Friday, February 06, 2004

As I am about to read the final chapters of Almost French by Sarah Turnbull ( London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2003 ), this morning I had a very clarifying conversation with one of the people here at the IHTP. In her book, Sarah Turnbull tells us about her experiences as a foreigner who made a serious effort ( and, in the end, succeeded ) to feel at home in Paris. Basically, it appears that all the things that annoy me about 'the' French also bothered - and in some cases still bother - Sarah Turnbull. The conversation with Gabrielle Muc also opened my eyes a bit, and I do understand that most of my frustrations with France and 'the' French are a result of my very limited capability to express myself in the local language. Sarah T. writes somewhere that before she seriously started to study French her conversations were limited to the level of five-year old kids. This is true for me as well, even though I am able to understand almost everything that is said to me, and although I can read the language more than well. For me language is a central and vital part of my life, and whereas in Israel I succeeded in adopting the native tongue as my own in France I did not make a similar effort. The main reason for that is that I have been here ( and I will return here more than once, I hope and suppose ) for professional reasons and for a limited time only, and that I never tried to belong and to follow the "When in France, try to be as the French" wisdom. For any social life that I had here I had my wife and kids, and several Israeli friends. After my return home I will do what I always planned but - out of laziness and for various other unworthy reasons - failed to do: take a proper French course at the French consulate in Haifa. It would be an unnecessary shame if I left this beautiful ( and, I will keep saying this, sometimes utterly frustrating and difficult ) country with the negative feelings that I have today, in spite of all the inspiring experiences that I have had and the wonderful people whom I have met here. All in all, my sejour de recherche has been a great success. I have been able to collect an enormous amount of material for my research, made contact with some outstanding colleagues, and also for us as a family this has been a truly rewarding and educative period. Almost French is a must for all those who love and hate France, Paris and the French, and for each and every one who has adopted another country as his or her homeland.

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