Être prospère

French author Prosper Mérimée was born on September 28, 1803. If you’ve ever hummed the Toréador theme from Carmen, thank Mérimée, for it was his novella that inspired Bizet’s opera. Mérimée was a brilliant scholar of law, Greek, Spanish, English, and Russian. He translated many of the Russian classics into French for the first time. He loved what was mystical and foreign, thus the exotic settings of most of his writing. He also moonlighted as a fashion writer under the pen-name Clara Gazul. If all of the above wasn’t enough, he was also a gifted archeologist, which led to his appointment as the inspector-general of historical monuments. The official list of French monuments is known as the Base Mérimée in his honor.

He was a close friend of the Spanish Countess of Montiljo, his Carmen figure. The Countess had a lovely daughter named Eugénie, who ended up as the wife of Napoléon III. Accounts differ as to whether Mérimée aided or opposed the match, but at any event, he was rewarded with the post of senator during the Second Empire. Another close friend was George Sand (Aurore Dupin), with whom he discovered the renowned The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries during a stay at a medieval chateau.

Mérimée died in Cannes on September 23, 1870.

Today’s expression, être prospère (etruh prospair) is obviously a tribute to the writer’s first name. It means “to be flourishing or prosperous.” He certainly had a flourishing, multi-faceted life.

Carmen (English edition)

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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2 Responses to Être prospère

  1. theinkbrain says:

    Another wonderful post. All I knew about Mérimée was the story of Mateo Falcone, from a book of French short stories I read as a kid. I wish I remembered the title so that I could find it again, but I know it had Balzac’s La Grand Bretèche, and those were the two stories I never forgot. I had no idea about that Mérimée discovered the unicorn tapestry, or that he originated the ‘Carmen’ story, or the Russian translations,or the George Sand connection. So thank you for filling in the gaps for me. Nor did I know about the countess of Montijo’s daughter, but perhaps I should have, because my great-grandmother’s name was Eugénie!
    How remarkable that one person connected all these seemingly disparate things!

    • It’s hard to imagine a contemporary writer with this type of reach into so many different spheres. I was really intimidated when I learned that the Russian translations happened after only ONE YEAR of language study!

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