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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Suite Française, historic novel and tragic account of the woman who wrote it

Book cover of Suite Française

I recently read Suite Française, a poignant novel by Irene Némirovsky that would have remained hidden from history were it not for the courageous actions of her daughter, Denise Epstein. In 2004, sixty-two years after Némirovsky’s death in Auschwitz, Suite Française appeared in French libraries for the first time. It…

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The Puzzling Mind of Patrick Modiano

Patrick Modiano, 2014

Last year, when Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize in literature, I had never heard of him.  It’s not surprising.  None of my friends, many of whom who are far more well-read than I, had heard of him either.  As it turns out, not many of his works had been translated…

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