Au-delà des étoiles

IMG_4642This week, I got the official dates for my summer job in Paris. The plan is to arrive a few days before the set-up week starts so I can get over the weight of jetlag and to visit the south of France for a week once it’s over. This will give me time to take in a few museum exhibitions because once the program starts, days pass more rapidly than the high-speed train I’ll take down south.

IMG_4641First up is Au-delà des étoiles: le paysage mystique de Monet à Kandinsky (owe du-lah days ay-twahl) at the musée d’Orsay. In English, the title is “Beyond the Stars. The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky”. The show is already open and if you’ll be in Paris, you catch it until June 25, 2017. It features works by Symbolist artists who opted for mystery over science in their depictions of landscapes.

Many of the paintings in the exhibit come from my prior “landscape” of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. It brings together works of famous European painters such as Gauguin and Van Gogh as well as some lesser-known artists (from a European perspective) such as American Georgia O’Keeffe and Canadian Emily Carr. The images in the press releases are really beautiful, so I’m very much looking forward to checking it out.

IMG_4643Symbolist Art

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IMG_4680I’ve been following the French election with great interest. On the news, they kept referring to the “Koo Jay” of each party and it took me a while to realize that they were saying QG. This refers to le quartier général, or headquarters of, in this case, the political aspirants. As you probably well know, the choice on May 7 is centrist Emmanuel Macron who founded the En Marche! party about a year ago versus Marine Le Pen of Le Front National.

Each party is going to be putting in a lot of hours in their respective QG between now and next week’s second round of the elections. I’m not crazy about either candidate, but I would prefer the brash young upstart Macron to the anti-immigration, anti-Europe Le Pen. Overall, the candidate I liked best was senior statesman Alain Juppé, but he was knocked out in the primaries. Scandal-ridden François Fillon represented his party instead, but I still think Juppé could have won the whole thing and been a steady president for France. Since I seldom seem to back the winner in any election, don’t ever put money on my picks.

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Bonne lecture!

I wanted to share some good francophile reads with you:

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France, by Caroline Moorehead, is the account of women members of the French Resistance who were caught and sent to concentration camps. Many died in the camps, but those who did survive that torment did so in no small part because of the strength they found in their friendships. The book is meticulously researched, based on both original materials, archives, and interviews with the survivors. You will be deeply moved.

Lovers at The Chameleon Club: Paris, 1932, by Francine Prose, is an intricate work of fiction that is based on many factual events. The story of Lou Villars, a cross-dressing, lesbian race car driver, turned Nazi torturer, is told through what purport to be letters, memoirs, and a biography written by people who were habitués of the Chameleon Club, a Paris night spot for all sorts of people on the fringes of society. IMG_4625The elaborate plot is even stranger for the fact that Lou Villars is based on Violette Morris, who features in a photo by Brassaï, known as “Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932.” Morris/Villars was a guest of Hitler’s at the 1932 Olympics and even disclosed where the Maginot line ended, thus leading to the rapid invasion of France by German forces.

The sense of verisimilitude is heightened by all of the other characters in the story who are based on real people (Brassaï is doubled by an Hungarian photographer, an American novelist is based on Henry Miller). Each person’s contribution to the tale is told in a distinctive “voice.” How could someone go from an Olympic hopeful and an intensely nationalistic French woman to a torturer of her fellow Parisians? Where does evil come from? What is truth and who owns it? It’s an incredibly complex novel, a bit like trying to see a clear reflection in a mirror that has been broken and glued back together. And since Lou’s story is always told be someone else, the questions remain unanswered. It’s a most unusual and cleverly written book.

Bonne lecture! (Bun lek-tuur) means “Happy reading!” Enjoy!

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Cannes de serin

IMG_4527It’s finally spring in New England. That means that the students at my school have swapped pants and coats for short shorts and shorter skirts, putting a lot of leg on display. Cannes de serin (kan duh sare-ahn) is slang for “canary legs”; the expression refers to twiggy little matchstick legs. The bird in the photo above is a sandpiper, rather than a canary, but its jambes do bear rather a strong resemblance to some of the adolescents in my world.

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IMG_4364I came across a new French word recently that applies to me – calcéophilie (kal-say-o-phil-e). This is a relatively new hybrid, derived from Latin and Greek. Calceo means “shoe” in Latin and phile is “love” in Greek. So calcéophilie is love of shoes, probably one that is a little out of control. I have always loved shoes and even though I have more than fifty pairs (all dear friends), I can’t help checking out new ones when I pass a tempting display. A few weeks ago, we saw a great exhibit about shoes at the Peabody Essex museum in Salem, MA. (It has now closed or I would heartily recommend it to you.) We were there shortly after the exhibit opened for the day and it was packed, so there must be a lot of calcéophiles out there, so I have lots of company.

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IMG_4413Trimballer (trahm-ball-ay), also spelled trimbaler, means to lug or cart about. Everywhere you go in France, someone is lugging their groceries, school books, or existential dissertation in a Longchamp Le Pliage, the origami inspired folding bag. It comes in a host of colors and sizes, in nylon or leather, and every year there are some special editions to spice things up a bit. If those options aren’t enough for you, you can also customize your own Le Pliage, down to having your name embroidered on the very preppy stripe. That should lighten the weight of any load you need to trimballe about.

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En goguette

IMG_4407I came across a new word on the Mode Personnel(le) blog that I follow.  The context was how to incorporate a classic vintage bag, like the Hermès Kelly, into a normal wardrobe. The person writing for help lamented, “…j’ai vite l’air de Bernadette Chirac en goguette.” Bernadette Chirac is the rather formidable looking wife of the former French president Jacques Chirac. I had to look up en goguette (ohn go-get). It means “making merry” or “enjoying oneself.” The origin of the word dates back to the fifteenth century and referred to a gathering of people to sing and have fun together, especially around Carnaval. It’s rather hard to find any pictures of Madame Chirac doing anything but glowering! I really can’t picture her busting lose at a karaoke night. Mais on ne sais jamais (But one never knows).

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