Learning in Québec

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I'm someone who began learning French when I was 53. I took a BA in French at 60 but wasn't happy with my level of comprehension (though I read very well). So, having really become comfortable with Spanish only by living on the Mexican border, I'm spending more time in Québec and near the border of Quebec, in Vermont, to see if I can do that here with French. I want to encourage others to do the same.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Bonheur d'Occasion

The celebration for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gabrielle Roy was a lovely event. Sophie Faucher, an actress -- une comédienne -- read many passages that she herself had chosen from Roy's works, sometimes with soft piano music in accompaniment. Nearby was a rolling table, very like a hospital bedside table but with wooden top, which Gabrielle Roy used when she worked at writing. On it was a picture of her actually writing at that rolling table. (I was pleased to see she wrote with just a pencil.)

I hadn't finished Bonheur d'Occasion, her first novel to be published (in 1945, the year I was born) but was half-way through it by yesterday morning when Mathieu and I took first row seats for the performance.

Some times I had to stop reading because I was crying too much to see words in print. Yesterday again, at one point -- and this is even when I can't really understand all of what I hear in French, as I have to admit to you and myself, even after all these years of trying -- I had to go out into the library foyer because I was crying and needed to use a hankerchief. (Well, a bandana, if truth be told.) I felt some shamefaced at having to do this but when I decided it was ok and retook my seat, I saw that women seated behind me were crying, and the reader herself was wiping away tears.

I think you should read Gabrielle Roy's Bonheur d'Occasion in French or English. (In English it's called The Tin Flute.) I plan now to read all her books. I'll read them in French, but they're all translated. It's said that many Canadians, anglophones as well as francophones, consider her to be Canada's most important writer.

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