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Edith Piaf lives through “Piaf! Le Spectacle”

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Edith Piaf.
If you don’t know her name, you surely know her music. Her raspy yet smooth, inviting voice has captured the hearts of millions of people over the decades and all over the world. Her life, plagued with hardship and sorrow laid the foundation for her songs that tap into the hearts of millions world-wide. Songs like La vie en rose and Je ne regrette rien capture the love, happiness and sadness that all people feel. The passion and emotion embodied by her singing have been able to reach people of all generations and all cultures. So much so, that her songs remain relevant today.

It is precisely her voice and her soul that have inspired Piaf! Le Spectacle – a musical celebration of her life and music starring Anne Carrere. Anne Carrere embodies Piaf like no other. Gil Marsalla, the director of the show was as taken with her talent as France was taken with Edith herself, “I have worked in show business- on and off stage- for 25 years and produced shows around the world, but to this day, Anne Carrere is my greatest artistic discovery yet. Do not dare touch or polish her, she is a diamond you want to keep raw- such is the nature of her pure and natural talent.” It is this raw and untouched talent of Carrere that allows her to transform her body and soul into Edith Piaf, who was unapologetically uniquely organic.

Piaf! Le spectacle has already enchanted over half a million viewers in over 33 countries, and is now coming to dazzle Chicago at the Athenaeum Theather, October 8th! So, dive into the world of Edith Piaf, see how she became l’âme de France (the soul of France) and  voir la vie en rose.
Alliance Francaise members enjoy a 20% discount. Buy tickets here.

Jane Eagleton

 

Un café, s’il vous plaît!

By | French Community, Uncategorized | No Comments

Bonjour tout le monde,

Your favorite Alliance intern here. If you are anything like me, you enjoy a good cup of coffee. I know some of you aren’t fans of coffee, and I get that… you’re just wrong. No disrespect, I just needed you to know who you’re talking to: an avid coffee drinker and lover. And as that coffee lover, I have come to encounter many cups and different types of coffee, including the famous French café.

As an American, ordering un café in France for the first time was both fun and confusing. Because what you get is a shot of espresso, and not a massive, diner sized cup of joe that we are all so fond of and used to. But hey, after a while I got used to my little espresso shot and actually began to enjoy it.

Now, there must be something in the air in France that allows people to have a shot of espresso 5+ times a day and still sleep through the night because it seemed to me that everyone would prend un café all the time. This quite impressive French tolerance and infatuation with coffee got me wondering… is there something special about French coffee?

Turns out, it isn’t the coffee necessarily that is so special, but it is the ritual of going to a café to order un café that is so special! You see, cafés (the place not the drink) since the 17th century have served as important meeting places for social, political and culinary innovation. In Paris particularly, going to a café was oftentimes more useful than reading a newspaper when it came to getting information, news, or gossip. The café turned into a place where you could eat, talk, drink, meet new people, share ideas and be a part of society. They were also a hub for artists and writers alike, such as Voltaire and Rousseau. No wonder they are si populaires and found on every corner in France!

“Ah ha!” I think. So it is the history and tradition of the café that fuel the French obsession with espresso shots at any hour of any day. Next time I find myself with a piping hot espresso, in a Parisian café, whether in my dreams or in reality,  I will be thinking of the centuries of café drinkers, socialites, inventors, artists and politicians that potentially sat in the very same seat, and I will smile.

Jane Eagleton

Superfluous: An Architectural Project

By | Events, French Community, History, Uncategorized | No Comments

 

 

J’ai rencontré dans la rue un jeune homme très pauvre qui aimait : son chapeau était vieux, son habit était usé ; il avait les coudes troués ; l’eau passait à travers ses souliers, et les astres à travers son âme.
(I have met in the streets a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes and the stars through his soul)
-Victor Hugo ; Les Misérables (1862)

If you were to walk in the alley behind the Alliance Française, you would notice an odd amount of moss on the ground and red dots painted on the wall without explanation. If you were to be curious, like myself, you might find yourself talking to one of the many people watering the moss or painting these red circles. And if you aren’t the talking to strangers type, you’re in luck because I already did all of the detective work and will let you know what is happening. Free of charge.

The buzz in the alleyway has to do with the upcoming vernissage of Superfluous: An Architectural Project. This project is an effort to use “architects as social agents” and to “trigger [people] to think about shelter”, as Odile Compagnon, a professor of architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, describes it. Odile encourages her students to use their skills and talents as architects to make social change and this has brought her and her students to the Alliance Française de Chicago.

Pretty cool, right? But you’re still a little confused as to what the project is, aren’t you? Don’t worry, not even some of my coworkers knew what this project entailed and that is why I put pen to paper (well, rather finger to keyboard) to open their and your eyes to the magic that is happening in the alley of the Alliance.

Let me key you in to some connections as this story unravels. Odile points out, that this project is both a way to “open the Alliance to the community” as well as to “make French more accessible”. You know, French doesn’t always scream “language of the people” (insert pretentious French stereotype here), but it truly is. Odile and her students are helping to highlight that.

Well, okay, that is cool, but what does that have to do with architecture and the students at the Art Institute of Chicago? Let’s travel back in time to the famous Victor Hugo for our answer. (That Hugo quote at the beginning of this post is now making sense, huh?)

Hugo, infamous writer, inspiring leader, speaker for the people wrote Les Misérables and tore down the barrier between poverty and luxury by illuminating homelessness, wealth and the disparity in between. Many French writers, not just Hugo, and artists have been captivated by the superfluous and consequently what it means to have nothing but still be someone, an individual. Odile is simply keeping this conversation alive through architecture. Eleven of her students created models for projects that could be built in our courtyeard and her student Nicolas Dessotel’s project, named Clairvoyance, was chosen. Nicolas is the blonde student in the photo below cheesin’ hard because he gets to see his project come to fruition.

Clairvoyance was chosen because it breaks down the wall between the private and public spheres, the wanted and the unwanted and spills out into the ally of the Alliance. I mean, literally there is a hole in our courtyard wall. “His project is transporting you into a world that you may not be comfortable with,” says Odile as she admires the installation go up. While I am very excited for you to experience this world growing in and challenging our alley, I won’t tell you more about the physical nature of the project because a) I can’t spoil it for you and b) Nick and Odile can give an explanation more justice than I could.

So, please, I implore you to come and experience Superfluous: An Architectural Project for yourself on September 14th (register here). Engage in the conversation about homelessness and the superfluous, see the other contestant project models, learn how French literature inspires architecture, and enjoy the exhibit. The exhibit will run during our business hours until October 16.

A bientôt!

Jane Eagleton

Immersion Day: A fun French day

By | Cooking and Food, Events, French Community | No Comments

Being a new intern at the Alliance Française, I am still learning about the many classes, workshops, and events that go on here, including Immersion Day. For weeks now, we have been gearing up for Immersion Day, and to learn more about what exactly that is, I set out and did a little research. Follow me as I learn more and as I implore you to participate this September 9th. Why not join in on the fun to be had?

With notepad in hand, I head down to the office of Elodie Kaplan, co-director of the school to learn more. “It’s a great day to use the French people know and discover more,” Elodie begins as she describes the day in question. Discover what? Glad you asked. Immersion Day is a special day at the Alliance where we offer trial workshops for advanced beginner, intermediate, and proficient levels. “Woah!” I thought to myself. In my short 1.5 months here at the Alliance, I have very much wanted to join a cooking or language workshop. And to think I could attend those and more on one day had me interested.

Continuing on, she adds, “people can use their French for actual activities… for real life, not just for class.” You see, during Immersion Day, we transform the large Salon into a French vendor’s market called the Petit marché. Local vendors selling French items or who speak French will be selling goods and services. I don’t want to give anything away… but there will be free chocolate samples. Not to mention, the director of the Alliance Française de Chicago will be cooking, so you do not want to miss that.

Satisfied that I got the answers I needed and confident that I know what adventures lie ahead on Immersion Day, I leave her office with a simple merci before heading back to my office. Now that we have the gist of what the day entails, I thought I might clue you in to what workshops are offered. After all, we are all interested in different workshops. Take your time reading these options, but afterwards, don’t wait one more minute before signing up for Immersion Day and the workshops that interest you! You can sign up and see the workshop schedule on our webpage.

A bientôt mes amis !

 

List of workshops

Conversation:Meet our French staff and talk about their personal experience in the US, and French culture at large.

Phonetics:Practice makes perfect! Work on your pronunciation and learn the, literally, life changing difference between ‘poison’ and ‘poisson’.

TV5-current affairs:Come discover a piece of worldly news by watching and discussing a clip from francophone TV.

The blunder fixer:whether it is faux amis (words that look similar but actually have different meanings) or homophones (words that have the same sound but different meanings and/or spellings) tackle and get rid of the typical challenges any learner of French faces.

Pardon my French-French slang:For once les gros mots (curse words) and informal language are allowed in the classroom, but only for the love of linguistics and to avoid misunderstandings and faux-pas.

Brush-up: Feeling a little rusty? Enjoy the immediate benefits of this grammatical review and enrich your speaking and writing skills.The art of listening:“What was that?” With this class get rid of that sometimes frustrating feeling when dealing with oral comprehension.

Littérature: discover popular and polarizing author Michel Houellebecq. He is without a doubt France’s most contemporary and controversial writer as well as a must-know.

Jouer en français: Play your favorite board games, in French (Pictionary, Scrabble…) and discover new ones, while learning how to use your French in a whole different way.

Improv en français: Build self-confidence and develop creativity while learning to have fun in French. Through improv’ games, you will become even more comfortable speaking French and think on your feet!

Voulez-vous “crochet” avec moi ? Tricot social: Explore the history of crocheting and how it is used in fashion and the arts today. Learn how to crochet by using basic patterns to make hats, scarves and ornaments.

Wine tasting: Need we say more? This year a focus on lesser known white wines from red country!

Jane Eagleton

Francophones in the outfield!

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Does America’s pastime translate to the langue de Molière ? Mais oui! Learn les positions de baseball en français and meet some of the many big-name players have connections to France. Here’s a rundown of just a few.

 

Eric Gagné, lanceur de relève

For a time, the most dominant pitcher in the MLB was Eric Gagné, a crafty closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most baseball fans know him for his trademark goggles and consecutive save streak. Francophone fans might also know him for his name*. Eric grew up in Quebec, knowing only French until he moved to the States. After retirement, he has spent time in France, including a stint as the national team’s manager in 2016.

*Gagné is the past-participle form of gagner, or to win. So, one can say that Eric a gagné 33 matches. An impressive career for  a stoppeur from Canada.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Claude Raymond, lanceur partant

Known by his teammates as “Frenchy”, Raymond was the first québecois player to named an
MLB All-Star. In 1969, Quebec gained its own MLB team, the Montréal Expos. Raymond pitched for the team from its inaugural season to his retirement. After his playing career, Raymond took on  an even bigger role  with his hometown franchise, broadcasting games in French for thirty seasons. Sadly, the Expos, now known as the Nationals, have since moved to a  non-francophone region: Washington D.C.

 

 Melissa Mayeux, arrêt-court

While Melissa has not yet stepped on an MLB field, she has already made history in the league. The shortstop became the first women eligible to sign for a team in 2015. As an arrêt-court, she is the most important defensive player on her team. Her unique combination of athleticism and intelligence has caught the eyes of scouts. Being added to the list is only the first step in many on a journey to the majors, but this young woman from Louviers has changed America’s pastime forever.

 

 

 

 

Extra innings… Les positions!

Pitcher = Lanceur
The French term is much more literal than ours: lancer means “to throw”, making lanceur “thrower”. A lanceur partant starts the game, and a lanceur de relève comes to help out of le bullpen (some words are the same in both languages).

Catcher = Receveur
Another literal interpretation, as recevoir means “to receive”.

First baseman / second baseman / third baseman = Joueur de première base / deuxième base / troisième base
While you might expect to see première basehomme as a match for our “first baseman”, such a thing does not exist. Instead, one adds joueur de in front of the noun.

Left fielder, center fielder, right fielder = Joueur de champ gauche / champ centre / champ droit
This follows the pattern used with the infield positions. You just add joueur de to the area of the field and you’re done.

 

Ethan Safron

Summer Viewing List

By | French Community | One Comment

Bonjour chers lecteurs,

My name is Ilyssa Silverman, and I’m an intern at the Alliance Française this summer. I am a rising sophomore at Tufts University, a French and Biopsychology major, and an avid francophile and movie addict. This weekend, I’d like to share some of my favorite French movies with you. Sit back, relax, and enjoy these fantastic films, all of which are available at our Médiathèque:

 

Les intouchables (The Intouchables)

2011, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, 1 h 53 m

Besides Amélie, this is perhaps the French film anglophones know best. Les intouchables has truly earned its fame. Watch an unlikely friendship develop between a wealthy quadriplegic and his caregiver from the projects. If you’re sick of people telling you to watch it, and you haven’t watched it already, please do. If you have already watched it, you likely don’t need convincing to want to watch it again. This movie will make you laugh, make you cry, and likely stick with you for a long time.

 

 

 

La grande illusion (The Great Illusion)

1937, Jean Renoir, 1 h 57 m

Before I scare you away by saying this film is from 1937 (too late), I must tell you that this is one of the most perpetually-relevant films of all time. On the surface, this black and white film seemingly about WWI is not exactly what draws the crowds in 2017, but this film is so masterfully-crafted that it can be appreciated in any era. La grande illusion has the extraordinary ability to express anti-war sentiments through unconventional yet effective means. In lieu of showing gruesome images of war, the film shows similarity and sympathy between supposed enemies, blurring lines between nationalities and social classes and calling into question the validity of borders between people and places.

 

 

OSS 117: Le caire, nid d’espions (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies)

2006, Michel Hazanavicius, 1 h 39 m

There is no profound reason why this movie is on the list other than that I’ve never laughed out loud so hard at a television screen. If you think of French film as the intersection of artsy and pretentious, you should definitely let this king of all French comedies prove you wrong. Somewhere between James Bond and Jacques Clouseau, Agent 117 is dashing yet dimwitted, suave yet simple-minded.

 

 

 

L’arnacoeur (The Heartbreaker)

2010, Pascal Chaumeil, 1 h 44 m

Another comedy for your summer enjoyment, L’arnacoeur (A play on the words arnaqueur and coeur, “con-man” and “heart”) is about a man who makes his living by breaking up couples who don’t belong together. He and his ingenious team convince unhappy couples to split with the best tool they have: seduction. Chick flick? Perhaps. Uproariously funny? Absolutely.

 

 

 

 

La haine (The Hate)

1995, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1 h 38 m

This film, a drama shot documentary-style, won director Mathieu Kassovitz the Best Director award at Cannes and Best Film at the Césars (not to mention my utmost respect). The matter-of-fact manner in which the film is presented throws you into the harsh reality of three young men in the Paris banlieues, their anger towards police and society, the anger aimed back towards them, and their struggle to turn their futile existence into something more meaningful and escape the hold that the banlieue has on them. Not only is this film a close examination of its characters and their motivations, but it is an examination of society. You learn why society sees Vinz, Hubert, and Saïd the way they do (and vice versa), but you’re still left with large, lingering questions about our societal structure as a whole.

FrogProv – Your time to shine?

By | French Community | No Comments

Theater buff? Improv fan? Don’t pass this by, this post is for YOU!
We recently learned about a fantastic project involving French AND English language… Forgprov!
Since this kind of mix is what we love best, we thought you would be interested too!

***

C’est quoi ?

Frogprov is a collective of Chicagoans who improvise in both English and French, sometimes at the same time! This family-friendly short-form improv show promises cross-cultural entertainment while breaking the performers’ tongues and brains.

C’est quand ?

Every Monday in August at 8:30 p.m.

C’est ou ?

Judy’s Beat Lounge, 230 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL 60610

C’est combien ?

  • $10 General / $8 Student / $5 TC Student

Pour plus d’informations

And great news ; if you want to go a bit deeper, in the Fall, the Alliance Française de Chicago will offer TWO different improv classes! Are you excited? We certainly are!

A bientôt

Summer is Sizzling: Lisons Ensemble!

By | Library | No Comments

Summer Reading List 2017

As much as I love hanging out by the beach and playing volleyball, nothing compares to relaxing with a good book in the summer sun. The only challenge is finding the right thing to read before the Chicago cold returns. Luckily, the Brown Médiathèque has chosen a dozen books that are the perfect companion for the season. Some are fast-paced romances that will fit in your hectic schedule; others will give your mind a workout on days when you’re not feeling the gym.

Below are some of my favorites from the selection.

Fiction (en français)

Que serais-je sans toi? by Guillaume Musso

The concept of Musso’s novel is far from simple, so a sentence-long summary can’t do it justice. It goes like this: Gabrielle, an American woman, is the daughter of a world-famous art thief. Her father, Archibald, is on the run from a young Parisian cop named Martin. The Frenchman just so happens to be Gabrielle’s first love. Their short affair ended fifteen years prior to the novel’s events, but feelings still remain for both of them.

As you might guess from the summary above, Que serais-je sans toi? is a light-hearted story. If you are looking for a philosophical treatise, this isn’t for you. However, if you’re looking to pass time while waiting for the A/C to be fixed, this book is worth checking out.

Biography (in English) 

Émilie du Châtelet: Daring Genius of the Enlightenment by Judith P. Zinsser

Zinsser’s biography covers the subject of our June salon event, Émilie du Châtelet. As Émilie was a woman of many interests, readers will easily find something in common with her. I, for one, was intrigued with her Discours sur le bonheur, a series of writings on the meaning of happiness. Others may be interested in her translation of Newton, which remains one of the most used editions in the francophone world. And, indeed, she did have torrid affairs with men like Voltaire, so her personal life reads like a soap opera.

Non-Fiction (in English)

The Streets of Paris: A Guide to the City of Light Following in the Footsteps of Famous Parisians Throughout History by Susan Cahill

It’s hard to walk around Paris without thinking of the figures who have been there before you. After all, something as nondescript as a corner café could have been your favorite writer’s hang-out spot. Streets of Paris was written with this phenomenon in mind. Susan Cahill takes you on a tour through the capital, bringing with her luminaries like Madame Curie and Edith Piaf. With this guide, you can be in Le Marais and Lincoln Park at the same time.

If any of these titles are to your liking, stop by the médiathèque on the second floor of the Alliance.

Bonne lecture!

Ethan Safron

Meet the Family Lefko-Olson and read why they love the Alliance!

By | Student Spotlight | No Comments

This Spring, we had the pleasure of learning more about Robert, Annika and Martiene, former students of the Alliance and Chez Kids Academy! Read more about their fascinating journey with French!

***

What was it about the Alliance Française that first interested you?
Both Annika and I studied French in school when we were young…more years ago than we want to admit!We met soon after college, and a few years later I surprised Annika with a trip to Paris for her birthday – with expectations that we would return to France in the future and a desire to communicate with the French in their native language, we began to take classes at Alliance Française de Chicago – we also loved the fact that studying French and conversing with the teachers and other students was a wonderful weekly break from my career working in a sports agency and Annika’s career as a management consultant.

Robert, Annika, and Martiene

Why do you think it’s important to learn a new language?
We asked our daughter this question, and here is her answer – “you can learn about new cultures and meet new friends and your life can be more interesting” – Annika and I agree – we have always told Martiene that the more languages you know, the more people you can meet and the more friends you can have around the world.

 

What is the most challenging thing about studying a new language?
Figuring out that there are many languages within each language; of course, in French, there’s the niveaux soutenu, courant/standard, et familier…then add verlan…suddenly, it all makes learning the subjunctive look easier. 🙂

What is the most rewarding thing about studying a new language?
Meeting so many new and interesting people and learning about their culture.

What is your favorite thing you’ve done with French?
Our favorite thing is actually the totality of lots of smaller things, which is to say all of the unique moments we enjoy while living our everyday life in Paris…shopping for groceries at the many different stores on our local market street, talking about wines with the propriétaire of our local wine shop, taking tennis lessons with a French instructor, going to the cinema, chatting with other parents after picking up our daughter at school, dining out with French friends, and even just having a simple conversation with a waiter at an outdoor café.

What has been your favorite Alliance Française class?

Robert, Annika, Martiene and their dog

We truly loved all of our classes at the Alliance Française de Chicago, and the reason is simple – each of the many teachers with whom we’ve studied have had a wonderful passion for teaching and a strong desire to help us learn, while keeping the topics of discussion very interesting. We have such fond memories of our conversations with Adam about world politics, with Jamal about so many different subjects, and with Philippe about raising children.

What do you want to do with French in the future?
Both the U.S.A. and France will be part of our family’s future, and perhaps another country as well – for now, we will continue studying French while living in Paris and continue to try to gain a greater understanding of the French culture. Of course, one important example is having the ability to properly order popcorn in a French cinema…un mélange de popcorn salé et sucré – c’est délicieux! 🙂

Why do you think teaching your kids a new language is important?
Annika and I want our daughter to think globally – learning another language is one simple step toward understanding both the differences and similarities among us. When a person gets to know other people who speak different languages, come from different cultures, and hold different beliefs about the world around us, friendships and the desire to help one another grow stronger while the racism and bigotry that too often exist in this world begin to disappear.

What is your best “souvenir” at the Alliance Française de Chicago?
For Annika and I, it’s absolutely the friendships we formed with teachers, administrators, other students, and parents who had children in the kid’s program – but we’ll let Martiene have the last word – she said “it’s a happy place where you feel at home and you can meet new friends”.

French woman, science, wit and “bonheur”

By | Events, French Community, History | No Comments

On June 8, the Alliance Française de Chicago will re-create a “Salon parisien” inspired by a significant woman of her time Émilie, Marquise du Châtelet. Zoé Moore tells us more about it;

 

American women love French women, so much that they try to become them and understand their attitudes and lifestyles through books and movies. Ladies like Josephine Baker and Jean Seberg serve as a golden standard of Americans turned French. I can attest: it’s hard to live in France and not get caught up in the expat life, making a haphazard attempt at fitting in, becoming French. But with influential female figures like Simone de Beauvoir, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Jeanne D’Arc, Catherine Deneuve, Simone Veil, and even Anne Hidalgo, it is easy to want to become une femme française. Their strength, knowledge, elegance, and wit make them remarkable role models that stand the test of time and have managed to travel all the way across the ocean to the United States. They all have remarkable stories and wisdom that has been passed down to my own modern American life.  So when I learned that we would be creating a Parisian Salon, a common social and intellectual gathering to inform and entertain in the 17th and 18th centuries, celebrating Emilie, la Marquise du Châtelet, I was definitely curious.

 

Science

Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise Du Châtelet (1706-1749), or as I shall refer to her, Emilie, was an amazing woman who I knew absolutely nothing about one week ago. As a girl, Emilie attended her father’s salons with elite men and women, rapidly learning through discussions on science, philosophy, and literature in lavish Parisian hôtels particuliers. This introduction to le salon and academic life put her on a path to becoming one of the greatest minds of her time. Emilie’s short biography refers to her as a major contributor to physics and mathematics, having promoted and participated in the debate on vis viva, known today as kinetic energy, and as the translator of Isaac Newton’s Principia (her French translation is still standard today). She also published the scientific book Institutions de Physique / Foundations of Physics in 1740, which reaffirmed her grasp of the domain, sparked conversation, and gained popularity during her life. Many of her ideas were published posthumously in Denis Diderot’s well known Encyclopédie.

She is widely known as Voltaire’s lover. Emilie invited him to live and work with her in her home, the Château de Cirey, where they stayed and influenced one another intellectually throughout the 1730s. Despite this mutually productive relationship, Emilie is often left in Voltaire’s shadow. She died at the age of 42 due to childbirth complications, her pregnancy the result of an ardent affair with the captain and poet Saint-Lambert. The large strokes of Emilie’s life are enticing enough, but there is surely more to the story. To do this well-bred woman of le siècle des lumières justice, it was up to me to uncover her true nature and spirit. What was she like? How did this woman manage to make a name for herself as a reputable scientist in the 18th century?

 

Words and wit

Luckily, Emilie loved to write letters. Even more luckily, many of Emilie’s letters and works were published and are now in the public domain. I dove into reading her letters to M. de Maupertuis, a great man of science and one of Emilie’s tutors (and possibly lovers),

Château de Cirey

that date from the mid to late 1730s, during Emilie’s academic prime living in the Château de Cirey with Voltaire. They detail her life, her thoughts, her passions, and get down to who she is as a woman and scientist. She has a voice that is serious and funny, surprisingly modern and accessible.  I have come to know a very witty, loving, and smart woman who teases and challenges her mentor amidst inviting him over to chat or keep her company.

 

Et le bonheur dans tout ça ?

Another one of Emilie’s publications is Discours sur le bonheur, or Discourse on Happiness. These kinds of ruminations were common for men of her era to publish, but not women. Emilie takes on what happiness means through female eyes (finally!). The takeaway is clear and much of it is still relevant today: be free of prejudices, be healthy, have tastes and passions, and be susceptible to illusions. It’s okay to have illusions? This last one jumped out at me, I didn’t quite understand where she was coming from, but I had to give some faith to my dear French sister.

Institutions de Physique, one of Emilie’s publications.

To understand this theory that one must be “susceptible d’illusions” to be happy, we must turn to Emilie the lover. Women are known so often as the lover, the extra, the emotional, but Emilie brings fresh air and meaning to love and being passionate. She stipulates that love is one of the greatest illusions and yet it provides some of the grandest happiness; it is important to trust and believe in love or you have no chance of experiencing this ultimate happiness, even if you know that it is an illusion that will eventually dissipate. Emilie remarks that even if you connect with someone on every level, the time comes to let them go and move on. She explains that this is an extremely painful experience, but you must not lose faith that you can and will love again. If I were to translate some of her sentiments to modern day language, she advises us that if someone doesn’t want you, you are better off without them! Emilie’s letters to her last lover, Saint-Lambert, illustrate her willingness to give herself to this illusion and be happy, even after her intimate relationship Voltaire, and even if it means enduring sadness or misery.

One of the most moving lines she writes while quite pregnant in 1749:

      « Quand je suis avec vous, je supporte mon état avec patience, je ne m’en aperçois souvent pas. Mais quand je vous ai perdu, je ne vois plus rien qu’en noir »

                “When I am with you, I endure my state with patience, I often do not notice it. But when I have lost you, I see only the dark side of things.”

 

I would like to personally thank la Marquise for her contributions to science, philosophy, and the female legacy and let her know that she remains a role model for people around the world in the 21st century. I am thrilled to have met another amazing French woman and can’t wait to bring her words and thoughts to life in our Salon on June 8. It is going to be a truly amazing evening where we discuss her philosophy with Irina Ruvinsky, hear excerpts of her letters by Melisha Mitchell, and enjoy an incredible cello performance by Titilayo Ayangade, an all-female cast to create a salon that I think Emilie herself would have appreciated.

I hope to see you all then!

A bientôt !

Zoé Moore