The Reading Circle is flourishing under the direction of Brian John. The Circle chose seven books. Their summer project was Le Père Goriot by Balzac (1836). The novel describes Goriot’s infinite selfless love for his daughters, whose rapaciousness leads to his death. He lives in a lodging-house with the young student Rastignac and a motley crew of characters. They loved its dissection of Paris society in 1819, exposing the selfishness and social climbing with which Balzac was familiar. Petit Pays (2016), by novelist and rapper Gaël Faye, is about the 1990s civil war in Burundi and the pain of exile. Faye, whose mother is Rwandan and father is French, left Burundi when he was 13, later obtained his master’s in finance and worked in an investment bank in London. In December, they read Vol de nuit (1931) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A short, page-turning book about the pioneers of French aviation in the 1920s, it is based on Saint-Exupéry’s own experiences as a pilot for the airline that inaugurated airmail services from South America to France. As well as being a gripping adventure story, it also sets out the beginnings of Saint-Exupéry’s personal philosophy. In January, they discussed a biography of Marie Curie by Janine Trotereau. Her early life in Poland is described. She goes to Paris to study mathematics, physics and chemistry (impossible for a woman in Poland). She becomes Pierre Curie’s co-researcher. They marry and are inseparable. After his early death (road accident), she becomes the first woman to win two Nobel Prizes (Physics and Chemistry). In March, they read Au Piano (2003) by Jean Echenoz. It starts in Paris, but after a surprising development on page 86 becomes a strange parable about purgatory, resurrection and frustrated love. In April, they discussed Proust’s Un amour de Swann (1913). Opinions were sharply divided. The lengthy descriptions of Swann’s obsessional love for Odette de Crécy were loved by some, while leaving others cold (or bored). Their last book, discussed in June, was Les Petits Enfants du Siècle (1961) by Christiane Rochefort. Josyane lives in an HLM in Bagnolet. Life is hard. Because of the falling birth rate, the French government gives a bonus to mothers, which they will spend on a washing machine, fridge, car or TV. Can there be a happy ending? Members of the Cercle found this year’s books particularly varied and interesting. If you would like to join the Cercle littéraire, please contact Brian John at firstname.lastname@example.org
The last event on our calendar for this year will be our celebration of the FETE NATIONALE. This year’s event will not follow our tradition of gathering together to dine in a restaurant but will be a group visit to Goodwood House for a tour of the elegant State Apartments and the Old House followed by afternoon tea in the magnificent Ballroom.
Goodwood House has been the home of the Dukes of Richmond for more than 300 years. The French connection comes very early in the family history as the 1st Duke of Richmond was the illegitimate son of Charles II and his french mistress Louise de Kerouaille. The house has a magnificent art collection which has been preserved and added to over the generations. There is also a priceless collection of Sevres porcelain.
Our visit to Goodwood will be on Monday, 15th July and will include the tour with the opportunity to view the valuable art collection and then we will enjoy afternoon tea together in the Ballroom. There will be an advantageous price of £20 for members and the price for guests will be £25. Members are welcome to bring guests if they wish. Transport will not be organised as the journey to Goodwood is just a short distance by car and we would meet there at 1. 30 p.m.
We hope that many of our members will be able to join us for this occasion. Reservations must be received by 24th May, so make sure you complete the booking form you have been sent and make your payment as detailed.
14 February 2019
La Forteresse de la Bastille avant 1789
Après une mise en contexte nécessaire pour “poser le décor” et quelques remarques historiques, la conférence s’éloigne des clichés sanglants habituels pour se concentrer sur les aspects positifs de la période: réformes législatives, éducatives, commerciales, organisation administrative, création de nouveaux systèmes, montée de la classe bourgeoise, libéralisation artistique… La conférence est illustrée d’une courte présentation Power Point.
- Regular meetings in Godalming, Surrey
- Membership fee £30 a year
- Guest attendance £10 per meeting.
- First meeting free
- Only paid-up members may attend AGM
France – our nearest neighbour
Two nations with a shared history – sometimes of confrontation and war, more recently as allies – but often eyeing one another with a degree of suspicion and mutual incomprehension. A relationship not helped by what seems to be a particular difficulty in mastering each other’s language, especially the spoken word.
For almost 30 years, though, a local society, with the support of the Alliance Française de Londres, has been doing what it can to break down some of these barriers. Founded in 1989, on the initiative of a Belgian married to an Englishman, Les Amitiés Françaises now has around 100 members with an interest in all things French. Les Amitiés organises a monthly programme of evening talks in French, held at the Baptist Church hall in Godalming. French art is always a popular topic, as are talks giving an insight into French history, but it is not all high culture. Members of Les Amitiés have also had the opportunity to learn more, for example, about the very different approach to ethnic minorities which is taken across the Channel and about the rise to power of President Macron. Its members are a mixture of native English and native French speakers who have a chance to practise chatting in French over tea or coffee before each meeting.
Of course, no society with a focus on France can ignore the French love of food and drink. So each year Les Amitiés celebrates the Fête des Rois (Epiphany) with a dinner including the traditional galette des rois, with the person finding the hidden fève (token) being crowned king or queen. And each July Bastille Day is celebrated with a festive evening which, given good weather, continues under the stars.
Les Amitiés is always welcoming new members and visitors to its meetings, so if you have a reasonable knowledge of French and an interest in French lifestyle and culture, why not give it a try?