You’re about to read that Sarah, a Brit undergrad at Columbia University, has a real feel for French language. An element of francofolie may indeed be an affinity for the language. Where did you learn French? I’m asked. Why do you speak well? When I speak well, which is far from always (a glass or so of wine really can boost my fluency), I explain it’s because I make an ongoing effort — je fais un effort. (But when I say, I learned on the pillow — sur l’oreiller — that gets a smile, too.)
As for the effort, when not in France, I go for one French course per semester at FIAF (French Institute Alliance Francaise), where teachers assign riveting French reading, and students discuss. This fall, I also joined a dozen charming francofolles in a conversation group led by longtime tutor, ex-pat Luc Georges. Also vital — I take a heavy dose of French movies — some included, gratis, in FIAF membership.
But FIAF movies are just a start. I’m a devotee, too, of the Film Forum, in Greenwich Village, where New Yorkers can see the best of new French films — and classics. You just missed the new acting tour de force by two top male stars, Diplomacy, but if you’re reading this soon after my writing, you can catch the next gem, uncut: the complete version of Le Jour se leve (1939). “Another Sunrise” (my title translation effort) unseen in 75 years, notes the Forum, now is in a new 4K restoration. So you needn’t even start out francofolle/fou to enjoy a French Thanksgiving with famed actor Jean Gabin — 14-27 November at Film Forum. Gabin is a surefire way to elicit latent francofolie.
I empathize with your feeling, emailed Sarah from her catbird seat at Columbia, of missing French culture (or, to put it in the French grammar form which I find more poetic, to have Paris ‘missing from you’); even though I am not French in the slightest and only lived in Paris for two months in the summer, during that time I became a helpless francophile and now feel something lacking in my New York experience. I find myself thinking back almost daily to the independent bookstores. . . in the Latin Quarter, the relaxed café culture and the patisseries which I would make regular pilgrimages to during my short time there.
Clearly, Sarah is well on her way from francophile to francofolie. As for indie French bookstores. . . in New York, where we’ve been deprived of same for about 15 years, at last we have a new, beautiful and well-stocked one. Albertine, housed in the French embassy and therefore tax-free (and fairly priced in the bargain), has 14,000 French titles in the original and in English, and vice versa.
Not to mention that Albertine is a hub for French/American cultural events galore, in English, enough to tantalize Sarah’s and my francofolie. If I could manage get to all of those, I’d be right up there among the constellations gorgeously reproduced on the ceiling of this heavenly new venue for the New York francofolle/fou as well for grateful French expats. I even met one of the latter on the Q train, who told me how much it means to him to be able to acquire French titles without recourse to a certain e-emporium that starts with “A.”
Merci, cultural counselor, Antonin Baudry, for the Albertine inspiration.