Friday, July 22, 2011

Ce qui m'inspire en ce moment... Frenchyness!

I recently had the delight of watching the French author extraordinaire Marie Darrieussecq give a talk at the Society for French Studies conference. Her talk was entitled 'Écrire-femme en français ou l'envers du monde' and it gave a really personal insight into her career and also more generally the prejudices that women face when writing (particularly in French, since, as she pointed out, it is a language in which questions of gender are right at the forefront on a grammatical level. For example, if you have one dog (a masculine noun) 'un chien' and lots of women (a feminine noun), and you want to group them together and say 'they' you still have to make the plural form agree with the (masculine) dog so that you write 'ils' even though it is vastly outnumbered by the feminine). She talked about how, as a young girl she experienced 'la langue française comme blessante' - the French language wounded her. Her whole talk was Very Interesting Stuff and moreover, it was extremely entertaining - she had everybody following along and laughing with her even at the end of a very long day (Her amazing impression of Balzac was priceless!). Her talk may appear online in the form of a podcast at some point soon and if and when it does I will post a link here.... It was very inspiring to see another real life succesful French author talk about their work (I recently went along to see Christine Angot read from her latest novel too!) It brings a sense of real life and importance to my PhD (which is about exile and language in the works of three other contemporary women authors writing in French: Nancy Huston, Nina Bouraoui and Linda Lê). Perhaps one day I will have the chance to see the writers that I am studying talk...

Anyway, this experience was also inspiring in other ways. Having read only a few of Darrieusecq's books I decided on the day of the talk when I was sitting in the library that I would like to familiarise myself with a bit more of her writing. So I picked up her book
Le Pays and began to read. The opening section of the book was a really evocative description of running and I felt compelled to note down some of the passage as it really captured some of the feelings that I experience when I run. Here are some extracts from the opening pages...

‘Peu à peu, en courant, je m’évaporais. Les coureurs le savant, au bout d’un moment on se détache de soi-même [...] Puis un moteur prenait ma place. Un souffle, quelque chose d’aveugle et d’obstiné, qui poussait et avançait pour moi. Les jambes prenaient le bon mouvement, le rythme, comme si le reste de ma vie n’avait été qu’une pause dans la course […] J’étais suspendue. Tout ce qui courait en moi me tenait debout, me portait. Je devenais j/e […] Vient un moment – les coureurs le savant – où on ne touche plus terre. On vole.' (Marie Darrieusecq, Le Pays (Paris: P.O.L, 2005), pp.10-14.

'Little by little, as I was running, I evaporated. Runners know this feeling when, at a certain moment, you are freed from yourself' [...] Then a motor took over from me. A breath, something blind and stubborn, which pushed and avanced for me. My legs took on the right movement, the right rhythm. Everything that ran in me kept me upright, carried me forward. I became split in two [...] There comes a moment - people who run know it - when you no longer touch the ground. You fly' (My own, rather clumsy translation!)

If you don't know Marie Darrieusecq's work I strongly urge you to have a read. Her writing is powerful, moving and widely available in translation so even if you don't read French you can discover her for yourself :)

Another burst of inspiration that came out of this talk was an amazing short film in French that Darrieusecq mentioned. It's called La Jetée and was made by Chris Marker in 1962.
It can be watched here on youtube (with English subtitles):

Part 1:

Part 2:

It's such a beautiful and thought-provoking film which has haunted me a little bit since I watched it. May your mind also be blown by it's crazy ideas and beauty...

No comments:

Post a Comment