A Life Without Regrets

There is a danger I think of taking our criticisms of contemporary French political life to ludicrous extremes. So taking the opportunity that today is the fortieth anniversary of the death of Edith Piaf, I’d like to offer a small celebration of the enormous contribution of Francophone culture to our modern European identity. And to enter really into the spirit of things, the link below is posted in French. Incidentally, one small confession: when working on-line and not listening to music I seem to have gotten into the habit of listening to French radio. It was the commentary about Piaf on this morning’s news that altered me to the date. They also made the interesting comparison between Egypt’s Om Kalthoun, and the Portuguese ‘Queen of Fado’ Amalia Rodrigues as women of their time who came to symbolise something important about the popular sentiment of their countries.

BTW yesterday was also the 25th aniversary of the disappearance of Jacques Brel: ne me quitte pas.

Piaf, ?a tue. On sera mort qu’elle continuera ? ?faire quelque chose?, au-del? des modes, des ?volutions de langage, des r?volutions technologiques. Comme Django Reinhardt ou la Callas, dans un crachin d’enregistrement, lorsque la musique se moque d’?tre remasteris?e pour vibrer. Quarante ans apr?s la disparition d’Edith Piaf, le 10 octobre 1963 ? 47 ans, pourquoi ses sil lons, appartenant pour moiti? au domaine public, terrassent-ils encore tout sur leur passage ? Parce qu’Edith Piaf remplissait le contrat d’un artiste avec son public : lui exprimer avec une sinc?rit? du gouffre le r?cit de l’homme dans ses l?ches v?rit?s. Avec une gouaille toute parisienne, l’enfant de la balle ?levait le langage populaire au rang d’universel, avec cette ?l?gance qui se passe du rince-doigts et du baisemain. La star d’origine kabyle est r?ellement n?e dans la rue: 72, rue de Belleville, comme l’indique la plaque ? son enseigne. C’est l? que la m?me Piaf se chauffe la voix, aupr?s d’une grand-m?re dresseuse de puces et d’une a?eule qui tient un bordel ? Bernay ? le p?re est absent, et sa m?re partie vivre la boh?me.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

15 thoughts on “A Life Without Regrets

  1. And some of those who don’t maybe could benefit from learning some. Interesting version of mono-culturalism this one. Is tolerance going to be somewhere in the charter?

  2. Tja, ich wollte urspr?nglich nicht die Sprachauswahl des Kollegen kommentieren, geschweige dann kritisieren. Es gilt noch, was die K?lner in ihrem Diaklet pflegen zu sagen: jede jeck iss anders. Aber. Eine ?bersetzung k?me beim Leserpublikum nat?rlich gut an. Nicht jeder, der eine Fremdsprache kann, kann Franz?sisch. Selbst nicht f?r die zweite oder sogar manchmal dritte Fremdsprache. So ist das Leben im 21. Jahrhundert.

    Or, in slightly abridged form:

    Nie wszyscy, kt?ry jezyk cudzoziemski rozumie, jezyk francuski rozumie.

  3. Here’s one “Franz?sischsprecher” that was interested to learn that Edith Piaf was born at 72, rue de Belleville – which is about ten minutes away from where I live, although I’ve never seen the plaque mentioned here.

    Still, I do agree that a translation would have been nice.

  4. Haig d’entendre que totes les p?gines de la malla mundial escrites en lleng?es que no entenc no existeixen? Els que es limiten a escriure en una sola llengua realment creuen que cinc sexts de la humanitat no existeixen?


  5. Vaara, one can imagine that only French-speakers want to read about Edith Piaf, but that would be too bad, really. Why limit the audience?

    (Theoretically speaking, of course; as a practical measure, I certainly understand not wanting to translate for a blog posting.)

    Antoni, is that Catalan?

  6. Ben dit Antoni. We are all web-enabled I hope. It is easy to translate if you are sufficiently interested to do so eg:


    (Of course machine translation is very imperfect, and this is a rather difficult text, but still). The point I was trying to make is that we in the EU are a community, and a community needs tolerance and respect, something which I sometimes feel lacking in some of the comments made about the French. They have a beautiful language. Even someone as German as Nietzsche spent a good deal of time regretting the fact he couldn’t write in French.

    We need English to communicate, but we native English speakers should try to appreciate the fact that we have it easy, and everyone else is making an effort. The issue I suppose I am raising is whether this is a blog for English speakers about Europe, or a real attempt at a European blog. It’s an issue which came up in a previous post from Scott about Brussels. I personally hope it is the latter, and in this case we need little linguistic ‘flexibility’.

    In fact, you don’t have to be able to understand a language to appreciate it. Marsillio Ficino got interested in Greek philosophy a long time before he knew any Greek. He stillhad the Plato manuscripts on his desk, and used to pick them up from time to time. It made him feel good.

    Having said all this, the French case is – as usual – a rather special one since their politicians – in the name of the Republic – all too often impose the French language at the expense of France’s own minority languages.

    BTW just to let everyone in on the act. Antoni Jaume posted in Catalan, one of Europe’s many ‘stateless languages’. He is complaining about the ‘speaking and nobody understanding’ bit. This seems to be saying that five sixths of humanity don’t exist. As I said, English may need to be the language of the community, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ALL make a bit of an effort.

  7. Na pewno.

    I can’t help wondering whether the quote cited by Edward would have provoked such snarkiness if it had been written in, say, Dutch or Italian (or, for that matter, Latvian or Maltese).

  8. Sorry to impose again, but it just occured to me, couldn’t someone design something like a text translator slot for the Google (or any other) toolbar?

  9. I’ve seen attributed to Ernest Gellner –of whom I’ve two books on nationalism and diversity, one not read yet– a phrase about political unity and cultural diversity. I feel that could be a good lemma for the EU. In Spain the most productive parts have been the one with most cultural diversity from my point of view, and the most destructive moments have been those in which those who sought uniformity were in the position to impose it.

    I remember reading some small book that claimed that Europe — which is not the same as the EU — would have done a lot better had the British won the French in their medieval wars. I tend to agree, if only in part.

    Automated traslation is still in its infancy, still it can be quite usefull, after all a journal like El Peri?dico has a simultaneous edition in both Spanish and Catalan, everyday. And that includes their web.


  10. Vaara, I think that if Dutch or Italian (or Latvian or Maltese) institutions were as insistent on their language in inappropriate situations as French institutions, then the level of snarkiness would be similar.

    France, for all its manifest merits, has worked hard to earn a reputation for arrogance in linguistic matters, a reputation that is likely to persist long after any change in tactics.

    I’m with Edward on the importance on making an effort. I make mine in German, Polish and, to a much lesser extent, Hungarian. C’est bon?

  11. Personally, I’m against a “strictly English” rule. First, yes, this is a blog in English, not a multilingual blog, but Europe is a multilingual place, and if this blog didn’t reflect that at all it would really not be doing a good job.

    I think the long French quote is okay because this is a primarily cultural matter, and if it evokes interest in Edith Piaf, well, there are other resources one can find through Google. The quote would not be as good in translation.

    I used a short French quote in the “spationaute” post, but not being able to read it doesn’t take that much away from the post. The last time I used a long quote from Le Monde, I put it up in both languages. Being confronted with language in which you have little or incomeplete knowledge is simply a part of life here.

    That’s my policy, but I don’t speak for the rest of the blog. I’ll see if I can rig a Babelfish link for each post. It should be doable. Don’t hold your breath for good machine translation – trust me on that.

    Nimen yao fan’er wo yong Hanyu ma?

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