On a busy evening down at Bel and the Dragon, the air is full of French chatter, much to the wonderment of romantic diners, residents staying over on business and even passing waiting staff. Small groups converse about, well, I’m not sure what, since I have not mastered the art of joining in one conversation while listening to another. But suffice to say, the chatter is varied and animated.
All this conversation can be demanding on brains that, for the couple of weeks preceding….have not been thinking in French. It’s a sudden shock to launch into French mode …on a Monday, of all nights!
So, it’s great to have recommendations from those who do read, watch or listen to French between meetups, especially when the recommendations are at my limited level, linguistically!
I thought it would be interesting to share some of these.
Le Chapeau de Mittererrand – Antoine Laurain. It is also a film.
Although I haven’t read it yet, Anne, one of the regular ‘Frenchies’ explained that the language is not too difficult to understand!
The description, here is taken from the Book Depository website:
Daniel Mercier dîne seul dans une fameuse brasserie parisienne quand – il n’en croit pas ses yeux – un illustre convive s’installe à la table voisine : François Mitterrand. Son repas achevé, le Président oublie son chapeau, que Daniel décide de s’approprier en souvenir.
Tel un talisman, le feutre noir ne tarde pas à transformer sa vie. Daniel aurait-il percé le mystère du pouvoir suprême ? Hélas, il perd à son tour le précieux couvre-chef qui poursuit de tête en tête sa promenade savoureuse, bouleversant le destin de personnages pittoresques et brossant, sous la forme d’une fable, un tableau de la France des années quatre-vingt.
Short Story update
With my limited skills in French, short stories, are well worth considering to get that extra practice. And there are modern French short stories other than those by Guy de Maupassant!
I have already recommended Les eaux troublés du mojito, but can now add a second book by the same author – Phillipe Delerm – La Premiere Gorgée de bière et autres plaisirs miniscules. It has a similar flavour to the Les eaux troubles de mojito – painting little vignettes of life – usually, unsurprisingly, French life, but always poignant, observant and redolent of the distilled moment. Just magical, feel good reading. Try to read without a dictionary, but note down the words you don’t know for looking up later.
My cousin has recommended the short stories of Annie Saumont. She was a writer of only short stories, and translator of English novels such as those by VS Naipaul and John Fowles. I am reading ‘Florilège which is below. The ones I’ve read so far are not always joyful stories, but affecting none the less, and after I’ve read more of them I will be able to comment further.
Amazon reviews her collection Florilège like this: “C’est plus encore à son style inimitable qu’on reconnaît l’écriture d’Annie Saumont. Une langue minimaliste qui bouscule la grammaire, tord la syntaxe, bannit les virgules, se réapproprie les mots de la rue.
Pour Josyane Savigneau, journaliste au Monde des livres et préfacière de ce Florilège, Annie Saumont était ” certainement la plus grande nouvelliste française “.
There are a few really determined French speakers who find the Monday evening conversation not nearly enough – so they also attend Adult Education classes locally and, or take advantage of U3A French classes. Some of these classes stick to conversation, but others develop written language, reading and listening skills.
Less formally, I’m encouraged to go along to the Godalming group of Les Amities Francaises, where there is a programme of talks throughout autumn, winter and spring: https://amitiesfrancaises.com/events-programme/ Thanks to Anne and Sheila for this.
Finally, for small, digestible chunks of French to listen to, try the podcast, One Thing in a French Day. Laetitia, the inarrator lives in Paris, and simply gives accounts of places she has visited and things she has done on that particular day, in clear, normal speed, but not too fast, well spoken French. The podcasts are released on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (free) and there is supporting written material available if you want to pay a small subscription. I have installed the app on my phone and listen to instalments in the car on the way to work .