Monday, December 5, 2011


Intensif, intensif, intensif! 
Rediscovering J.M.G. Le Clézio

Cover of J.M.G. Le Clézio's first novel, Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation) 1963.

Le Clézio won a prize for this work, but refused to go to Paris to collect it. He now says this book was more about "fashion," and from this photo, one can see why he might say that. So sixties mod.

This past weekend I took a three-day intensive French Class called French on the Go at The New School in New York City. It was really good for me, because I started to feel more confident about speaking, and the words seemed to come naturally -- without having to do much pre-thinking (that is translating in my head to French) before speaking.

The teacher was Philippe Montanari. He is retired from teaching at the United Nations, lives in three cities on three continents, (New York, Paris and Bogota) and is an expert on Napoleon. My class mates were five smart, interesting people including a professor of philosophy, a criminal defense lawyer, a surgeon, a retiree of a large, French company, a professor of Arabic and myself, artiste, modiste.

J.M.G. Le Clézio and Rosalie Piquemal by Henri-Cartier Bresson, 1965

The best part of the weekend was a film about Jean Marie G. Le Clézio, a French writer. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2008. The Swedish Academy said that he was ..."an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization." Some years back, I saw a photo of him and his first wife, Rosalie Piquemal, in a magazine. It was so compelling, that I clipped it and saved it in my images box. The thing is, Le Clézio was, and is, a beautiful man. Of course, it helps that the photo was by Cartier-Bresson.

Born in 1940, Le Clézio was a precocious child. He wrote his first book, albeit in a childish hand, with illustrations and a table of contents, at age 7. His father was British and mother, French. He was born in Nice, but at the age of 8, took a sea voyage to the coast of Africa to join his father, a surgeon, in Nigeria. Everything about the voyage was magical and exciting to the child. He wrote a book on the voyage, and he loved Africa right down to the ant hills. In those days, there were no ports on the west coast of Africa. The coast was all forested. They had to anchor at sea and be ferried by boats to the land. Imagine the adventure that must have been for a boy. He loved geography, the stars and the sea.

Another formative part of his life were the seven years he spent in Mexico. He was fascinated by the volcanos, the simple life where people rode on horseback and the stories he heard.

Here is a short documentary about Le Clézio produced by the BBC.

Mon Chapeau Rouge (My red hat)

Me with my red chapeau from
The Bon Marché at Stellina, a cafe on Allen Street, New York City.

My Disneyland, my box of chocolates, my rose garden is The Bon Marché, a department store in Paris. I especially love the first floor where accessories are arrayed. Hats, bags, gloves, scarves and perfumes.
On our trip to Paris, Richard and I spent a morning there.

One of my favorite books is about a department store. It's The Ladies' Paradise by Émile Zola, written in 1873.  Zola was a realistic writer, piling detail upon detail. In Ladies' Paradise, he was not describing The Bon Marché, but probably was influenced by Printemps, another store in Paris. Read this delicious passage from the book published by the University of California Press with an introduction by Kristin Ross:
"However, as she crossed the cravat and glove departments, her heart once more failed her. There was, under the diffuse light, a display made up of bright and gay colours, which produced a ravishing effect. The counters, symmetrically arranged, seemed like so many flower-borders, changing the hall into a French garden..."
"Lying on the bare wood, in open boxes, and protruding from the overflowing drawers, a quantity of silk handkerchiefs displayed the bright scarlet of the geranium, the creamy white of the petunia, the golden yellow of the chrysanthemum, the sky-blue of the verbena..."
"But what most attracted the crowd was a Swiss cottage in the glove department, made entirely of gloves, a chef d'oeuvre of Mignot's, which had taken him two days to arrange. In the first place, the ground floor was composed of black gloves; then came straw-coloured, mignonette, and red gloves, distributed in the decoration, bordering the windows, forming balconies, and taking the place of tiles."
 STOP, STOP, my dear Monsieur Zola! It's too much!

A pair of my favorite gloves.

My chapeau is by E. Werlé, Chapelier, a venerable Paris brand. Someone at the Hôtel Pont Royal liked it so much that they stole it from our room. It was later recovered in the Housekeeping Department.

I love Stellina's pink decor.

A few more snapshots from Paris...

Wearing my new brooch from Bijoux Fabrice.
Photo by Dianna Cramer

I love this photo of Richard.
Photo by Dianna Cramer

With my stepson, Richard.
Photo by Dianna Cramer

This was such a civilized little party in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Parisians value beautiful posture.

Just for fun!
Photo by Dianna Cramer

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A bientôt!


  1. Ha Ha Carol!! Such a vivid post full of lovely and delectable descriptions! The Ladies' Paradise by Émile Zola, the movie, and your instructor, all very interesting and colorful.

    Love the ending photo too!

  2. Hats and gloves = paradise! You are gorgeous in your red hat.