In September I was invited to join a group calling itself le circle des amies de Marion and who Marion was, I'm not quite sure. Most of its members are quite elderly and speak French as their first language. I was to have participated in a table ronde session with them, talking about le livre qui m'a frappé le plus. Unfortunately this was cancelled, due to an administrative hiccough, but I'd been preparing myself to tell them about Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot which (apparently) is translated as Le Char des Élus. There's very little about it on the internet in French, though there's a fair bit of rather difficult stuff about it in English.
I would have introduced my subject like this:
J'ai choisi de vous parler d'un roman d'un écrivain australien qui a gagné le prix Nobel pour la litérature en 1973, Patrick White. (Le roman se passe aux alentours de Sydney dans les annees 50 apres la fin de la 2e guerre mondiale.) La premiere foix que j'en ai fait la découverte mes enfants étaient encore tres jeunes, et j'avais simplement besoin de quelque chose d'adulte à lire pour ne pas trop m'ennuyer a la maison. Ma mère venait de lire ce roman qui s'appelle "Cavaliers dans le Char" (ou "Le Char des Élus" dans la traduction francaise) et me l'a recommandé. Il m'a ému énormément. Il est écrit avec une intensité formidable qui ne plairait pas a tout le monde, parce que la violence de certains passages vous donne des frissons d'horreur. De temps en temps, j'apprécie des livres de ce genre...
Of course I reread the whole thing in English and it doesn't seem to have lost any of its power to shock. Once you have delved into Patrick White's writing you are never the same again.
On a completely different tack, I met a German lady recently, Anne C. Voorhoeve from Berlin, an author of novels for teenagers, such as the one we are reading in our Konversationsgruppe these days: Lilly unter den Linden. This book was created from the "Drehbuch" Ms Voorhoeve wrote in preparation for the film of the same title, shown on German TV. When I spoke to her, she told me that her research for this project took up four years of her life. It's the story of a 13 year old girl who flees through the Iron Curtain from West to East, rather than the other way around, in order to join her relatives who are stuck in the DDR.
Our opportunity to meet the authoress was offered by the Martin-Luther-Kirche on Preston street. In 1989 their Pastor, in those days a student in East Germany, was a Charter Member of the East German Social Democratic Party in Leipzig who experienced the collapse of the communist régime first hand. He invited Ms Vorhoeve to Ottawa this month to help commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Wall's collapse. Her book is set in 1988, in Hamburg, Berlin and Jena.
She read us extracts from the first half of the story and then all the "congregation" (we'd been sitting in the pews of the church) repaired to the church basement to find out what happens next by watching the second half of the film. Then we came back upstairs for wine, cheese and conversation with Lilly's creator.
In December I'm going to be able to watch the whole film, this time at the residence of the new German Ambassador to Ottawa.