A French Jane Austen?
Posted by Caroline on March 09, 1998 at 14:51:53:
Over a year ago, a certain person, rather faceitiously laid down a challenge: to find a French equivalent of Jane Austen. I'm not sure if he realises, to this day, exactly what he started. Myself and a francophone lady decided to take up the challenge, and there followed an interesting private correspondence between the two of us. It was daunting, however, as neither of us had a literary background , neither of us had much time to devote to the project. We found some lovely writing in both languages; I got to appreciate Flaubert particularly. But it seemed impossible: We could equate Hugo and Dickens, Flaubert and Bronte, but Colette and Jane Austen with no-one. We gave up, with regret, and allowed the water to flow under the bridge.
Then, when reading the Tomalin biography, I came across the reference to Chalderlos LeClos as a possible inspiration for Lady Susan . "Oh, great!" I thought to myself ,sarcastically. "To connect those two means sitting down not only with French dictionary but probably a Classical one as well, a Greek lexicon, and some heavy tomes about the Age of Enlightenment" ( I've tried reading Clarissa Harlowe and Pamela , you see, and I find them like wading in treacle.) No way, not this week, anyway!
However the thought stuck, and I went and saw the two movies of Les Liasons Dangeureuses , borrowed the play from a friend (noticed that the original stage Valmont was Alan Rickman, which boggled my mind!) and compared Glen Close, Annette Bening and Lady Sue and decided there could be something in this.
Then this morning, I was looking at Barbara's Lit. Companion, and followed a few links, and I found the e-text of Les Liasons I gave it a try. I sat there for 45 minutes giggling my head off. Didn't need a dictionary. No really hard classical allusions to navigate. No Greek or Latin to confuse the issue. Just plain , simple French prose. Lots of irony, lots of neatly and completely sketched in characters. A book written in letters,with the pace of a galloping horse, very like P&P. It's close enough to my modern and colloquial French for me to read with ease. I love it! There are shades of Mary and Henry Crawford, Lady Sue, you name the villain. This book really rocks. If you like Jane Austen and you can read French, it's bound to take your fancy.Have a look for yourself...
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