Bon Voyage: A Night of French Culture at the Central Library

January 24, 2009 at 5:43 pm (France, Local interest (Baltimore-Washington))

Wednesday night, Rose and Jean, two of my erstwhile colleagues at the library, presented a wonderful program in which they celebrated all things French. Obviously, there was only so much territory they could  cover in the space of little more than an hour.

The culture of France has been one of the chief glories of Western civilization for the last thousand years. Much of tremendous value has emerged in the course of its fascinating history: magnificent music and art, and a body of literature conveyed to us through one of the world’s most beautiful and expressive languages.

We entered the room to the strains of Edith Piaf:

Rose treated us to excerpts from three travel DVD’s.

In addition, she showed us print travel guides by Rick Steves, Rudy Maxa, and others.  We were reminded that tools for learning French can be found on tape, CD, and digital audiobook via the newly acquired Playaways. As an aid to locating these items, Jean and Rose provided program attendees with an extremely helpful handout, which was a combination pathfinder and book list.



Jean booktalked some titles with which I was unfamiliar but which I will now seek out.  (Jean is such a terrific booktalker, if she were extolling the virtues of the yellow pages, I rush to procure them tout de suite!):

helene-berr quartier

tatin time

Here’s one I didn’t manage to grab in time but will definitely seek out in the future: monet

I found this video slide show of Monet’s paintings, set to Debussy’s haunting Clair de Lune.

moon Other titles I was already familiar with: Paris to the Moon is a collection of dispatches that Adam Gopnik filed with the New Yorker from 1995 to 2000, while he and his family were living in Paris. ( The French newspaper Le Monde called him a “witty and Voltairean commentator on French life.”) Follow this link to an audio interview with Adam Gopnik on the Barnes and Noble site.

I was delighted to see that Georges Simenon, one of my favorite authors, was well represented at the program.

A  number of films were on hand for the taking:



Apple slices, cheese and crackers, and l’eau Perrier were provided by our gracious hostesses. And there were door prizes – I won this!  a-paris-moment-cover

The French language is  beautiful whether spoken or sung. Here is the famous duet “Au Fond du Temple Saint” from the opera Les Pecheurs de Perles by Georges Bizet. The singers are two of today’s greatest: tenor Roberto Alagna and bass-baritone Bryn Terfel.


In recent years, the Howard County Library has presented numerous fine programs featuring authors and other outside guest speakers. “Bon Voyage”  showcased the efforts of two of the library’s own resourceful and creative staffers. They have much to offer in this venue!

I’d like to conclude with this video of a 1989 performance of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. The soloist is Mireille Matthieu, whom many consider a worthy successor to the great Edith Piaf. (The Youtube poster described this as “legendary footage.”)

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