Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Smart Alec(ette)

Just as I like to read English-speaking bloggers living abroad, I am attracted to books by English-speaking people living over here. Yes, I read « A Year in Provence » and thought it was patronisingly awful. I much preferred Tim Parks' books about Italy. A couple of summers ago I read two good ones about Tuscany (one with superb recipes none of which I actually tried needless to say). And an excellent one by an English woman living in Cérét. She never actually names the town but it’s quite easy to work out where it is and it’s also quite easy to work out who her temperamental French lover is because he’s a dentist and an artist. (Still don’t get it? You’re obviously not stalker sleuth material. You look up all the dentists in Cérét in the yellow pages, there are only a couple and then you Google their names and find out which one has had exhibitions of modern art. A pointless exercise, I know, but strangely satisfying.)
It’s so easy to be a smart alec when reading the “Year in “Somewhere (preferably little-known) in France” “ books because I’ve go a twenty odd year start on them. In fact, I suspect that’s why I read them; they make me feel clever. Here, then, are a few corrections for Celia Brayfield author of “Deep France: A Writer’s Year in the Béarn”.

• The word “trocante is not a mixture of truc and brocante but of troc and brocante (much more logical)
• Cousteau does not mean strong and burly, costaud does. Jacques Cousteau could not, therefore, be translated as “Jack Burly”
• The presenter of “La Grande Dictée” is not a professor. He’s Bernard Pivot, a t.v. personality

I could go on but it would be tedious. What strikes me is that these mistakes are due to sloppiness, they could have been corrected by ANY French person. But the year in France didn’t seem to include very many of those.

I’m also drawn to books by Scottish women. Imagine my joy then, when I came across a mistake about France in an otherwise excellent book by a Scotswoman; Jennie Erdal’s “Ghosting”. She describes the regular trips she made from Bordeaux airport to the “heart of the Dordogne” and how her heart would lift when she saw the gates bearing the names Château d’Yquem, Château Margaux.* Didn’t she have a map?
But now I feel churlish criticising these people who may not know France as well as I do but who do seem to have a real affection for the place, especially when others, like this creep, hate France and the French so much**.

* For the few of you who don’t live in the Bordeaux area, these châteaux are nowhere near the road to the Dordogne.
** Via - Stuart Mudie's weblog



Deborah said...

another book :
Almost French
by Sarah Turnbull

there is an interview with her at the above web site
She is Australian

thinkpad said...

try reading gabriel garcia marquez's "a 100 yrs of solitude" and kate chopin's "the awakening"...e-text of "the awakening is easily available.i hope u like them.

Lesley said...

I think I saw that one in Mollat Deborah. She lives in Paris, doesn't she?

Thanks for the recommendations thinkpad. I've read "100 Years" of course and all of GGM's other novels. I wish I could read them in the original Spanish. I wish I could read Borges in Spanish too. Kate Chopin I'm not so keen on.

Marco Polo said...

You might enjoy Driving Over Lemons, tho it's about rural Spain, not France...

Deborah said...

Yes, she lives in Paris and her book is easy to read and has lots of pertinent remarks about the differences (French and Anglo-saxons/Aussies
She has a dog which she loves ....

thinkpad I did once try 100 years of solitude and gave up half way through
but I loved Kate Chopin's 'the awakening'