smith’s piece ‘Indian Literature speaks French‘ or follow Ari Gautier on Twitter.

FRENCH FLASH FICTION: THE SIXTH-FORMERS

Our final post from the 2019 French Flash Fiction competition: here are some of the highly commended stories from our Year 12 and Year 13 entrants. As well as some excellent command of the French language, you’ll see some extraordinary creative imagination here, all expressed in a hundred words or fewer. Congratulations to all the writers featured here, and we hope you enjoy their stories.

La Pianiste

Là, dans la presque noirceur, je me sens vivante. La pianiste caresse le clavier et les notes tombent- un filet de bulles en verre qui semblent flotter dans l’air avant de se fracasser en éclats scintillants qui transpercent mon coeur. Deux mains, dix doigts; des centaines de notes qui m’entourent. Les mélodies se mélangent; les ruisseaux qui deviennent les fleuves qui deviennent les vagues- déferlant sur ma tête et me laissant trempée avec des larmes et de l’extase.
Les doigts du pianiste s’immobilisent. Elle a perdu ses eaux, et je suis renée.

— Jemima, Year 12, The Henrietta Barnett School

Photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash

Connaissez-vous les nuits glacées? Ces nuits qui font mourir les feux et font danser les fantômes au-dessus des lacs glacés? Les nuits qui peuvent faire frissonner le diable, les nuits tellement silencieuses qu’on peut entendre les morts soupirer?
C’était dans une telle nuit que j’ai rencontré mon amante. Elle s’est tenue au milieu d’un champ enneigé, avec un visage gelé et des cheveux stalactites.
Elle m’a tendu sa main bleue et noire et elle a soufflé: Ne sais-tu pas qu’il fait trop froid pour les vivants? Viens. Danse avec moi.

— Hannah, Year 12, Bryanston School

 

Être Libre

D’ici, le monde en dessous semble petit. J’observe les humains et j’essaie de les comprendre. Mais ce n’est pas facile. Avec mes vastes ailes de plumes noires, qui reflètent la brillance du soleil et me font glisser dans l’air, je surveille la ville chaotique. Je n’aime pas trop m’approcher. Il y a des oiseaux qui s’installent sur les lampadaires, et même des moineaux qui flottent entre la jungle de pieds, pour qu’ils puissent trouver à manger. Mais moi je suis libre et sauvage, entre les nuages. Les enfants me montrent du doigt, mais ils ne me toucheront jamais.

— Juliette, Year 12, St Helen’s School

 

Il s’est rendu compte de la chaleur cette journée-là, comme dans une ruche agitée. Tous portaient des grandes lunettes de soleil, pour cacher leurs yeux bulbeux.
En regardant autours de lui, il a entrevu des milliers de corps errants, des milliers de cages thoraciques, piégeantes les torses comme des exosquelettes.  
Il a essayé d’ignorer tout, mais le fredonnement du lot s’est transformé en bourdonnement violent à telle enseigne qu’il ne pouvait plus le bloquer.
Sur son bras, une abeille mourante était assise, sa piqûre enfoncée dans la chair. L’abeille le suivait avec ses yeux d’insecte, ses grandes lunettes de soleil.

— Camille, Year 12, The Latymer School

 

Sous le ciel nocturne de juillet, le chaos se déroule. Le rouge, le blanc et le bleu du drapeau de notre nation sont partout ; ce sentiment d’espoir est tangible. La Bastille autrefois si puissante- se mit à genoux face à la foule qui marque l’histoire. Coups de feu ! Fumée ! Des soldats à perte de vue ! Personne ne comprend la signification de cette journée. Personne ne se rend compte que cette attaque sur la Bastille marquera le reste de la Révolution Français –
Un coup de fusil !
Ma vie prend fin… la révolution commence.

— Katie, Year 12, Skipton Girls’ High School

 

“Prends-le, ça ne vous fera pas de mal”, murmura-t-il dans mon oreille de sa voix douce. Je plaçai la substance bienheureuse sur ma langue et fermai les yeux. La terre tournait dix fois plus vite sous mes pas; j’ai ressenti de la chaleur, mais je tremblais de froid en même temps. Il y avait des teintes magnifiques dans tout ce que je voyais et la ténèbre était absente de le bonheur dans mon esprit. C’est tout ce dont je pourrais me souvenir avant mon réveil: les lumières crues de l’hôpital m’éblouissant de leur regard.

— Vikita, Year 12, St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School

 

Assis sous un cerisier, on voit la vie en rose. L’ébène de l’arbre est derrière soi – on est incapable de broyer du noir. Tout est bleui, bleuâtre, mais on n’est ni triste ni solitaire. Les nuages veloutés d’azur s’enroulent comme des feuilles couvertes de givre. Le ciel bleu lavande, presque violet, se consomme. On n’a nulle part où être mais ici. On respire et le paysage soupire aussi. Les pétales rougissants, crémeux, caressent le visage, comme pour dire, « Tout va bien. Tout ira bien. On n’a pas besoin de s’inquiéter. » Et on ne s’inquiète pas.

— Ella, Year 13, South Hampstead High School

Career Profile: publishing and graphic design

This week on Adventures on the Bookshelf we bring you a career profile with a difference. Samantha Miller, who studied French and Italian from scratch at Somerville College and graduated in 2011, began her career in the publishing world before changing course and becoming a graphic designer. Here she tells us about her career route and how a languages degree from Oxford prepared her for the working world…

I studied French and Italian at Somerville, graduating in 2011. On my year abroad I got a job at a literary agency in Paris, which I had enjoyed, so after graduating I was keen to work in the publishing industry. After doing an internship at another literary agency in London, I landed a job at a large independent children’s book publisher working in the Foreign Rights department. Rights isn’t an area that many people outside of publishing have heard of, but it’s a really excellent choice for languages students. Basically, you are selling the translation rights to books to foreign publishers around the world. It gives you a broad insight into lots of areas of the business, and usually has good opportunities for foreign travel to international book fairs and to visit other publishing houses around the world.

After staying in the role for over five years, I decided I wanted a job with more creativity and flexibility. I did a three-month intensive graphic design course which taught me how to use design software, and more importantly how to generate ideas and solve design problems in a structured way. I got a job as a junior designer shortly after finishing the course. I now work at a small design and brand consultancy working on projects for large international corporate organisations in sectors such as law, insurance and property. The work is varied and challenging, although the hours are not as forgiving as in the publishing world!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Although I have rarely used any knowledge from my degree directly at work, the skills you gain from presenting your ideas in tutorials, navigating a year abroad, and processing large amounts of information quickly are invaluable. Clear communication and an international outlook are vital components of so many roles, and a languages degree gives you these. Most importantly, Oxford teaches you how to learn. Although it took me a long time to work up to courage to leave my job in publishing and retrain completely, I have found that much of my previous experience is transferable and employers do take this into account when considering candidates who have had career changes.

FRENCH FLASH FICTION: MORE STORIES

Last month we featured some of the highly commended entries in our French Flash Fiction contest. Here are some more of the highly commended entries from the Year 7-11 category, chosen from among the nearly six hundred entries we received. Congratulations to all the writers featured here, and we hope you enjoy reading their work, and perhaps get a little inspiration for next year’s contest.

 Quelle dommage, pour le fromage!

J’ai rejoint la foule excitée au centre du village. Comme tous les autres, je portais une baguette. C’était la Fête du Fromage Annuelle. Le maire a commencé à parler en grande pompe, “Maintenant, je prononce …”, mais il a terminé avec désespoir, “…il n’y a pas de fromage!” Le souffle collectif a été noyé par le vacarme d’un vaisseau extraterrestre descendant. De sa trappe ouverte vola un déluge de fromages. Puis, une voix a tonné, “Nous n’avons pas encore assez évolué pour apprécier le Camembert, le Comte ou le Cantal. Nous reviendrons dans 5 millions d’années. Continuez faire le fromage!”

— Neelkantha, Year 7, The Perse School

 

Mont Blanc était une chatte. Une grande chatte. Une grande, grosse chatte. Une grande, grosse chatte affamée. Ses propriétaires bien intentionnés l’avaient soumise à un régime alimentaire strict, mais Mont Blanc avait d’autres idées. Aux grands maux, les grands remèdes; une vie de crime l’appelait! Après avoir mangé sa portion maigre de nourriture hypocalorique, elle est partie pour trouver un vrai repas.
Dans la maison voisine habitait la vieille Mme Dupont avec son chat paresseux et pitoyable. Pas de problème pour une chatte débrouillarde…
Mont Blanc était une grande, grosse chatte. Une grande, grosse chatte heureuse.

— Mairéad, Year 8, Swavesey Village College

Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

Le papillon s’est perché sur une feuille. Il vient ici tous les jours, avec ses ailes et son festival de couleurs empêchant son rythme de se reposer. On dirait que ça me regarde, comme si elle contemplait quelque chose de lointain, c’est peut-être passé. Être pris au piège dans un cocon ne doit pas être gentil. “Aller. Envolez-vous”, je le dis. “Sois libre!”
Bien que je n’ai pas parlé en langage papillon, il a semblé comprendre alors que ses yeux se concentraient sur moi, juste pendant une seconde, avant de reprendre son rythme et de s’envoler.
Je n’ai jamais revu ce papillon.

— Anoushka, Year 8,  The Queens School, Chester

 

Au Secours ! Les murs se referment ! Je crie « Au secours !» Personne ne m’entend. Mon corps commence à se replier. Tout est ténèbres ! Mes genoux se pressent contre mes côtes. J’entends les gens qui passent mais ils ne font rien d’autre que ; risent et fixent, fixent et risent.
Un tintement !
Un euro tombe dans mon béret. « Merci monsieur ! »
Il dit « Pas de problème monsieur, J’adore les mimes comme vous! »

— Sulemaan, Year 11, St Albans School

Mamadou titubait nu-pieds à travers la savane. La chaleur du soleil de midi était insupportable. Les taons rongeaient chaque centimètre de peau exposé, et la sangle en cuir rêche que portait son fusil d’assaut frottait contre son épaule. Il jeta un coup d’œil au soldat à sa gauche. Non. Ce n’était pas un soldat. C’était un enfant, pas plus de quatorze ans. Mamadou regarda le visage de ce garçon, innocent, terrifié et épuisé, et il s’est mis à pleurer silencieusement. Ils continuèrent de marcher.

— Joshua, Year 11, City of London Freemen’s School

Sagesse

Il était une fois, il y a habité une sorcière. Cette sorcière peut prédire le futur et elle savait comment le monde a commencé. Elle savait pourquoi la mer a pleuré avec des larmes salées et elle a composé la chanson des oiseaux.
Un jour, un petit enfant a demandé elle,
“Madame, savez-vous absolument tout?”
Elle a répondu, “Non, je n’ai compris jamais pourquoi les gens du monde ne sont pas amicaux, pourquoi ils semblent détester des gens différents quand nous partageons tous le même cœur. Si tu peux apprendre ça, mon fils, tu seras plus sage que moi”.

— Isabel, Year 11, Wycombe Abbey School

 

Elle se jeta en avant, les orteils pointus, le corps parfaitement aligné. Ses yeux se croisèrent, concentrés sur le fond de la piscine. Encore trois mètres à laisser tomber. Toute erreur, lui coûtera la médaille dont son pays a besoin. Un mot simple, avec une grande signification – ‘focus’; continuait à rejouer dans son esprit. Un mètre à faire, mais du coin de l’oeil, elle aperçoit une silhouette, une silhouette qui devait disparaître il y a cinq ans … son père. La focalisation est perdue, la forme estropiée, la médaille n’est plus une possibilité.

— Giulia, Year 11, Channing School

 

L’obsession peut nous pousser à aller très loin, même si cela signifie que nous nous soumettons au couteau, ou nous nous enterrons sous terre. Et l’amour? C’est la pire obsession de toutes. Mireille l’a appris trop tard. Harcelée au collège, négligée à la maison, toujours seule, elle est tombée amoureuse de la Mort. Elle espérait qu’elle punirait les brutes: leur ferait payer ce qu’ils avaient fait. Alors, avec un couteau en main, elle est allée pour le rencontrer. Maintenant Mireille est allongée, froide, sous la terre, dans les bras de la Mort. Et le monde continue sans elle.

— Jenna Mae, Year 11, Skipton Girls’ High School

Stay tuned to see the runners up in the older category later this month!

FRENCH FLASH FICTION: THE STORIES

Here are some of our highly commended entries from the Year 7-11 category of the French Flash Fiction contest (other highly commended entries will be posted in the next few weeks.) As you’ll see, they have a huge variety of styles, moods and subjects, showing how much thought and imagination has gone into their creation. There has also clearly been a lot of care and effort from the writers in expressing themselves in good, clear French. The French is not always perfect – although it is always of an impressive standard for the level of study the writer has reached! – but in every case you can see the enthusiasm for language as the writer tries to tell an ambitious story in a foreign language. Congratulations to all the writers featured here, and we hope you enjoy the stories.

Image by Anke Sundermeier from Pixabay

Monsieur Mystère est le meilleur détective français, toutes les énigmes qu’ on lui donne il sait les résoudre en un éclair. Alerte ! Le trophé de la coupe du monde de football a disparu; Didier Deschamps le capitaine est inconsolable… Trois joueurs sont suspectés de l’avoir volé pour son or: Mbappé, Pogba et Griezman. Monsieur Mystère les interviewe, il remarque Mbappe a une nouvelle Lamborghini ayant des roues en or, Pogba a des nouvelles dents en or et Griezman a un nouveau ballon d’or. Lequel suspectes- tu…?

Aucun ! C’est Gareth Southgate qui la subtilisé pour 2022 !

Sean, Year 7, Trinity Catholic High School

 

Un jour, un chat, une souris et un chien vivent dans une maison. Le chat a très faim. La souris a mangé du fromage. Le chat a mangé la souris. Le chien a poursuivi le chat. Le chat est très gros car il a mangé la souris. De plus, le chat est très lent. Il était très facile pour le chien de manger le chat. Et ensuite? Ensuite, la maison a mangé le chien et tout ce qui se trouvait à l’intérieur.

Ansh, Year 8, Hill House School

 

Amabel s’est réveillée pendant la nuit. Après être descendue les escaliers, elle est sortie de la maison. Elle ne voulait pas partir longtemps, et elle savait certainement qu’elle reviendrait avant que ses frères ne se lèvent.

Elle a commencé à suivre un vieux sentier. Amabel a marché jusqu’à la rivière. Comme elle venait de se réveiller, elle était encore fatiguée et s’est assise près de l’eau. La fille regardait le ciel, qui passait d’un noir à un rose orange.

À son avis, le lever de soleil était la plus belle chose de sa vie.

Jeong, Year 8, Milbourne Lodge School

 

Diables

Ils viennent. Comme ils sont venus des centaines de fois. Sculptés en mes heures de veille, me hantant en mes heures de sommeil. Je tourne un coin et sprinte loin de les soucis que me consomment: mes devoirs, mes examens, la pression et mes relations; dans le monde vrai. Je vérifie ma montre. 3:00 du matin. Mes problèmes intérieurs me sont réveillé encore. Je sais que je devrait dire à quelqu’un, mes parents peut-être. Mais je dois le regarder en face seul. Ma tête tourne et je m’endors encore, dans mon monde imaginaire, où mes diables attendent pour moi.

Jack, Year 9, The Judd School

 

Le rêve
Je me suis assise sur mon lit. Je pense et pense, encore et encore. Ce jour-là, qui marque l’histoire avec un sourire malicieux. Les cicatrices qui restent peintes sur mon corps. Je me souviens de son visage, pâle mais doux. Comme une rose blanche pure émergeant du sol pour la première fois dans le temps. La pensée qui me hante et se moque de ma douleur. Les mains tremblantes, je prends mon visage et je pleure, les larmes de l’océan. J’imagine un monde vide, sans tristesse et sans haine, mais je sais dans mon cœur que je rêve.

Jasmine, Year 9, Cheltenham Ladies College

 

La lumière passait à travers les stores de mes fenêtres; un lever du soleil jaune terne éclairait les murs lavandes.  Je me suis faite tremper dans la chaleur de mon lit avant de marcher vers ma salle de bain.  Alors que mon pied a touché le sol frais, des sensations glaciales ont été envoyées en haut de mes jambes et je me suis regardée dans le miroir.  Les poches sous les yeux étaient intensifiées, ressemblant aux contusions plutôt qu’à un manque de sommeil.  C’étais confuse. Je ne pourrais que me souvenir d’une chose; combien mon coeur me fait mal.

Tilly, Year 10, Colston’s Girls’ School

 

C’était le jour où les étoiles ont commencé de tomber. Ils sont tombés tranquillement. Brûlants, brillants, comme les larmes coulant d’un visage seul. Je les ai regardés avec un émerveillement féroce, bouche bée. Le sol soi-même sous mes pieds, qui avait été fiable jusqu’à maintenant, était en train de vibrer, même de trembler. Je ne pouvais ni souffler ni sentir l’air frais, mais plûtot, il y avait une odeur trenchante et tordue, le sang brulé. Ca m’a fait piqué, ça m’a attaqué. Alors, tout est devenu un noir affreux, pendant que le monde tel que je le connais était terminé.

Jessica, Year 11, Wycombe Abbey

 

La Chose
La nuit est tombée ; le couloir est plongé dans l’obscurité. J’éclaire la pancarte à l’aide de ma torche, mais l’écriture est effacée, et ma main tremble trop. J’entre, la porte se plaignant bruyamment. Une odeur âcre me frappe aussitôt. En face de l’entrée se tient une armoire ancestrale ornée d’un miroir. Un vieux lit longe le côté droit de la pièce et – un grincement résonne soudainement. Je me fige. Puis un autre. Les escaliers, je réalise. Mais personne n’habite ici depuis des siècles. Un souffle caresse mon cou. Je regarde mon reflet dans le miroir, et j’hurle.

Lucas, Year 11, The Judd School

 

Le vieux sorcier habitait dans une maison qui n’existait pas, à Londres, qui existait. Chaque matin à sept heures, il montait au quatre-vingt-dix-neuvième étage et il s’asseyait sur son fauteuil à bascule, en fumant une pipe et lisant un livre. Quand il finissait une page de son livre, il la déchirait et il la pliait pour en faire un oiseau, qui s’envolait. De temps en temps, l’un de ses oiseaux revenait, et il lui demandait où il avait été et où il allait aller ensuite. Un de ces jours, il se disait, il allait les rejoindre.

Nicole, Year 11, The Latymer School 

FRENCH FLASH FICTION COMPETITION RESULTS

We were delighted, and quite literally overwhelmed, to receive nearly eight hundred entries to our first Flash Fiction competition in French. We asked you for a story on any subject, written in your best French, and comprising one hundred words or fewer in total. What we got was an astounding variety of creations, showcasing some immensely impressive storytelling imagination. There were spine-chilling tales of the supernatural, surreal dream-narratives, delicate character studies, and little comic masterpieces. A number of themes kept returning, among them: colours, animals, flowers, war, romance and death. There were many credible attempts at creating a cryptic plot or ending with a twist.

Our three judges, Caroline Ridler, Matt Hines and Simon Kemp, enjoyed your endlessly inventive contributions, and had a real struggle to pick our favourites. Finally, we settled on Clementine, Year 10, The Grey Coat Hospital as our winner in the Years 7-11 category, and Alisa, Year 12, Surbiton High School, as the winner of the Year 12-13 category. Congratulations to both of you, and you’ll each be receiving £100 in prize money.

Runner-up among the Year 7-11s is Maddie, Year 9, from Longsands Academy and among the 12-13s is Ben, Year 12, The King’s (The Cathedral) School Peterborough. You’ll each receive the runner-up prize of £25.

We also selected the best of the rest for our Highly Commended category. For Years 7-11, congratulations to:

Matthew, Year 7, King Alfred’s Academy
Neelkantha, Year 7, The Perse School
Sean, Year 7, Trinity Catholic High School
Annoushka, Year 8, The Queen’s School, Chester
Ansh, Year 8, Hill House School
Jeong, Year 8, Milbourne Lodge School
Mairead, Year 8, Swavesey Village College
Jack, Year 9, The Judd School
Jasmine, Year 9, Cheltenham Ladies College
Tilly, Year 10, Colston’s Girls’ School
Giulia, Year 11, Channing School
Isabel, Year 11, Wycombe Abbey School
Jenna, Year 11, Skipton Girls’ High School
Jessica, Year 11, Wycombe Abbey School
Joshua, Year 11, City of London Freemen’s School
Lucas, Year 11, The Judd School
Nicole, Year 11, The Latymer School
Sulemaan, Year 11, St Albans School

And for Years 12-13:

Jemima, Year 12, The Henrietta Barnett School
Ella, Year 13, South Hampstead High School
Hannah, Year 12, Bryanston School
Juliette, Year 12, St Helen’s School
Eleanor, Year 12, Redland Green School
Camille, Year 12, The Latymer School
Katie, Year 12, Skipton Girls’ High School
Vikita, Year 12, St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School

We’d like to offer our congratulations to all our winners, and our thanks to everyone who entered for all the hard work and imagination you put into your stories. They were a pleasure to read, and we hope you’ll think about entering again next year. We’ll be posting the stories by some of the entrants listed here over the course of the summer, so look out for your entry in the coming weeks. First up, here are the winning stories and the runners up…

FRENCH FLASH FICTION: THE WINNING STORIES

 Here are some of the winners of our 2019 French Flash Fiction competition. The standard of entries was incredibly high, but the judges agreed that these stories were particularly outstanding in their imagination and creativity, as well as their enthusiastic engagement with the target language. Writing a complete story in under a hundred words is a tough assignment in any language. Here, in the Years 7-11 category, we have a perfectly formed narrative that will make you dream. Below, in the Years 12-13 category is a story that makes creative use of colloquial French to show a mind in turmoil, and in the winning tale, a story that takes apart the whole premise of the competition. Hope you enjoy them.

YEARS 7-11

Winner : Clementine , Year 10

Je suis le mur blanc propre d’un jeune couple chic qui veut montrer sa réussite au monde.
Enlevez ma peau: vous verrez le papier peint des années 70, orné de fleurs jaunes géantes.  Reniflez un peu: l’odeur de nicotine du papa, une cigarette toujours à la main depuis qu’il a perdu son travail.
Encore une couche; vous devriez voir le chintz de la famille qui a connu une peur constante.  Examinez de près – les tâches de brûlure de la bombe tombée en 41.
Enfin, le vert foncé d’une époque de paix; la dame toujours vêtue en noir, son visage abaissé.

Photo by Dmitry Bayer on Unsplash

YEARS 12-13

Winner: Alisa, Year 12

L’illusion littéraire

La seule acception est les simples traces noires sur le papier. J’avais toujours pensé. D’autres ont toujours essayé de construire quelque chose de plus importante de ce qu’ils étaient. En voyant ces lettres comme elles sont en réalité, nous aurions gagné plus de contentement d’elles que d’imaginer de ce qu’elles pourraient devenir. Eux, ils ne veulent pas me comprendre, comme c’est le cas avec la pipe. René Magritte m’a dit: ceci n’est pas une pipe. Je vous dirais: ceci n’est pas une conte. Ceci n’est que des mots. Vous n’êtes pas comme les autres? Vous me comprendrez?

Runner-Up: Ben, Year 12

Je pense plus que j’aie envie de vivre.

 En fait, à l’heure actuelle c’est la seule chose dont je peux être certain.
Des nuits blanches se passent sans cesse, voilées par les somnifères qui n’entraînent que la paralysie. J’y repose regardant le plafond et je hurle ton nom jusqu’à ce que ma gorge saigne.
Moi, chuis mort de trouille par l’idée de mourir, mais j’mourrais mille morts si ça signifiait que je pouvais te voir une dernière fois.

Je suppose que je ferais mieux de m’habituer à jouer le second rôle.

Tu repars.

Je bois.

Je veux pas me réveiller.

If you entered our Spanish competition you can expect to hear from us very soon!

Career profile: the civil service

This week we bring you another career profile by a recent graduate. Elena, from Somerset, studied French and German at Wadham College and graduated in 2011. She now works at the Department for Transport as Head of Drones Policy & Legislation. Here, Elena tells us more…

In my year abroad I did an internship with a German MP in Berlin and at university I’d always been interested in politics, volunteering and trying to improve things around me. After I graduated that led to 2 years working for Student Hubs and Hub Commercial Ventures, the charity and social enterprise company behind Oxford Hub and the Turl Street Kitchen. That taught me a lot about grassroots working and campaigning, and following that I joined the Civil Service Fast Stream. I was put on a series of placements across Government, and also a secondment to Shelter the housing charity. I worked on a range of interesting projects, from tax policy to military procurements, and eventually ended up working for the Transport Secretary of State’s special advisers. After that I specifically requested an EU-related role and was given a role coordinating the UK’s response to the EU Aviation Strategy. I used my languages quite a bit in this role, making friends with my French and German counterparts in particular, when I attended EU workshops on policies and negotiations. I also got to participate in a 2 week Commission-run training course, where they introduced Member State civil servants to the EU. My favourite session was one with some European Commission interpreters where we all got to have a go at interpreting a live speech.

Photo by Karl Greif on Unsplash

After this, I moved onto another role in the Aviation team – I now lead the team doing policy & legislation for the leisure and commercial use of drones in the UK. It’s a new emerging technology and poses quite a challenge to regulators because of it. As well as developing and implementing new UK legislation for drones, we do a lot of international work on it, including feeding into new EU rules in this area. I’ve occasionally used my languages then, although sadly not as much as I’d like.

A languages degree hasn’t been essential to any of the work I’ve done since I’ve left university. But it gave me skills I’ve used ever since. My time studying French & German gave me excellent writing and communication skills, which is crucial in the civil service, given how much we do is written. It also gave me an appreciation for different and wider perspectives, and the difficulties of communication, which has helped me immeasurably in dealing with challenging situations and interactions. Finally, although language skills haven’t been a requirement of any job I’ve worked in yet, it might well be in the future. There are lots of civil service jobs that do require language skills, and this seems likely to increase as the UK civil service grows its EU and international expertise post-Brexit. Having language skills will increase the number of jobs open to me.

Virtual Book Club returns to French

The Virtual Book Club is back, and this episode features a discussion of a text in French. Here, Junior Research Fellow, Macs, talks to undergraduates Isobel and Hector about a short extract from Rachid Boudjedra’s Topographie idéale pour une agression caractérisée (Paris: Denoël, 1975, pp. 173-4).

They consider questions such as:

  • What is the style of this passage? Is it difficult to read and understand and if so, why?
  • Is there a relationship between the style and what’s happening in the excerpt?
  • What kinds of translation take place in this passage?
  • How does the protagonist respond to the image of the lotus? Is it right to say that he’s reading the advertisement even though he’s supposedly illiterate? Is he misreading it? What would a “correct” reading of this advertisement look like?
  • What language skills are required to read a map or an advertisement?

If you would like to be sent a copy of the text so you can follow the discussion, please email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk

The next episode will be on German, and will be a special tie-in with this year’s German Classic Prize. Stay tuned…