You can be there for democracy. . . Vive le Festival Albertine 2018!

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Journalist Masha Gessen curates provocative 2018 Festival Albertine.

“To be a democracy,” writes courageous and prodigious journalist, Masha Gessen, “a country has to be engaged in the pursuit of imagining a democracy. In times of crisis of democracy . . . we need to be doing the work of imagining.

“The insistence that ‘it can’t happen here,’ betrays a failure of the imagination,” counters Russian-American Gessen. “The experience of seeing a country turn away from democracy trains the imagination to know that ‘it’ can happen anywhere. But the demagogue dangles a carrot for the imagination: he traffics in what the social psychologist Erich Fromm called “the imaginary past.” The antidote for the appeal of the imaginary past is a vision of a glorious future, and this is where we fail… [T]ragically.” As we see – daily.

“. . . Can we come back from tragic failure?” At the behest of the French Embassy Cultural Services and their Albertine bookstore, Gessen imagined six Festival programs to inspire our vital effort.

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Try to imagine how your grandchildren will relate to Work!

photo portrait of bearded man

Economics Nobelist Joseph Stiglitz is known for his critical view of laissez-faire colleagues:

The future of work, or, rather, the world after work. . . . Can we imagine a time, suggests Masha Gessen, when we value people not for what they produce but for who they are – and what might this future look like? Note: Eventbrite RSVP required. This session of Festival Albertine 2018 will incite you to consider how your descendants will relate to work – in the company of an American Nobel economist, plus a leading AI scientist and teacher, and a distinguished economist, both of the latter, French.

Not only the founding director of Facebook AI Research and of the NYU Center for Data Science, Yann LeCun now is Chief AI Scientist at Facebook, teaches at NYU (Silver Professor) and  Continue reading

Set in 1944 Paris, “Memoir of War” resonates now

Mem of War posterNovelist Marguerite Duras’s Hiroshima Mon Amour scenario, directed by Alain Resnais (1959), was the first French film to leave a permanent mark on my psyche. Many years later, Duras authored a semi-autobiographical story of the German occupation of Paris, La Douleur (1985) that seems to have had a similarly durable effect on director Emmanuel Finkiel. An effect he tried and – fortunately – failed to resist. “I remember telling myself: I will never dare to adapt La Douleur!” he told an interviewer.*

I saw Finkiel’s film version of La Douleur (2017) at a Paris premiere. Titled Memoir of War; the film played at prestigious U.S. cinema venues and will represent France as the country’s official submission to the 2019 Academy Awards.

SYNOPSIS

In a haunting adaptation of her semi-autobiographical novel, already famous author Marguerite Duras (consummately interpreted by Mélanie Thierry) must navigate the Resistance and the Gestapo to find her imprisoned husband. His deportation to Dachau propels her into a desperate high-risk game of psychological cat and mouse with a Nazi collaborator (Benoît Magimel is beyond duplicitous). But as the months wear on without word, Marguerite must begin the process of confronting the unimaginable. Using subtly expressionistic images and voiceover passages of Duras’s writing, director Emmanuel Finkiel evokes the inner world of one of France’s most cherished contemporary writers. Continue reading

Hear author Gérôme Truc on Shell-shocked: The Social Response to Terrorist Attacks

Author / sociologist Gérôme Truc dissects our response to terrorist attacks.

Author / sociologist Gérôme Truc dissects our response to terrorist attacks.

Whenever they occur, terrorist attacks elicit expressions of grief and solidarity from millions of people around the world. Why do so many feel intimately connected to events they may not have experienced personally?

Sociologist Gérôme Truc draws from his field work in cities targeted by terrorism to better understand the impact of terrorism on contemporary societies.

Gérôme Truc is a tenured research fellow at the CNRS and Member of the Institut des Sciences sociales du Politique. He teaches at the École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay. Truc’s work focuses primarily on social reactions to terrorist attacks with particular attention to moral and political sociology. He also wrote, Assumer l’humanité. Hannah Arendt: la responsabilité face à la pluralité (Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 2008

Shell Shocked movie poster

Break-through book: Shell Shocked explains contemporary societies’ response to the impact of terrorism.

“Je suis Charlie.” Revisiting how ordinary individuals lived through, and responded to, the attacks of 9/11, of 11 March 2004 in Madrid and 7 July 2005 in London, the author of Shell-shocked sheds new light on these events. Analyzing the political language and the media images — the demonstrations of solidarity and the minutes of silence, as well as the tens of thousands of messages addressed to the victims — Truc reveals the vast ambiguity of our feelings about the Islamist attacks. And he brings out the sources of the solidarity that, in our individualistic societies, finds expression in the first person singular, rather than the first person plural: ‘I am Charlie’, ‘I am Paris.’

Like many who lived through one of these cataclysms, I remain residually shell shocked, and drawn to the subject. If that’s how you feel, (re)visit the 9/11 Memorial (Museum Auditorium, Atrium Terrace Level) to hear and question a sociologist who’s studied the subject in new depth. Details: Link via the red Calendar button below.

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Not just another visitor’s visa — my DIY Carte de Séjour!

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My temporary Carte de Séjour

La Carte de Séjour, one of several varieties of titres de séjour, is a French residency document enabling us non-European Union francofolles and francofoux to pursue Paris addiction undisturbed for an entire year.

In pursuit of La Carte, we will have proved to the French government, that, no matter what, we won’t go running to them for financial support — definitely not in the form, for instance, of free health care.  Oh, by the way, without a carte de séjour, I discoveredone can’t even apply for French health insurance. But sans an approved health insurance policy, don’t bother applying for a carte de séjour. . . .

American expats, I was vaguely aware, commonly hire consultants to facilitate the process of prying the official séjour document from the bureaucracy — not to mention to help navigate the health insurance catch 22, and myriad other complexities of resettling in la belle France. The consultants charge what their expert help is worth. A lot. So, I opted for DIY. How did it go? I promise I’ll just hit the high points. . . .

In late 2015, I showed up (again) at the French Consulate in Manhattan to apply for a simple visitor’s visa. The visa is valid for a period longer than the three months (90 days) period when Americans may visit France with only a passport for documentation. At this point, I’d become accustomed to spending at least six months of the year pursuing my rêve français (French dream), so I’d been a repeat visa applicant.

Ten months?!” the consular official’s Gallic eyebrows rose. “Well, okay — “but now you’ll apply for your Carte de Séjour. Here’s the address in Paris; show up within two months of your arrival in the city.” Inadvertently, I’d crossed a bureaucratic threshold. 

La Préfecture de Paris (police HQ) done up in tricolor lighting — to celebrate my Carte de Séjour?  

We need to see more mouvement in your French bank account  —  more euros — so we know you’re actually living here,  explained a bureaucrat last summer, on examining bank statements. Translation: more bank transactions to show that indeed I am here in the lovely capital,  contentedly eating, drinking wine, doing my bit for the local economy.

What’s more, and even better — 2017 was the only year in my history when I lived in Paris all year long, in just one location. No more loading expatriated possessions into taxis and riding half way across the city to a different exchange apartment . . . . A different what?

For years, I’ve routinely searched home exchange sites to find une parisenne or un parisien to live in my Manhattan 1BR while I occupy his or her Paris digs — usually engaging in serial swaps with one Frenchy for a few months, then another Frenchy for another couple of months. Anything to manage to stick around la ville de lumière.

But in 2017, I exchanged all year with only one Frenchy, a gentil French MD doing some très important medical research in NYC. He pays his Paris co-op maintenance, oh là là! And I, likewise pay to maintain my co-op apartment in Harlem. An apartment with the special New York Affordable Housing distinction, accorded by the expensive city that created that budget-friendly, official real estate category. Along with a variety of related “guidelines” (more on those in a minute).

In Paris, on Tuesday, 14 novembre 2017, I heard the word I’d waited for since 2016 from the bureaucrat corps at Paris police HQ. . . Oui, said the beneficent bureaucrat in whose discreet booth I sat. Et voilà, I’m good to go — I mean, stay, officially — for an entire year in Paris. A confirmed parisienne

“. . . That’ll be 269 Euros, s’il vous plait. The bureaucrat readily recalled the days when the fee for la Carte was only 106 euros. Never mind, for the francofolle, Paris is worth it. Also worth some collateral expenses — translations of every requisite English-language document (official translations only, don’t try this at home!) starting with my . . . birth certificate. How many euros for the translations? Never mind. More mouvement on my French bank statements.

After months of bureaucracy angst — I mean angoisse — finally I was taking a deep, deep breath. And sharing a glass of bubbly in the select company of supportive amies, one of whom I met in the early 70s, in Morocco.

Meanwhile, back in Harlem. . . In an ironic twist, the Affordable Housing bureaucrats had decreed in concert with my co-op board that my 2017 exchanger, the Burgundian Frenchy MD, must now sublet — officially — the same charming, Affordable Housing 1BR apartment he already was enjoying in Central Harlem. But, about those Affordable Housing guidelines. . . might the Frenchy MD be deemed over-qualified to sublet affordable housing?! The jury of New York real estate bureaucrats did their esoteric thing, on their own timetable. The suspense would be over (wouldn’t it?) by the time I hit my native N.Y.C. for a holiday interval in late December. Did someone say bureaucracy angoisse?

The bureaucrat ‘jurors,’ hard at work somewhere in the downtown civic center, did pronounce the Frenchy MD an acceptable sublet applicant! Bureaucracy angoisse over — right? Well, what about that co-op board I mentioned? Right — another ‘jury’ with my case on their docket as 2018 blew in.

Meanwhile, back in Paris, more or less as my flight from Newark airport landed smoothly at Orly airport, the Préfecture text materialized in my French cell phone: Show up and collect your permanent Carte de Séjour! When. . .? Between noon and two PM, on the very next day. . . I’d trade in the document you see above left for the real, durably laminated Carte. My one-year (renewable) Carte boasts the same ID photo as the paper version, but is much smaller. I realized no one had ever shown me theirs. Size doesn’t matter; fits nicely in handbag (if you dare leave home with it; some prefer a photocopy.)

In the February Paris chill, I kept my Carte de Séjour cozy. In the February New York chill, a Harlem co-op board sifted through their overflowing IN basket. (Let’s not debate which city has the worst weather, it’s too close to call. . . .) What with one bureaucratic thing and another, thanks to the board, the suspense lasted until April-in-Paris cherry blossoms had bloomed and April-in-Manhattan snows had melted. When my exchanger’s sublet finally was stamped Official by my co-op, I was . . . just about half way to the — routine! — renewal deadline for my Carte de Séjour.


 

Bordeaux “Cité des vins” embraces the whole wine world. How very civilized!

Architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières designed “an evocation of the soul of wine”

Bordeaux – “exclusive “? If the city ever was snooty, all those expat Brit wine buffs must have imparted that rep. In any case, wine lovers of the world, bar none, unite in the munificent first city of wine. The magnet now well established — La Cité des civilisations du vin — opened its architecturally sophisticated space in summer 2016..

Early view of the Cité from the Bassins à flot — the heart of Bordeaux:

Elsewhere in these “pages,” I’ve described my enthusiasm for Bordeaux, the city. From my first visit in 2009, when I was welcomed to, among other Bordelais venues, the state-of-the-art Bordeaux Police Nationale headquarters, I was dazzled by the urban renewal phenomenon masterminded by Mayor Alain Juppé — in photo below, wearing hard hat. (Obviously, I don’t qualify to vote for Juppé — but if he can do for France what he did for his city, if and when he runs, I’d be the first to campaign for him. (I’ll confer first for campaign tips with my personal Paris political journo, Thibault Leroux.)

Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé masterminded his city’s urbane renaissance

Anyway, I travel to Bordeaux every chance I get. Plans call for a 2018 visit — and I look forward love to getting up close and personal with the Cité. When a press preview of this ambitious wine adventure took place back in 2015 at the French Cheese Board in Manhattan, we hobnobbed with NYC’s French cultural genie, Elaine Leary (below, right, with George Sape).

Join George Sape, President of American Friends of the Cité and Elaine Leary, NYC’s French cultural genie, in a toast to wine civilization on 30 April

Over glasses of excellent Bordeaux and well-selected compatible fromages, we were briefed that evening by former Maître of the Commanderie de Bordeaux in New York, George Sape. Not coincidentally, Mr. Sape, president of the American friends of the Cité (AFCCV), was busy raising a million dollars to fund the naming of The Thomas Jefferson Auditorium in the Cité — “symbolic,” he explained, of the unique history of close relations between France and the U.S.

Indeed, none other than T. Jefferson was responsible for introducing Bordeaux wines to his countrymen. Putting his vines where his mouth was, he planted same at his Virginia estate, and produced his own cuvée de Monticello. Safe to assume Virginia is represented at the Cité? Betting is not my forte, but even I am willing to bet on a sure thing — locating a Virginia vintage or two at this top venue . . . . Santé, Cité des civilisations du vin !

A bientôt, Bordeaux !

 

 

In Paris: Signs of change, photographed by Nathalie Prébende

Merci, Nathalie Prébende, French photojournalist, for sharing with GallicFever your vivid “Je suis Charlie” reportage. We’re so proud to be among your publishers.

Editor’s note: Don’t miss details like coiffure-as-political statement, sign text translated (where needed). See photos full-size, read captions, play slide show and click comment link — just move your mouse over the photo mosaic . . . .

 

In NYC, ‘Je suis Charlie’ solidarity with France — Beryl Goldberg photographs for GallicFever

10 JANUARY 2015. A day before millions mobilized in France for Je suis Charlie solidarity, hundreds assembled in New York City’s Washington Square Park to let France know we support freedom of expression from Paris to Timbuctu — and everywhere else. Without fear of being silenced by late-model weapons in the hands of terrorists.

The form of free expression chosen by one New Yorker in the park was dance . . . pole dance. As leather-clad Carolyn Chui slowly waved a Je suis Charlie placard from high above the crowd, onlookers smiled.”Only in New York,” commented Lamia, who’s from France via Algeria.

Carolyn danced to music of Chopin and Rachmaninoff, played by Colin Huggins on a grand piano. Especially haunting to my ear was Colin’s rendering of Yann Tierson’s, “Contine d’un autre été.” Tierson wrote his ‘little story of another summer’ — as I later learned, for  the movie, Amélie.” That frigid January Saturday [scroll down. . .]

Editor’s note: Play slide show, read captions and click comment link — just move your mouse over the photo mosaic.


was not the first time Colin played Chopin in the Greenwich Village venue, nor will it likely be the last. Where does he garage his grand piano? Wait for warmer weather, stop by the arch in Washington Square Park. . . and maybe he’ll tell you.

Colin’s fingers surely were ready to freeze — as were mine, and GallicFever photographer’s Beryl Goldberg’s. Beryl has photographed West African dance on location, but outdoor pole dance in New York was a first. For me, a chance to stand with the French couldn’t have been more welcome, once I discovered the Je suis Charlie invitation on the New York in French forum. French Institute Alliance France (FIAF), organized the bittersweet moment of Franco-U.S. solidarity.

Beryl and I had planned a second stop that Saturday afternoon: Albertine bookstore, uptown on Fifth Avenue. We’d long wanted to take some photos of my fave Franco-American cultural hotspot, but first we decided to warm up over hot chocolate at the Eighth Street branch of Vive la Crêpe. We thoroughly enjoyed the pleasant warmth of the shop, the French posters and our fresh fruit-filled crêpe. Tasty, and totally French — right? Only the former, since it’s a Mexican chain that opened their first Vive la Crêpe in Manhattan about five years ago.

At Albertine, I scoop up my budget-priced Folio paperback of Le Père Goriot, the Balzac novel we’ll read in the FIAF class I’m taking this semester. Meanwhile, Beryl has been shooting. We sit down in the shop’s upper level reading room and chose perfect photos of la belle Albertine, where the flower of French literature is shelved in both French and English editions. And where, every week, fascinating Franco-American cultural events inevitably attract full complements of my brothers and sisters in francofolie.