French poet Jacques Prévert was born on February 4, 1900. Associated with the surrealists, Prévert published his poems in several different volumes, the best know of which may be the first, Paroles, published in 1946. He’s probably the most frequently memorized 20th century French poet, and every school text likely features at least one of his works. A couple of years ago, I had my students memorize “Pour Faire le portrait d’un oiseau.” One of those students is a regular reader of this blog and I bet she could still do a decent job of reciting this poem. You’ll recognize another poem that was set to music and recorded by Yves Montand as “Feuilles Mortes” and by Nat King Cole as “Autumn Leaves.” It’s been recorded and re-worked by dozens of other musicians, but these versions are still two of the best. Prévert was also a highly regarded screenwriter: his Les Enfants du Paradis is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. The photo of Prévert above was taken by Robert Doisneau in 1955. Prévert died on April 11, 1977.
Today’s expression, joindre le geste à la parole (jwandruh luh sjest ah lah pahroll) means “to join the gesture to the word,” in other words, to suits one’s actions to one’s words. Prévert kept busy with actions as well as words. He was working on an animated film at the time that he died.