Archive for the ‘French books’ Category

The first proper French book I ever read was a little orange paperback of Petit Nicolas stories. I was twelve or thirteen at the time, but to this day I love dipping into the tales of this lovable little rogue, who talks about ‘heaps and heaps’ (‘des tas et des tas’) of things, frequently escalates his crying when his parents vex him, and has friends with such wonderful names as Eudes, Clotaire and Alceste.

A couple of years ago, Monsieur’s Maman (MM) gave me the second volume of the Histoires Inédites du Petit Nicolas. She knew I adored the stories so when the Histoires Inédites came out, that was it. She immediately knew what to buy me for Christmas and, in my eyes, she had found the perfect present. Later, when I finally got to grips with ordering books from Amazon.fr, I bought the first volume so now Monsieur and I have all those funny little tales on our bookshelf.

Petit Nicolas first appeared in 1959, the brainchild of René Goscinny, the French comic writer responsible for Astérix. The simple black and white illustrations are the work of Jean-Jacques Sempé and their naïvety matches the story-telling style. Everything is seen from Nicolas’s perspective: the formation of a gang with secret passwords, the mysteries of adult behaviour, the frustration of not being able to take all of his ‘heaps and heaps’ of toys with him on holiday and the school-yard pranks that little boys are so prone to performing. When Nicolas likes something, it’s always ‘chouette’ (great). His vocabulary hasn’t yet stretched to more specific adjectives.

On checking the net today, I’ve found out a few interesting things. Le Petit Nicolas has been translated into English, although a few things have changed. Those wonderful French names have been switched for English equivalents:

Alceste = Alec, Clotaire = Matthew (what? how on earth did they work that one out?), Eudes = Eddie and Geoffroy becomes Geoffrey (quelle surprise!). Nicolas is anglicised into Nicholas, and his school crush, Marie-Edwige becomes Mary-Jane. For a full list, click here.

It’s also hardly surprising that the name of Petit Nicolas has been used to refer to Nicolas Sarkozy, prompting political cartoonists to portray the President in typically Nicolas scenarios:

We can also look forward to a Petit Nicolas feature film, scheduled for release in September 2009. Laurent Tirard (Molière) is directing and Valérie Lemercier of Fauteuils d’Orchestre fame. Here’s the trailer for that film:

Lemercier will play Nicolas’s maman. Can’t wait.

Back to the subject of the French President and his Petit Nicolas sobriquet, you may be interested to read the following quote from the 2005 edition of The Armchair Diplomat on Europe, by Melissa Rossi. (You have to bear in mind that this was before Sarko became Prez-o.)

New head of Chirac’s Popular Majority Party, the conservative (Sarkozy) who dated Chirac’s daughter, is no longer chummy with the Chiracs, since he made his ambitions known. Chirac’s daughter has said Sarkozy is too short to be the leader of France – apparently forgetting about Napoleon.

Now that’s what I call a quote and a half.

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