The 100-Year Anniversary of Proust’s Final Night on the Town

Location of Proust's Last DInner Party

On May 18, 1922, one of Paris’ grandest hotels was the site of a legendary dinner party. Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Diaghilev, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust, were among the attendees. The evening is featured in a book, titled Proust at the Majestic: The Last Days of the Author…

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Pondering Diderot’s Encyclopedia Never Ceases to Blow My Mind

In the fall of 2011, I signed up for a French literature course at Eastern Michigan University. I loved the class and am indebted to our professor, Benjamin Palmer, who improved my understanding of great literature and its relationship to history. I enthusiastically enrolled in a second semester that winter…

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The Miser’s Ghost, A Winter’s Cautionary Tale from Quebec

Vieille maison en hiver

My favorite Christmas story is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Every year I watch or read some version of this classic tale. Last week, I began wondering if there might be a similarly cherished, yuletide parable from France. I tracked down a dozen acclaimed stories, including two by Molière,…

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22 Sensational Reads for the Francophiles on your Gift List

Love books

If you’re like me, you enjoy giving books as presents. Lately, I’ve been combing through various book blogs and lists on Goodreads to determine what I should buy for whom this year. In doing so, the thought occurred to me that I should put together my own list of sensational…

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Baudelaire’s Spleen Defies Translation, There Do the Foolhardy Tread

La Fleur du mal

In 1968, The Sunday Times in London ran a competition to translate the poem Spleen, by the famous French poet Charles Baudelaire. Upon learning of the contest, Nicholas Moore, who had once been one of Britain’s most celebrated poets, decided to have a little fun and also prove a point.…

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Camus’ Letters to a German Friend, a Warning for Our Times

Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower

Sunday, November 7, marks what would have been the 108th birthday of Nobel Prize winner, Albert Camus. During World War II, Camus joined the French Resistance, a movement dedicated to overthrowing the Germans. Camus lent his genius to the clandestine effort by working as a journalist and underground newspaper editor.…

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Little Red Riding Hood, An Insanely Popular Tale from France

Little Red Riding Hood, Doré

One is hard-pressed to think of a tale as widely known and with as many versions as Little Red Riding Hood. First published in France, in 1697 the story remains popular to this day. It’s difficult to imagine any piece of modern-day writing receiving as much recognition. What is it…

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North by Shakespeare, An Underdog Defies 500 Years of Literary Doctrine

North by Shakespeare

We all love underdogs: the urban breakdancer that one day makes it on Broadway; the business school dropout that becomes a millionaire; the single parent who takes on the school board and wins; the whistleblower who exposes corporate or governmental corruption. Yet few of us have the stamina to undertake…

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