“La chanson des V”. Beethoven’s famous 5th symphonie start was the signature tune for the BBC programme “Les Français parlent aux français”. The rythm of its first four notes equals the letter “V” (for Victory) in morse code. Liberation.b.34
The powerful role of radio propaganda during World War II cannot be overestimated. Information was transmitted quickly to vast populations across borders, overpassing enemy lines. In the UK, the BBC would broadcast in several languages, including French of course, and would even send secret messages to the French Resistance in the form of apparently senseless phrases. The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection has several publications related to this topic, some of them particularly fascinating.
Maurice Van Moppès was an illustrator, Free France member and broadcaster who worked for “Les Français parlent aux français”, one of the BBC radio programmes that transmitted news from the Front (for more on this check the 5 volumes of Ici Londres, 1940-1944: les voix de la liberté, 539:1.b.820.2-6). The programme was also supposed to boost the French people’s morale and send code messages to the Résistance. Continue reading →
If you asked me what the best channel on French television is, I would probably reply without much hesitation: Arte. But if you asked a German person what the best channel on German television is, it is quite plausible that they would also reply: Arte. “How is this possible?” you, the Briton, may well ask. Well, it all comes down to France’s and Germany’s approach to the European Union – an approach quite different from the rather radical one favoured by the United Kingdom.
At the end of the 1980s, the Eastern Bloc was breaking into a multitude of independent countries, a reunification between East and West Germany seemed more and more likely, and France and Germany were trying to show strong unity in the construction of the European Union to counter Margaret Thatcher’s opposition. It was in this context that, in 1988, German chancellor Helmut Kohl and French president François Mitterrand, both ardent believers in the European project, met at the 52nd Franco-German summit where they decided to create a television channel funded in equal proportion by the two states, and with the ambition of becoming a proper European project. Continue reading →
One of the most striking aspects of the Liberation Collection is the huge number of books consisting of personal narratives, containing the memories of people involved in and affected by World War II. Through dealing with these books one becomes very intrigued by and connected with their authors, their experiences and their suffering. Instances of personal narratives in the Liberation Collection vary widely, in terms of the backgrounds to which the authors belonged, in terms of the topics they choose to address or the quality of the publications themselves. But they all share a deeply human and personal view of the tragic conflict. Here is one example. Continue reading →
The World Naked bike ride comes to Cambridge for the third time on Saturday and this prompted me to think about how differing attitudes to nudity across Europe would be reflected in the University Library’s collections. Further research revealed that our holdings are reasonably strong in English, French and German but almost non-existent in other languages. I think this in itself is an indication of the places where naturist movements have been more prevalent or of more interest. Indeed it was Germany and France that led the way in the early 20th century with organised nudist groups.
In Germany, naturism is still referred to as FKK, short for Freikörperkultur, a movement led by Adolf Koch during the 1920s and 1930s. Nacktheit und Kultur: Adolf Koch und die proletarische Freikörperkultur (C207.c.1308) by Andrey Georgieff and Freikörperkultur und Lebenswelt: Studien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte der Freikörperkultur in Deutschland (416.d.99.13) tell more of this story. For an English language analysis see Naked Germany: health, race and the nation (570:35.c.200.52) by Chad Ross. During the East German regime FKK was particularly popular, perhaps as a way of displaying individuality in a somewhat restrictive State, and differences between the former East and West are still noticeable today. Continue reading →
Tintin had such a great success that he is even better known than his creator, Hergé. Born Georges Remi (1907-1983), Hergé was his pen name, based on his reversed initials, as pronounced in French. The only rival to Tintin’s fame in Franco-Belgian comics is Asterix, created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo in 1959. Tintin and Snowy (Milou, in French), his faithfull dog, share adventures with distinctive characters well known by every generation, such as: captain Haddock, detectives Thomson and Thompson (Dupond and Dupont) and Professor Calculus (Tournesol).
Tintin au pays des Soviets, 2017 (new colour edition).
January 2017 marked the 88th anniversary of Tintin’s first story: Tintin au pays des Soviets(C200.a.4909). It was published in the children’s supplement of the Belgian conservative newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle, called Le Petit Vingtième. This anti-Bolshevik sketch was later considered by Hergé a “sin of his youth”. His knowledge of Russia was limited, and unlike his following stories, this book is almost plotless. The original was published in black and white and has been recently released for the first time in colour. In his second adventure, Tintin visits the Belgian Congo. On the one hand Tintin au Congo has been considered racist by some, because of its naïve portrait of native Congolese peoples; on the other hand, others think is shows a benevolently paternalist vision of colonialism. Despite the books’s old-fashioned vision –a result of the time it was written and Hergé’s ignorance about the Congo, which he recognised– the book was a great success. Interestingly P. Delisle wonders if Tintin au Congo is, in fact, antislavery literature. Continue reading →