AFGR Book Club latest selection

The AF de GR book club met this past Tuesday to discuss Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran.

We had a lively discussion about the life and activities of Anna Maria Grosholtz ( the future Madame Tussaud) during the 5 years around the time of the French Revolution.

This historical novel gave us a better understanding of how wax figures and their setting were used as a source of news on fashion, gossip and even politics for the common people as well as the King and Queen. Anna Maria had a glimpse of life at the court by teaching Princess Elizabeth, but also the revolutionary events by being forced to cast wax models of recently decapitated acquaintances during the Revolution. Caught in the middle between the court and the outside world, how these events affected Anna Maria's loyalties presented an interesting topic of discussion.

For those interested in a more personal view of the French Revolution, I would highly recommend this fascinating story.

Marijke Wiersema, book club moderator

French Film Series at Calvin

The French Department of Calvin College is pleased to announce its 13th annual French Film Festival September 20-21 and 27-28, 2017. This year’s festival theme is “Fils et Filles”:

Sept. 20 - Fatima: Story about an immigrant mother (Fatima) and two daughters. Fatima is divorced; father appears on the scene from time to time. Older daughter is in medical school, under pressure to succeed. Younger daughter is in high school, rebelling, feels neglected, failing school. Fatima does maid work to support daughters. Fatima’s speaks French with difficulty. She tries to do the best for her daughters, and finally quits working as a maid to spend more time with daughters. Film ends well. Cultural portrait of immigrant experience in France. Language: mainly in French (Fatima speaks to her daughters in Arabic and they respond in French). 

Sept 21 - Hope:  Young Nigerian woman (Hope) and young Camerounais man (Léonard) meet up in the Sahara desert and make their way to Morocco together. Very well done to show the vulnerability of the refugees, violence against men and women, the great risks they have to take as they flee. They eventually make it across the strait to Spain, but Léonard dies of knife wounds in the boat, and Hope is left to keep going on her own, pregnant (unknown father—rape & prostitution have occurred during the film). For a mature audience willing to engage with emotionally difficult film portraying the reality of the refugee experience in West Africa. Languages: French, English and some Arabic spoken (Hope speaks English; Léonard speaks French).

Sept 27 - Good Luck, Algeria: Samir (Sami) and Stéphane make elite cross-country skis but their business is about to go under. Sami is half-Algerian by his father, but has no emotional ties to Algeria and speaks no Arabic. His mother is blond, French. Sami is married to a French woman who is pregnant with their second child. Stéphane comes up with the bright idea to save their business by having Sami become an Olympian star. Sami works hard to qualify for the Olympics as an Algerian and makes one quick trip to Algeria to seek funding from the Algerian government. Some comic moments, cultural insights. Filmed mostly in the area around Grenoble. Fun film showing a 2nd generation immigrant experience. Language: French.

Sept 28 - Rosalie Blum: Based on a comic book series by the same name. Rather eccentric characters in a creative story line. The film repeats the first sequence of events from several characters’ points of view, and plays with the viewer by not making that clear at first. The film then goes on to a happy (though not entirely predictable) finish. Fun quirky artistic film. Language: French.

All films are subtitled in English and are free and open to the public. Please see Calvin’s website for more details.
 

One Book One Federation selection for 2017

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As a way of encouraging French literacy around the world, the Fédération des Alliances offers a program that suggests one French-language book for all Alliance members around the world to read, enjoy and have in common. 

This year’s selection is a roman policier (crime story) and comes with a twist: the Police Chief is a woman! La Commissaire n’aime point les vers by George Flipo

Police Chief Viviane Lancier isn’t exactly the poetry-loving type, but here she finds herself embroiled in a murderous affair with poetry at its heart. . . .

A homeless man who looks exactly like Victor Hugo is found assassinated in front of the l’Académie française; an erotic sonnet by Baudelaire becomes the calling card of a serial killer . . . as if she didn’t have enough problems on her hands, what with an ex who pesters her and her constant diets that drive her insane, and now she has to deal with literature to boot! Help comes in the person of Augustin Monot, her new lieutenant. He may be as bumbling as he is suave and well-read, but he manages to lend an appreciated hand to the Chief in this piquant investigation.

The plot of this engaging novel is full of action, intrigue, unexpected turns and a dry sense of humor. The characters are appealing and you will be rooting for them all along. The book was selected for its simple style, straightforward vocabulary and plot line, and will, as such, reach a wide audience of Alliance Française members. The French is accessible and suitable for B1 and B2 language students. This novel can be used in a book club setting or as the basis for a course around the “roman noir” and French crime fiction.

A complete study guide is available here and on the the One Book One Federation Facebook page . It includes a synopsis, biographical material, discussion questions and vocabulary lists.

Purchase the book online at MEP/Schoenhof’s Books .

Oh, and French classes begin next week. "Refresh Your French" begins Tuesday, September 19 and "Converse in French" begins Thursday, September 21. Registration info available on our website.

Petanque Tournament 2017

In temperate weather, surrounded by Nancy's and Bill's bright and flourishing gardens, 16 of us played in the 2017 Alliance Française de Grand Rapids Pétanque Tournament. 

We all played well, except when the ground rose to meet our boule! 

Linda and PJ FitzGerald and Ellen and Dan VanderMey made it to the final round and who won? 

The FitzGeralds - congratulations! 

People brought all manner of chips and salsas, as well as cookies, which we enjoyed with that fabled accompaniment to a game of pétanque, pastis, an aperitif enjoyed by many. 

Hope to see you at next year's Pétanque Tournament!

Adam Roberts' latest guide to the curiosities of Paris

I’ve been following Adam Roberts and his Invisible Paris blog for some years now and have never been disappointed. His research is exhaustive, his style engaging with stories that always broaden, deepen and enlighten my grasp of that most incredible bit of geography we call Paris, France.

And twice I’ve taken him up on his challenge to see if he could shed light onto a mystery (a sculpture in a sidewalk near Boulevard Saint-Germain and a large sculpture in Père-Lachaise Cemetery that disappeared years ago) and sure enough he did!

So, when I first heard that he was planning on publishing a collection of his insights into the city I was thrilled.

After several months I received my copy and can say straightaway that, like his blog, the book does not disappoint either. His writing is breezy but by no means slight, his narrative is thorough and each chapter is pleasure to read.

The book is broken into two sections, the longer of the the two is devoted to a history of Paris and is spot on. But for me it’s the second portion that focuses on “The City today” that reminds me so much of why I have always enjoyed the Invisible Paris blog. I especially liked his essays on the “The City of Immigration, “The New Belly of Paris,” “Paris by Night” and “Passages through Time” (the latter makes me want to revisit them again with his book in hand now). These are glimpses into a Paris that fascinate and enlighten at the same time, glimpses that you probably won’t find in any other “guide” to the city.

Interspersed throughout are one-page sidebars of curiosities that would only come from the pen of the Invisible Paris author, such as “The City that Lost its Head” (about the suburb of Saint Denis) and “The Writing on the Wall” (1971 graffiti paying homage to the Commune of 1871).

While this is by no means your typical guidebook (no hours or admittance fee information is provided) he does have a fine list at the back of the book of some of the more important stops for any traveler as well as a few suggestions for lodging, bars, cafes, shops, entertainment and restaurants.

I have to say that it is also a fine armchair guide for anyone who dreams of going to Paris for the first time or for the old hand who longs to return.

Oh, and the book fits nicely into a jacket pocket so having it handy is a snap.

If you'd like to learn more visit your local bookstore or go to Amazon.com (nope I don't get a penny for the link thank you very much).

Thanks, Adam.