Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Everything's cuter when it's French, part 1

In honor of the Oscar sweep of The Artist, a movie I totally loved, I'm going to devote the next few days to a few French things I have lying about, starting with this series of French classics published by Hachette's Le Livre de Poche (Pocket Books): L'espoir by Andre Malraux, Graziella by Lamartine, Eugénie Grandet by Balzac, La Jument Verte by Marcel Aymé, Claudine a l'Ecole by Willy et Colette, and L'Or by Blaise Cendrars. I initially passed them up at my favorite Goodwill because they seemed a little overpriced for ex-library books, not to mention in French and I don't speak French. But I returned several days later, relieved to find them still there as I'd been obsessing about their covers all week. I can't find a date on any of them, but they've got to have been published in the time of midcentury awesomeness, no?

I came to my Francophilia somewhat late in life; I suppose it sprang from working for the same French company on two separate occasions but really that could have just as easily gone the other way. Repeated viewings of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg helped, as did actually going to Paris on someone else's seemingly limitless expense account. I was raised an Anglophile by Anglophile parents who'd met and married in England (though they are not British) and was fed a steady diet of teatimes, Upstairs Downstairs, Forsyte Saga, Monty Python and all things Austen. What I love about England is the landscape, music, pints, accents and literature. But the French have them on design, food, Sancerre, fashion (apologies to Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith) and just the ability to make everything look cuter, like, you know, sailor shirts. Or matchbooks. Or book covers. If I read/spoke French, it's possible I'd even prefer their literature, though it seems heretical to say so. But since I've read all my Flaubert, Stendahl, Balzac, Zola, in translation, I can never be sure.

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