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Auteure d'origine normande publiée chez Lulu, Virginie Sommet habite tout naturellement à Big Apple, où elle mène une vie semble-t-il trépidante, toujours accompagnée de sa bicyclette de type hollandais fabriquée en 1945. Son livre Only in New york, darling ! est le carnet de bord halluciné de Virginie dans les méandres du quotidien de New York City, un témoignage drôle, intimiste et touchant. Déterminée et positive quoi qu'il arrive, Virginie raconte ses aventures dans un style inimitable qui oscille entre titi parisien, artiste engagée et Barbarella sexy. Elle offre au lecteur un récit sincère, tendre, servi par un sens aigu de l'observation. La Normande observe sans répit l'univers impitoyable qui l'entoure, questionne sans relâche tous ceux qu'elle croise dans la grande et haute ville. Les lecteurs sont invités à suivre Virginie à New York pour, eux aussi, "devenir ce qu'ils sont".Only in New York, Darling ! raconte ses premiers pas, ses galères, petits boulots, rencontres improbables, en somme une vision du New York du milieu des années quatre-vingt dix, avant la monstrueuse vague sécuritaire qui suivit les attentats du 11 septembre 2001. « C’est suite justement aux attentats que j’ai décidé d’écrire ce livre, » raconte Virginie. « Je voulais urgemment faire partager mon amour pour New York, rappeler sa richesse, décrire la fascination qu’exercent sur moi ses habitants, ses quartiers, son énergie unique. J’ai rédigé le livre tous les matins pendant six mois, après une séance de zazen (méditation japonaise), puis une fois le premier jet effectué, les corrections et la composition furent longs, mobilisant proches et amis pour obtenir une œuvre qui soit la plus singulière et personnelle possible. »En huit ans de vie new-yorkaise, Virginie est devenue une artiste en vue, exposant ses œuvres dans plusieurs galeries, d’abord dans des groupes, puis indépendamment. Elle a fini par monter sa propre galerie sur Canal Street, au cœur de Chinatown/Soho, appelée Collective Gallery 173-171, où elle expose des œuvres. Only in New York Darling ! se présente comme un récit initiatique qui se dévore ou se picore selon l’appétit. De courts paragraphes sont entrecoupés par des poèmes, des illustrations, à la manière d’un collage artistique.
I had to ask France Aimée where she got a patriotic name like Beloved France. (What if my parents had named me Beloved United States?) Not patriotism, she said. Her mother is Aimée; her grandmother was named France. Well, I observed, her grandmother was born in 1915. Another friend was named France during the German occupation in 1940. France Aimée’s name, she admitted, can provoke misunderstandings. Backpacking through Asia, she was paged at Jakarta airport: red carpet, flashing cameras, formal cocktail. It seems her Indonesian friend in Paris, to introduce her to someone local, had sent a telegram in English to a government official he knew, asking him to welcome “Miss France Aimée (...).” Very excited, the office had quickly set up a reception for...Miss France!
In 1964, when Gilbert Bécaud’s song “Nathalie” was a hit, some 32,000 babies were named Nathalie. This year, 40. In 1964, the most popular name for boys was Philippe. It ranks fifth overall for the past century. It lost favor just after World War II because the head of the Vichy régime was named Philippe Pétain, only to be salvaged in 1947, when Elizabeth II of England married Prince Philip. The truly class-conscious seek archaic names like Humbert or Isabeau. Or their Breton roots yield Baudouin or Guénaele. As in the United States, someone with a truly weird, unpronounceable name is usually from an old family—the kind that would do that to an innocent newborn.
A law passed on 11 germinal an XI (April Fool’s Day, 1803) said you had to choose a name from an official list which no one seems to be able to locate anymore. Legal names included all saints with birthdays in the calendrier grégorien (paradoxical since France was using the calendrier révolutionnaire at the time) plus certain historic figures, which ones I can only guess: Cleopatra? Nero? If you wanted to call your kid Friday, tough luck.
Desperate for individuation, people developed nicknames. As Boris Vian’s 1955 song “Je Suis Snob” explains, “Je m’appelle Patrick, mais on dit Bob.” Additionally, la bonne bourgeoisie hatched a flock of hyphenations: Jean-Paul, Jean-Pierre, Jean-Claude for boys; Marie-Paule, Marie-Pierre, Marie-Claude for girls. These even showed seasonal variations. Marie-Noëlle explains hers: “I was born in October, a bit too soon after my parent’s March wedding. My name hints at a Christmas birthday.” A 1966 law, bowing to these faits accomplis, also allowed mythological names (Medusa?) and regional names. Aude is poetic, but Aisne? Unfortunate homonyms for that French département (pronounced N) include aine (groin) and haine (hatred).
After a 1981 amnesty granting illegal immigrants citizenship, it wasn’t politiquement correct to force a saint’s name on a baby beur (French-born person of North African descent). Informally, parents could choose an alternative. Result: 1,784 boys named Mohamed.
But a name that might subject the child to ridicule risked a government veto. Results were inconsistent. Some bureaucrats rejected Marine: too nautical. For others, no problem. Since 1993, all rules are off. Last year Océane was really big.
Now you can name your kid anything you want. Unless some civil servant questions your taste in names. Then the “judge of family affairs” will choose a more appropriate one (Tuesday?). This creates new problems for psychologists. “What will happen to the child named Périphérique Nord, after the highway where his mother’s waters broke?” wonders François Bonifaix (Le Traumatisme du Prénom, 1995). Luckily, anyone over the age of 13 can legally change his or her name. Maybe I’ll change mine to Beloved United States.
Photo Credit: Jonas Cuénin
Amuse-Bouche No. 1: What’s in a Name? by Julia Frey
Naming your baby in France gets easier and riskier...
© Julia Frey 2012
p.s. This is the first of a series of "Amuse Bouche"-- humorous mouthfuls on the perplexities of French language and behavior by a former New Yorker now living in France.
Films on the Green is going… green! For its second year running, the popular free outdoor French film festival will feature movies about the environment and the beauty of the natural world. Following the remarkable success of last year’s inaugural “Films on the Green,” the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation have once again joined forces to present a selection of seven critically acclaimed French films that will be screened every Friday at sunset in city parks during the months of June and July.
The festival’s opening night will see the U.S. premiere of Home, a feature documentary and global call-to-action directed by famed aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Shot entirely from the air, over a two-year period and in 54 different countries, Home gives viewers a new perspective on the planet, and a new awareness of the importance of protecting it. The screening will take place at Cedar Hill (79th St & 5th Ave) in Central Park, on Friday, June 5, in association with the United Nations Environment Programme. In a world first, Home will be released simultaneously in movie theaters, outdoors during public screenings, on DVD, online and on television, all on World Environment Day (June 5) in over 100 countries. Co-produced by Europacorp (Luc Besson’s production company) and Elzévir Films, and with the support of PPR Group, the movie will be distributed for free in a concerted effort to reach the widest possible audience.
Three other feature films will complete this environmental series of Films on the Green. The Academy Award winning March of the Penguins, the epic story of penguins fighting to survive in the Antarctic that made nature documentaries cool again, will be screened on Friday June 12. Microcosmos, a spectacular look into the tiny world of insects, with such highlights as bees collecting nectar, spiders wrapping their catch and a mosquito hatching, will play on June 19. Last but not least, The Big Blue, Luc Besson’s timeless and fascinating movie unfolding in the enigmatic world of free-diving, will be shown on Friday June 26. All three movies will be screened in Washington Square Park (see below for more details, including film capsules).
English-language screenings will take place every Friday of June and July (except July 3 and 31) at sunset (around 8:30pm, seating begins at 8:15pm), and will be free of charge.
Films on the Green presents French comedy THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE this Friday at Washington Square Park!
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