“Be realistic, ask the impossible” was one of the many slogans of the French unrest in May-June 1968. May last year was the 50th anniversary of the upheaval, which arouses mixed feelings in French society, depending on the political ideas of each individual. There was a debate in 2017 about Emmanuel Macron’s idea of celebrating May 68, when it had been an anti-governmental, non-institutionalised movement; it certainly led to many cultural events in 2018, including the BnF exhibition: The spirit(s) of May 68. Cambridge University Library purchased many of the publications on May 68 which came out around the time of the anniversary, including 1968 : de grands soirs en petits matins (C214.c.7787) and L’esprit de mai 68 (C205.d.9998). Here we highlight some of the books we have received in the past year or so. Continue reading
Last week was the Semaine de la langue française et de la francophonie, so it is a good occasion to consider the famous French lexicographer and publisher Pierre Larousse (1817-1875).
The son of a blacksmith and an innkeeper, Pierre Athanase Larousse was born in Toucy (Burgundy) in 1817. He was a very good student and, not surprisingly, an avid reader at a time when books were distributed by peddlers. To some extent he was a free spirit, out of the conventions of his time. He cohabited for many years with Suzanne Pauline Caubel, before marrying her in 1872.
I recently stumbled upon a very interesting article on the Icelandic language and the threats it faces in a modern, English-speaking digital world. This put me in mind of Québec and France, and of the different approaches they have taken against a similar problem.
With its Académie française, its strict language rules, the huge backlash every time someone proposes a change, any change, to the standard – see for example, the spelling reform of 2016 or the debate around trying to make the language more inclusive – you would think that France would be the best of the two at defending la francophonie, better than a French-speaking province surrounded by two enormous English-speaking cultures. Well that’s not the case. Although France is very good at resisting any attempt at modernising the language coming from within, it doesn’t worry so much about the enemy outside – the great influence of English or American and how it is affecting French vocabulary. Continue reading
As the weather starts to provide us with some hope for the summer, it is useful for us to look at guidebooks in the University Library, and what role they can play in a collection such as ours. An interesting series, donated to the Library by F.T.K. Caröe, covers some areas of France and provides both a literary and photographic record of these areas as they were at the time of publication.
The series is called Les Beaux Pays, published by B. Arthaud in Grenoble and Paris. These are an excellent example of guide books as historical documents. The University Library had several volumes in this collection, which are significantly augmented by those donated as part of the library of F.T.K. Caröe, about whom we’ve previously written in relation to his interest in Scandinavian literatures. Caröe’s gifts from this series date from 1935-1959, and cover a number of regions of France. The series was very wide-ranging, and our collections cover only a selection. However, this selection is illuminating and a true asset to the University Library. Continue reading