v.22 #1 Booklover – First and French

Column Editor: Donna Jacobs (Research Specialist, Transgenic Mouse Core Facility, MUSC, Charleston, SC 29425) jacobsdf@musc.edu

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Naïvete — a word with roots in 17th century Old French is defined as the quality of being naive; that is marked by unaffected simplicity. I have flown over France several times, experienced a layover at Charles de Gaulle airport a decade ago, drunk wines from the French regions of Bordeaux and Rhone, and have several friends who live in France. Other than these experiences I am somewhat naive when it comes to French. When I decided to research Sully Prudhomme (nom de plume for René François Armand Prudhomme), the French writer who won the first Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901, I found myself with a dilemma. There were few if any translations of his works. This dilemma was soon resolved as my Portuguese friend, Natalia, is also fluent in French. Natalia is very adept at language, is attuned to the nuances of communication, and has a wicked sense of humor. I approached her with a request to solve this dilemma and she happily agreed to help me. I have been somewhat persuaded that it is very French to meet in a cafe for refreshments and discourse with colleagues. Alchemy Coffee located in the Charleston’s Avondale Point Business District seemed the perfect location for us to meet and discuss Prudhomme and his works. This discussion was going to take a little different direction as I had found a book of poetry, but I did not wish Natalia to translate. Poetry has its power in language and this power is very easily “lost in translation.” I wanted to feel the language, to be able to sense the subject from the sounds, so I asked Natalia to read five selected poems to me in French and then let me relate the impression of what I heard. Only then we would discuss the poem. I had designed an interesting and fascinating experiment for myself, and I was anxious to get started. But first I must tell you the story of how I acquired oeuvres de Sully Prudhomme – Poesies, the book we would use in this literary experiment. It was published in Paris at the turn of the century.

Our Apologies

In Donna’s Booklover column titled “Bridges” that ran in our December 2009 – January 2010 issue we would like to apologize for an error in the spelling of Ivo Andrić’s name. A mishap at the printer caused the last character of his name to disappear. The correct spelling is Ivo Andrić. We have posted the correct file on the ATG NewsChannel which you may view by visiting http://www.against-the-grain.com/2010/03/v-21-6-booklover/. — KS

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