Saturday, December 8, 2012

11/29 8th French Night

Our 8th French night went on, on Thursday 11/29, 
led by Emmanuelle Ertel

         for a very thrilled audience

The reading started with JohannVoulot and Sabrina Reich-Kabos 
reading excerpts of 
Que font les rennes après Noël? /  What do reindeer do after Christmas ? 
by Olivia Rosenthal and translated by Sabrina Reich-Kabos

The place is full and people are enjoying the moment
while reading by candle light

Then, Catherine Dop-Miller and Tom Radigan read excerpts of Je ne suis pas un héros/I Am Not a Hero by Pierre Autin-Grenier translated into English by Alyson Waters

A very good reading for a very attentive audience

And, last but not least, excerpts from the just released Une partie de chasse/Hunting game by Agnès Desarthe are read by Emmanuelle Ertel, Patrick Stancil and Margaret Yang, two of Emmanuelle's students who translated the text in her translation master class at NYU

This 8th French night was a success and we are looking forward to having more.
Enjoy the holidays
See you all in 2013

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

8th French Night 11/29

Our 8th French night is almost here. It will take place at the Cornelia Street Cafe on the 11/29 at 6 pm.
And to stop Mother Nature’s anger, we are going to devote this evening to animals that appear in the French novel.

Excerpts of Une Partie de Chasse/ « Hunting Game » by Agnes Desarthe 

which was published this fall in France (Editions de l’Olivier). 
A young man is forced by his partner to go hunting with the other men of the village. He doesn’t want to kill animals and while we follow his thoughts and discover his former life, we also hear from a rabbit he wounded and put in his bag.

The second novel is Que font les rennes à Noel? / « Where do all the reindeer go? » 

by Olivia Rosenthal, published in 2011 (Gallimard/Verticales). 

The narrator recounts her childhood and her desperate search of a pet that leads her to ask « Where do all the reindeer go? ». The plot mixes a scientific and a legal exploration of animals in captivity.  In this novel, human and animal behaviors seem to follow the same path.

The third text is Je ne suis pas un héros/ « I am not a hero »

by Pierre Autin-Grenier (L’Arpenteur/Gallimard, 1996).

 In this book of 33 very short stories, close to prosaic poetry, the author tell us how he observes the absurdity of reality and the revenge of unimportant creatures when a tiny gnat that is about to be crushed changes into an eagle or a red-crested hoopoe and is swallowed by the worm it was about to eat.

Come and join us for a very enthusiastic French Night at the

Cornelia Street Cafe in Cornelia Street, Greenwich Village, West 4th on the A, C, E, F

Monday, October 15, 2012

French Women Writers

Our latest French night took place last Thursday, the 11th of October, at The Cornelia Street Cafe

We had the pleasure to see very faithfull friends who came to support us one more time.

This French night was dedicated to French women writers and as we went on we realised how linked were the texts we chose.

We began by Isabelle Milkoff's short story called La Tour Eiffel/The Eiffel Tower. Driving through Paris to take her father back home, the narrator becomes aware that he cannot recall neighborhoods he knew by heart as they pass by. Even the Eiffel Tower, always present in their life, doesn't ring a bell.
This short story was published in Montreal, review XYZ, Summer 2008.  See the text in posts below.

It was read both by the author, Isabelle Milkoff, and the translator, Tom Radigan

We continued with excerpts of Sacrée Marie, a novel written by a very young writer, Astrid Eliard, her third novel. She focuses on Marie, a young women married to Cornélius, a physician who makes his own medicine. They live in a very small village in the middle of France in an isolated house where Cornélius will see patients and where Marie feels alone.  In the midst of loneliness, she gives birth to their first child and hopes her life will at last really begin.

Emmanuelle Ertel read the first excerpt in French,

and Allison Charette read her own translation

for a very serious and concentrated audience

The last excerpts were taken from Corps/Bodies, by Fabienne Jacob. It is her third novel. The reader finds herself in the mind of a woman who works in a spa. In the excerpts we chose, she comments the bodies of her clients, a butcher's wife body and Adéle's body, an old woman who asks to be touched. The narrator then remembers her mother's body before and then when she died. She thinks of the loneliness of aging when contact from others disappears. Life and sensuality shrink as the body itself.

Emmanuelle Ertel's MA students read the translation they wrote in her class during this fall.

Hannah Stell

Serene Hakim

Christiana Hills

while Nathalie Bryant, , a French actress in New York and a frequent reader at Cornelia, waited for her turn.

 Nathalie read the chapter about the mother.  

We could feel how strong this book is, both from the translation 
by Emmanuelle's students and in the original French.

A very pleased audience is eager to come back for other French nights to hear French contemporary literature, to discuss the texts with friends, and to have fun.

We are happy that our audience is happy.

Hope to see you all again soon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Eiffel Tower, by Isabelle Milkoff - English version by Tom Radigan

The Eiffel Tower

By Isabelle Milkoff

Translation by Tom Radigan

-            But the Eiffel Tower, you could recognize it, couldn’t you?

-       The Eiffel Tower.  Yes.  Of course.

He said it firmly, but there wasn’t any conviction behind it.  A number of times, I had to tell him where we were.  Porte d’Orléans, Alésia, Denfert-Rochereau, Port Royal – I could have taken a more direct route to take him back home, to Étoile, but I wanted to see how damaged his memory was.  In each part of town, I asked
       -            And now?  Where are we?  Do you recognize where we are?
He softly shook his head.

-       No.  This doesn’t mean anything to me, he responded. 

I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was upset, really put out, irritated not to be able to name all these places he frequented hundreds of times.  In reality, the approaches to the Porte d’Orléans resemble others throughout Paris.  Route 20 doesn’t have exclusive view of the large buildings that border it and neither has church at Alésia any redeeming features.  That his memory erased this church was more like a proof of good taste.  And the skyscraper at Montparnasse, silhouetted in the distance, was so far away that it was only a slab, an unadorned monolith with the sole distinction was that it was taller than the other ones.  The statue and the old toll barriers at Denfert-Rochereau could have also awakened memories.  We never jumped over them when we were young, without being told about years ago, when it was already nearly in the country and you could see orchards and vegetable gardens in the distance.  It was where the close suburbs became an abundant garden, a harbor of green.

 “One should attach today’s experience to this memory of times past,” Dr. Samuel Levy a neurologist we had consulted told us.  “Rekindling old images permits new ones to stay alive.”  But during this drive, it didn’t work.  There was nothing to remind him of the past - not the openness of the square and its vista to the west beyond the commuter rail station to Boulevard Blanqui where the elevated subway emerged, not Boulevard Aragon and its locust trees already in bloom.  He didn’t recognize anything.  Is it possible that one day we could cross familiar haunts that we navigated as a fundamental part of our life as if we had never lived that life?

At the intersection at Vavin, I turned on Boulevard Montparnasse where cafés with spacious terraces flaunted themselves.  The family had often dined there on birthdays or graduations. He didn’t care him that his money flowed freely and the nights were long.  He lived life to his fullest.  He was tall, strong, and cheerful.  My memory of him had nothing to do with the old man seated next to me in the car, whose head bobbled and who let himself be driven around without comment.

-       And do you recognize this?

-       What?

-       The cafés, there, on the side of the street.

-       No, What is that place?

-       That is La Coupole.  And across the street there’s Le Select.

-       Ah!  La Coupole! 

He pronounced the name of the café with interest yet with indifference.  Maybe the words had revived some recollections. And then he added,

-       All this has really changed, you know, hasn’t it? 

-       -No, I don’t think so.  But I don’t know.

It hadn’t changed.  Neither La Coupole nor Le Select.  There was the same neon on the windows of these unmistakably famous cafés.  What would he say about Notre-Dame?  I would have happily taken the detour, just then, to hear.  He focused on the avenue in front of us and only scarcely looked to the side.  He barely tried to remember, to find the mental picture that could have covered the emptiness behind those windows and would have let him identify this place.  I couldn’t say if he was moved by his incapacity to remember or if his mind was already somewhere else. Was he so untouched by the world beyond the windshield ?

When we arrived at Montparnasse, I fell quiet.  I wasn’t going to ask him at each intersection if he remembered something.  You are taking this badly, Mademoiselle.  It isn’t the real image of the place that is going to awaken the memory, but the memory, the old image,  that will allow him to name the scene in front of him. S. Levy would have explained to me if he had been in the car. “Our memory draws on several sources.  It is composed of many independent systems that interact in the process, or not”, He did say to me at our last meeting. “We can remember facts or gestures right away and not recall memories of things we have done automatically our whole life long.  And visa-versa.  This is what has happened to your father.  The past is in one part of his brain and the present in another.  The connections between the two are broken.” I just couldn’t see how his method would work.  If the places crossed in the present didn’t send him back into the past, how could old images summon contemporary ones?

A little farther on, beyond Montparnasse, we then began the descent towards the intersection at Duroc.  The Eiffel Tower showed itself to us, cut-off at mid-height by the roofs of the buildings to the side.  The night had started to fall and the tower was illuminated.  Its long tapered neck raised itself above the city and its batting eyelids revealed two red eyes.  It was smiling at us.  When I was small, each time we returned from a vacation, I would lay in wait for the moment it appeared to announce the end of the trip.  Usually as we arrived on the superhighway from the south, it would show itself when we reached the top of the hill where we could see the entire city stretching to the horizon.  And Papa would yell first, “Look kids!  The Eiffel Tower!” It never left our eyes the whole time we drove down from the hilltops.  Entering the city after our long journey, we placed ourselves again under the protective wing of the Eiffel Tower - our touchdown signaling the return and reviving contact with this particular world.  I couldn’t predict when it would happen, but then the Tower would disappear.  There wasn’t a precise moment, but at any rate, it would happen well before the tunnels that led to the beltway around Paris, before we penetrated that concrete barrier and entered the city.

-       And that thing over there, what’s that?  Do you recognize it? 

I couldn’t help myself from asking.  The night had almost completely fallen and the Tower’s cyclopean eye shot out at us sporadically before it again took up its circular path - its powerful beam sweeping across the neighborhoods.  The closer we came, the more it sank, shrank, and hid behind the buildings.   I had to act quickly.  Soon we wouldn’t see it anymore.  I had to act quickly so he would recognize it and be saved.

-       It couldn’t be the Eiffel Tower, could it?  He asked with amazement.

He didn’t speak right away and the very brief silence was revealing.  He hesitated. He was not sure about what he had suggested.  I even had the feeling that he wasn’t sure that he was right.  He had simply deduced from our previous conversation that it had to be the Eiffel Tower.  But for him this wasn’t sure like it was for me or would be for anybody else for whom recognizing the Eiffel Tower constitutes a facility that is imprinted, conditioned, and ready to be spit out at the slightest visual suggestion. 

However, his hypothesis was good and the deduction was also correct.  This was a proof that his mind was still alert.  He had tried to give me the answer I sought.  He had wanted to reassure me.  In the car, he had realized something, and he had made up for his mistakes.  It was encouraging.

Again S. Levy, “There is no reason to believe that your father might have lost his intellectual ability.  Different zones in the brain are not hierarchically organized.  When one lesion touches one of these zones and one of his memory clusters, it doesn’t mean that all of his abilities are affected.  Don’t dramatize the situation”.

Papa could possibly fight and slow down the process, recover what had not been
destroyed.  It would be enough, maybe, to have him relearn everything.  He could be shown things and rename them, like children reading primers or using their first dictionaries.  He could make index cards of important places.  Each card could have a photograph and a few words about it.  Integrate the past into the present, weave new connections, as the doctor had said.

It was simple.  Add one thing to another.  Then attach it to a word and bracket another thing to it.  For example in the Rue Rivoli you can eat ravioli.  Montmartre is full of tarts.  At Trocadero you can rodeo.  That’s it!  It would be enough to cover the walls of his house with photos of Paris and create a simple external memory. 

We had already past Invalides a while ago and we had even crossed the Seine.  We were rolling along the Champs-Élysées.  I hadn’t dared ask anything more and he kept quiet, no doubt relieved that I had stopped my pop quizzes.  I didn’t find anything to break the silence that my questioning had generated.  Happily we arrived at his home.  I took the Rue de Tilsitt to be able to park in front of the building where he lived.   After circling around the block several times, however, the only free parking place was down the avenue. 

-       We have to walk a little.  Is that all right?

-       Of course.  Don’t worry.  It isn’t a problem; I walk that much every morning.  I am still vital, you know.

Vital, ah yes, he was that.  He went out every day, walking down to the newspaper stand at the corner and then continuing to the vegetable market the next street over before saying hello to the pharmacist and buying some bread at the bakery.  This route, the round-trip, took place every morning, with rare exceptions.  If he didn’t make an appearance, the shopkeepers undoubtedly worried.  He now lived only in this reduced world.  How could he remember all the things that he didn’t see any more?  “All knowledge that is not used fades.  This is normal,” my philosophy professor continually affirmed.  “Every organ that is not exercised wastes away or changes.  This is how the great apes mutated and developed into human beings.”  And Papa illustrated this law perfectly.  No, he couldn’t get his bearings and he wouldn’t b able to anymore.  I could have taken him more around town, making him leave his block, taking him where he was born and spent his childhood, where he lived and had worked.  Montmartre, Place Monge, Rue Rome and Avenue Bugeaud.  The name of this last street fascinated me.  It was an overly French name without any poetic quality.  It was, despite all of this, where my Papa worked and it was the center of the world for me.  When he was younger, together with Mama, they came back by foot from work, whatever the hour, in order to relax.  His memory still lay in his walks. Lacking the ability to take this walk, he could possibly find satisfaction with an artificial journey and images of an invented memory on the walls of his room.

I helped him get out of the car.  The slightest movement was painful for him.  He had to slide his legs to the side, place them on the ground, and then hoist himself beyond the car’s interior, by leaning on the hood.  Once upright, he had to get his balance again.

I took him by the arm to help him get up on the sidewalk.  We then started walking up the avenue.  Despite what he might say, walking was troublesome for him, and on top of that, the avenue was on a slant.  We moved forward like a couple of turtles.  I held on to him to force me to slow down.  As we passed in front of the newspaper stand, I waited for him to tell me for the umpteenth time that he bought his newspapers there.  But no, this night that wasn’t important.  Silently, we went past the closed pharmacy, and then crossed the pedestrian alley in front of the bakery. 

As I was looking from left to right to make sure that no cars were coming, I saw it.  There it was, on the other side of the avenue framed just to the right of the Arc de Triomphe.  Lifting up its head little by little as we continued walking, a long silvery neck emerged.  Poised on top of that womanly spire, its reptilian gaze was trying again to hypnotize me.  Only the top two-thirds of the body was visible, but the form was both inescapable and ageless to the eye.  Always there for him, this vestal virgin from time immemorial was not some optical illusion, but rather the effect of the laws of perspective. Papa had this vision in front of his eyes the second he left his apartment.  On the way out, it was enough that he turn his head to the right, and coming back home, it was right in front of his nose.  Constant and loyal as the wife he used to have, the Eiffel Tower lives – in a way that he was no longer living.

La Tour Eiffel, Isabelle Milkoff, Texte français

La Tour Eiffel 
Isabelle Milkoff, Montréal, 2008 

- Mais la Tour Eiffel, tu la reconnaîtrais, hein ?
- La Tour Eiffel. Oui. Tout de même.
Il avait dit ça avec fermeté, mais j’avais bien senti que la conviction n’y était pas. A plusieurs reprises, j’avais dû lui dire où nous en étions. Porte d’Orléans, Alésia, Denfert-Rochereau, Port Royal – j’aurais pu prendre un chemin plus direct pour le ramener chez lui, place de l’Etoile, mais j’avais voulu vérifier jusqu’où sa mémoire était endommagée. A chaque étape, je l’interrogeais – et là, on est où ? tu reconnais ?- il secouait doucement la tête.
- Non. Ça ne me dit rien, répondait-il et je sentais au ton de sa voix qu’il était désolé, ennuyé vraiment, agacé aussi, de ne pouvoir mettre un nom sur tous ces lieux qu’il avait parcourus des centaines et des centaines de fois.
A vrai dire, les abords de la porte d’Orléans ressemblent aux abords de nombreuses portes de Paris. La nationale 20 n’a pas l’apanage des grands immeubles qui la bordent.  L’église, Place d’Alésia, est quelconque et sans finesse. Qu’il l’ait effacée de sa mémoire était plutôt une preuve de bon goût. Quant à la Tour Montparnasse, qui se profilait dans le lointain, elle était trop loin et ce n’était qu’un bloc d’un seul tenant, un  monolithe sans aspérités, dont la seule distinction venait de ce qu’il était plus haut que les autres. La place Denfert-Rochereau, elle, avec sa statue et ses deux barrières d’octroi, aurait dû réveiller ses souvenirs. Nous ne la franchissions jamais, quand nous étions petits, sans avoir droit à un discours sur l’époque où on était déjà presque à la campagne, où l’on voyait au loin des vergers et des potagers, où la proche banlieue était un havre de verdure, un jardin d’abondance. « Il faut raccrocher la mémoire de maintenant à la mémoire d’avant, nous avait dit Samuel Lévy, le neurologue que nous étions allés consulter. Raviver des images anciennes pour permettre aux nouvelles de se fixer. » Mais, là, pendant ce trajet en voiture, ça ne fonctionnait pas. L’aspect dégagé de la place avec son échappée vers l’ouest, au-delà de la station de R.E.R., le Boulevard Blanqui d’où émergeait le métro aérien, le Boulevard Arago et ses acacias déjà en fleurs, rien ne s’arrimait au passé. Il ne reconnaissait rien. Est-il possible qu’un jour, nous traversions les lieux familiers, où nous circulons notre vie durant, comme si nous ne les avions jamais habités ? 
Au carrefour Vavin, j’ai engagé la voiture sur le Boulevard du Montparnasse, où les cafés étalaient déjà leurs terrasses généreuses. Nous y avions souvent dîné, à l’occasion d’un  de nos anniversaires ou d’une réussite scolaire. L’argent coulait à flots alors et se coucher tard ne lui faisait pas peur. Il prenait la vie à pleins poumons. Il était fort, grand, puissant et souriant. Rien à voir avec le vieillard assis à mes côtés dans la voiture, dont la tête dodelinait et qui se laissait conduire sans rien dire.
- Et là, tu reconnais ?
- Quoi ?
- Les cafés, là, sur le côté ?
- Non. Qu’est-ce que c’est ?
- C’est La Coupole. Et en face, c’est le Sélect.
- Ah ! La Coupole !  Il avait prononcé le nom du restaurant, avec intérêt -peut-être relançait-il des souvenirs précis -et, en même temps, avec indifférence.
- Ça a drôlement changé, dis donc, non ? a-t-il rajouté.
- Non, je ne crois pas. Enfin, je ne sais pas.
Ça n’avait pas bougé. Ni la Coupole  ni le Select. C’étaient toujours les mêmes enseignes surmontant les vitrines des deux cafés si célèbres. Et devant Notre-Dame, que dirait-il ? Pour un peu j’aurais bien fait le détour juste pour voir.
Il scrutait la chaussée devant nous. C’est tout juste s’il regardait sur les côtés. A peine s’il cherchait à se souvenir, à retrouver un paysage mental qui se serait superposé au tableau derrière les vitres et lui aurait permis de l’identifier. Je n’aurais su dire s’il était affecté par son incapacité à reconnaître ou s’il était déjà ailleurs. Insouciant de l’allure que pouvait bien avoir le monde au-delà du pare-brise.
Nous avons atteint la place du Montparnasse. Je me suis tue. Je n’allais tout de même pas lui demander à chaque carrefour, s’il repérait quelque chose. « Vous vous y prenez mal, Mademoiselle. Ce n’est pas l’image actuelle du lieu qui va réveiller le souvenir mais le souvenir, l’image ancienne, qui permettra de mettre un nom sur l’image présente», m’aurait expliqué S. Lévy s’il avait été dans la voiture. « Notre mémoire est plurielle, elle est constituée d’une dizaine de systèmes différents et distincts, qui peuvent interagir ou pas. Chaque système est indépendant des autres. Nous pouvons nous souvenir des faits et gestes immédiats. Et pas de ceux que nous avons faits tout au long de notre vie, régulièrement, parfois même par automatisme. Et inversement. C’est  ce qui arrive à votre Papa. Le passé est dans une partie de son cerveau et le présent dans une autre. Les connexions sont rompues. » Mais alors, je ne voyais pas trop comment ça pouvait marcher sa méthode. Si les noms des lieux traversés au présent ne renvoient à rien, comment les images anciennes peuvent-elles être raccordées aux images actuelles ?
Un peu plus loin, au-delà de la place Montparnasse, en amorçant la descente de l’avenue vers le carrefour Duroc, la Tour Eiffel s’est présentée à nous, coupée à mi-hauteur par les toits des immeubles sur le côté. La nuit avait commencé à tomber et la tour était illuminée. Son long cou fuselé se dressait au-dessus de la ville, ses deux yeux rouges clignaient, elle nous souriait. Petite, à chaque retour de vacances, je guettais le moment où elle apparaîtrait et annoncerait la fin du voyage. Sur l’autoroute du Sud, par où nous arrivions le plus souvent, elle se montrait, en haut d’une côte d’où on voyait la ville toute entière s’étirer et s’étendre vers les lointains. Et Papa de crier le premier : « Regardez les enfants, les enfants, regardez ! la Tour Eiffel ! » Nous touchions terre, après notre long périple, nous étions bel et bien de retour, nous allions renouer avec le monde dont elle était la gardienne. Nous revenions nous mettre sous son aile protectrice. Elle ne nous quittait pas des yeux, tout le temps que durait la descente. Puis elle finissait par disparaître, je ne sais quand, il n’y avait pas de moment précis, mais c’était bien avant les tunnels, en tout cas, ceux qui mènent au périphérique et nous font pénétrer dans la ville.
- Et ça là-bas, c’est quoi ? tu reconnais ?, n’ai-je pu m’empêcher de lui demander. La nuit était quasiment complète et l’œil de cyclope de la Tour dardait sur nous, par intermittences, son rayon perçant, avant de poursuivre son chemin, et de balayer de son faisceau puissant tous les environs à la ronde. Plus nous avancions, plus elle se tassait, rapetissait et se cachait derrière les immeubles. Il fallait faire vite. Bientôt on ne la verrait plus. Il fallait vite qu’il la reconnaisse et il serait sauvé.
- C’est pas la Tour Eiffel, tout de même ? demanda-t-il, étonné.
Il n’avait pas répondu sur le champ. Son silence, très bref, était révélateur. Il hésitait, il n’était pas sûr de ce qu’il avait avancé. J’avais même le sentiment qu’il n’y croyait pas trop. Il avait simplement déduit de notre conversation antérieure qu’il devait s’agir de la Tour Eiffel, mais ça n’était pas certain, pour lui, comme ça l’était pour moi ou n’importe qui d’autre. Reconnaître la Tour Eiffel constitue un savoir enregistré de longue date, conditionné, prêt à être recraché à la moindre stimulation visuelle.
L’hypothèse était bonne, cependant, la déduction correcte. La preuve d’un esprit encore alerte. Il avait tenté de me donner le change. Il avait voulu me rassurer. Il s’était donc rendu compte de quelque chose, là dans la voiture, et il avait compensé. C’était encourageant.  « Il n’y a aucune raison de croire que votre Papa ait perdu ses facultés intellectuelles. Les différentes zones du cerveau ne sont pas hiérarchisées. Qu’une lésion touche une de ces zones et qu’une de nos facultés mnésiques soit affectée n’implique pas qu’elles le soient toutes. Il ne faut donc pas dramatiser.» Papa pourrait peut-être lutter et ralentir le processus, récupérer ce qui n’avait pas été encore saccagé. Il suffirait peut-être de tout lui réapprendre. De lui montrer les choses et de les lui renommer, comme dans les abécédaires ou les premiers dictionnaires que l’on donne aux enfants.  Il faudrait lui établir des fiches sur les lieux importants. Chaque fiche serait constituée d’une photo et d’un petit texte en regard. « Raccorder la vie passée au présent, tisser de nouvelles connexions», comme avait dit le médecin. C’était tout simple : à une chose, il fallait en adjoindre une autre, à un mot, en accoler un autre. Par exemple, dans la rue de Rivoli, on mange des raviolis. A Montmartre, plein de tartes. Au Trocadéro, on fait du rodéo. Voilà. Il n’y avait qu‘à recouvrir les murs de sa maison de photos de Paris. C’était tout simple. Ça lui servirait de mémoire de secours.
Nous avions depuis longtemps dépassé les Invalides et même traversé la Seine. Nous roulions sur les Champs Elysées. Je n’avais rien osé demander de plus et lui-même se taisait, heureux sans doute que j’aie cessé mon contrôle surprise des connaissances. Je ne trouvais rien pour briser le silence que mon interrogatoire avait généré. Heureusement, nous arrivions. J’ai pris la rue de Tilsitt pour pouvoir me garer au pied de l’immeuble où il habitait mais la seule qui s’est libérée, au terme de plusieurs tours, était en bas de son avenue.
- Il faudra marcher un peu. Ça va aller ?
 - Mais oui. Ne t’inquiète pas. Il n’y a pas de problème, je fais ça tous les matins. Je suis encore vaillant, tu sais.
Vaillant, ça oui, il l’était. Il sortait tous les jours. Descendait jusqu’au kiosque à journaux, à l’angle, puis se rendait chez le marchand de légumes dans la première rue adjacente, avant d’aller dire bonjour à la pharmacienne et acheter du pain à la boulangerie. Ce trajet, aller-retour, avait lieu tous les matins, à de rares variantes près, et s’il n’apparaissait pas, les commerçants s’inquièteraient sans doute. Il n’avait plus devant les yeux qu’un monde restreint. Comment aurait-il pu se souvenir du reste, qu’il ne voyait plus ? « Tout savoir non exploité se perd et c’est normal, affirmait constamment mon prof de philo. Tout organe non mobilisé s’atrophie ou se transforme, c’est comme ça que s’est produite la mutation de l’espèce de grands singes dont nous descendons. Toute fonction non occupée tend à laisser la place aux autres. » Et voilà que Papa illustrait parfaitement cette loi. Sa mémoire des lieux ne pouvait pas fonctionner, non. Elle ne lui servait jamais. Il aurait fallu l’emmener plus souvent faire un tour dans la ville. Le forcer à aller plus loin que le bloc. Retourner avec lui sur les lieux de sa vie. Là où il était né et avait usé ses fonds de culotte, là où il avait travaillé. Montmartre, Place Monge, Rue de Rome, puis Avenue Bugeaud. Ce nom me fascinait. Ça avait beau être un nom franco-français, sans poésie, c’était quand même là que travaillait mon papa, et c’était comme le centre du monde pour moi. Quand ils étaient plus jeunes, avec Maman, ils rentraient à pied du travail, quel que soit le temps, histoire de se délasser. La solution était dans la marche à pied. A défaut, il se contenterait d’un voyage immobile grâce aux fiches de sa mémoire artificielle.
Je l’ai aidé à sortir de la voiture. Le moindre mouvement était douloureux. Il lui fallait mettre ses jambes sur le côté, les poser sur le sol, puis se hisser hors de l’habitacle en prenant appui sur le capot. Une fois debout, il lui fallait retrouver l’équilibre.
 Je l’ai attrapé par le bras pour l’aider à monter sur le trottoir et nous avons commencé l’ascension de l’avenue. Marcher lui était pénible, quoi qu’il dise, et l’avenue était en pente. Nous  avancions à pas de tortue. Je me suis accrochée à lui pour me forcer à ralentir. Nous sommes passés devant son kiosque à journaux. J’attendais qu’il me dise pour la énième fois que c’était là qu’il achetait le journal. Mais non. Ça n’avait pas d’importance, ce soir-là. Nous sommes aussi passés en silence devant la pharmacie qui était fermée, puis nous avons traversé au passage piétons devant la boulangerie. Comme je regardais, à droite et à gauche, pour m’assurer qu’aucune voiture n’arrivait, je l’ai vue. Puis, de l’autre côté, elle a pris place dans le cadre de l’avenue, juste à droite de l’Arc de Triomphe. Elle redressait la tête peu à peu, plus nous avancions, laissant apparaître son long cou d’acier, au sommet duquel sa tête de reptile cherchait encore à m’hypnotiser. On ne voyait que le haut de son corps, aux deux tiers environ. Mais elle était là, incontournable, immuable, visible à l’œil nu. Ça n’était pas une illusion d’optique. C’était le résultat des lois de la perspective. Papa l’avait donc sous les yeux, dès qu’il sortait de chez lui - à l’aller, il suffisait qu’il tourne la tête vers la droite, et au retour qu’il regarde simplement devant lui, qu’il regarde à peine plus loin que le bout de son nez. Elle était là, la Tour Eiffel, elle avait toujours été là, vestale immémoriale, constante et fidèle, comme l’épouse qu’il n’avait plus. Elle était là, elle, c’est lui qui n’y était plus.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A 7th French Night

 7th French Night 10/11/12

Our next French Night will be dedicated to women writers

We will read both in French and in English
excerpts of
Corps/Bodies by Fabienne Jacob, published by Gallimard in 2010, 
Sacrée Marie by Astrid Eliard, published by Mercure de France in 2012 
and La Tour Eiffel/The Eiffel Tower, a short story by Isabelle Milkoff, published in XYZ, Montreal, in 2008

In the first book, Corps/Bodies by Fabienne Jacob, the narrator observes the bodies of the women she works on at a spa and through the thoughts their bodies transmit to her, remembers her childhood and her discovery of womanhood.

In Sacrée Marie, we discover Marie and Cornélius, a young French couple who just settled in a small village in the middle of nowhere. They are expecting their first child. He is planning to become the new village doctor, making his own medicine.  She is desperately waiting for the child to fulfill her lonely life.

In the Eiffel Tower, the narrator takes her old father back home and while they drive through the streets of Paris she discovers the city is all gone from his memory.  Does the Eiffel Tower escape that destiny as well ?

Join us for another  French Night in the Village, 
at the Cornelia Street Cafe, from 6 to 8 pm
29 Cornelia Street
New York, NY

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Our sixth French Night

        Our latest French night at the Cornelia Street Cafe was dedicated to theater with a play by Hervé Blutsch, named GZION, and translated by Sophia Tejeiro, a Masters student in translation at NYU

The readers were
       In English - Manoah Finston (Captain York), Tristan Jean (Sergeant Ptol) and Myron Mac Shane (Lieutenant Turt)- who are all in the doctoral program in French literature at NYU
   In French - Marie-Hélène Brabant(Captain York), Nathalie Bryant (Sergeant Ptol) - actresses, and Isabelle Milkoff (Lieutenant Turt), a French teacher at the LFNY

       Edouard Signolet, a French director, came especially for the event and directed them.

Gzion is a cosmic drama that tells the story of three men, the CaptainYork, the Lieutenant Turt and the Sergeant Ptol : "For nearly twelve years, their Gzion vessel drift in space and take them to an inevitable... death"

 Waiting for the reading to start...
 and making sure everything is OK and everyone is there.

Isabelle Milkoff is introducing the play and the readers, who are listening and can be proud to have among them a specialist of Admiral Brop poetry. 

"Admiral Brop ? You mean The Admiral Brop, Captain ? "

Let's get started, guys

"When I turned around, it had disappeared. I repeat when I turned around it had disappeared. Do you hear me, control tower... ?"

"Walking is the key Captain, and that's the truth of it !"

 "Plan the picnic, Sergeant, I love smoked salmon."

"That's a good idea, captain !"

"That's a very good idea"

 "Objection Captain ! We are lost in space nowhere near any forest, we have absolutely no idea as to where we are..."

"... our supply of fuel is practically empty, our rations of water are going to diminish, ..."

"We have only three bottles of red wine, one bottle of whiskey and a very meager supply of oxygen..."

 "Can I know, Sergeant  Ptol, what this getup means ?"

 "Turt, you see what I'm seeing ; Ptol is dressed up like a bear"

"I am not dressed like a bear"

 "The shortest jokes are the best"

"What do you propose Lieutenant ?"

" A bear hunt Captain"

"It's a very good idea. Plan the lunch Lieutenant, I love smoked salmon"

"I am not dressed like a bear"

"Cadet Naxe : According to the medcial examiner, they were dead some hours before running aground, Admiral
Admiral Brop : Have the bodies brought back and meet me at the base"

Sergeant Ptol, definitely dressed like a bear, in a discovery mission

We hope you enjoyed it and that you will join us for more Cornelia Street Cafe French Nights next year
Have a nice and lovely summer

The Cornelia Street Cafe French Nights are supported by the cultural services of the French Embassy in New York