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Contact Christine or the appropriate Book Review Editor (see the Editorial Staff page for contact information).

Index

Poetry Rooms:

Please note that all of our poetry rooms have moved into their own blog platform, the links below will take you to their new home

German: Das Zimmer der Poesie
French:
L’âme poétique de nos écoles
Italian: Sala delle Poesie
Spanish: El Rincón Poético

Instructions on writing cinquans

July 2011

French

The Death of French Culture, 2010
Donald Morrison & Antoine Compagnon
Polity Press

In light of the extensive lenght of this review, it is available only for download.


June 2011

French: Jeanne la fileuse and Canuck
Spanish: Los jefes: 6 cuentos cortos and La canción verde

French

Jeanne la fileuse
Beaugrand, Honoré
National Materials Development Center for French, Bedford NH

Canuck - 1980
Lessard-Bissonnette, Camille
National Materials Development Center for French, Bedford NH
Both books are available from The Franco-American Centre, 52 Concord Street, Manchester NH 03101, (603)669-1322

http://www.francoamericancentrenh.com

Pour ceux qui aimeraient partager la litérature francophone avec leurs étudiants, je vous recommande ces deux livres que plusieurs considèrent comme les meilleurs, sinon les plus importants, romans franco-américains écrits en français. Quoiqu’en elles-mêmes les deux histoires ne soient pas extraordinaires, du point de vue de l’histoire des immigrants québécois aux Etats-Unis dans les années 1840 à 1930, on apprend beaucoup du sort de ces gens qui ont quitté la ferme québécoise pour gagner leur fortune dans les filatures de la Nouvelle-Angleterre. D’ailleurs, la plupart sont venues avec l’intention de rentrer chez eux après quelques années. Jeanne Girard, dite la fileuse, à l’âge de 16 ans se trouve à Fall River MA en 1873 avec la famille Dupuis après la mort de son père et le départ de son frère pour les chantiers du nord, et Victoria Labranche, 15 ans, s’installe à Lowell MA en 1900 avec sa famille pour échapper à la pauvreté de chez eux. Elles apprennent très vite que le paradis espéré n’existe pas là et qu’elles ont fui une vie dure pour en embrasser une autre aussi difficile. La ville est crottée, les “tenements” ne sont pas en bonne ordre, le travail commence à 6 heures du matin jusqu’à 6 heures du soir, pour un total de 60heures par semaines. L’ambiance dans la filature est écrasante avec son bruit incessant et le travail continuel. On gagne très peu d’argent mais c’est tout de même mieux qu’on gagnait au Québec. Peu à peu on se fait une vie mais on quitte très rarement le milieu où l’on habite. La vie sociale, très peu qu’elle soit, se passe en compagnie de gens comme eux et on ne parle que le français. Les deux livres sont divisés en deux parties: Jeanne la fileuse commence son histoire au Québec (chapitres I à XIV) et finit à Fall River (chapitres I à XI) tandis que Canuck commence à Lowell (chapitres 1 à 7) et finit au Québec (chapitres 8 à 12). Il est important de noter d’une part que l’histoire de l’immigration des Canadiens aux Etats-Unis occupe une place à part dans Jeanne la fileuse, l’auteur ayant inséré des chapitres isolés de son histoire pour nous faire apprendre les statistiques de se phénomène, mais de l’autre part l’auteur de Canuck nous apprend cette histoire au fur et à mesure que le roman se déroule.

Le thème est le même dans les deux romans: c’est celui de la maturation de deux jeunes adolescentes qui ont mené une vie typique de paysanne québécoise, obéissantes, gênées, soumises, travailleuses, et religieuses pour devenir indépendantes et sûres d’elles-mêmes pendant l’espace d’un an (Jeanne) et de cinq ans (Vic). C’est le résultat de l’environnement où elles se trouvent qui est si loin de celui d’où elles sont venues. En effet Jeanne devient très brave à l’occasion de l’incendie qui tue son frère et détruit la filature où elle travaille. C’est aussi une histoire d’amour, de coeur brisé, de peine de séparation, et d’amour retrouvé. Malgré la vie dure qu’on a mené dans un pays étrange et, faut-il le dire, étrangé à leur culture, toutes les deux connaissent le bonheur, la paix, la fortune, et l’amour avec l’homme de leur choix au Québec. Ces romans aideront tous les professeurs de français à réaliser le désir des Foreign Languages National Standards qui nous encouragent à incorporer les Cultures, Connections, et Communities Strands dans nos cours.
- Soumis par Marcel LaVergne Ed.D., éditeur de revue de livres français

English version
For those teachers who would like to share francophone literature with their students, I recommend those two books considered by some to be the best, if not the most important, Franco-American novels written in French. Although the stories in themselves may not be extraordinary, from the point of view of the history of the French-Canadian immigration to the United States during the 1840 to 1930 years, one learns a great deal about those people who left the Quebecois farm to seek a better life in the mills of New England. Besides, most came with the intention of returning home after a few years. Jeanne Girard, called la fileuse, at the age of 16 finds herself in Fall river MA in 1873 with the Dupuis family after the death of her father and the departure of her brother for the lumber fields of the north, and Victoria Labranche, 15 years old, settles in Lowell Ma in 1900 with her family in order to escape the poverty of the home farm. Both women quickly learn that the hoped for paradise does not exist there and that they fled one hard life to embrace another one as difficult. The city is dirty, the tenements are in disrepair, and the work day goes from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm for a total of 60 hours a week. The mill atmosphere is crushing with its incessant noise and non-stop work. The pay is low but it is still better than that of Quebec. The social life, little as it is, takes place in the company of people like them and one speaks only French. Both books are divided into two sections: Jeanne la fileuse begins in Quebec (chapters I to XIV) and finishes in Fall River (chapters I to XI) while Canuck begins in Lowell (chapters 1 TO 7) and finishes in Quebec (chapters 8 to 12). It is important to note that on the one hand the history of the French-Canadian immigration to the United States occupies a separate place in Jeanne la fileuse because the author dedicated some chapters specific to that topic in his book but that on the other hand the author of Canuck informs us of the history as a part of the story itself.

Both novels share the same theme: the maturation of two teenagers who having led a typical peasant life in Quebec were obedient, shy, submissive, hard-working and religious and who became independent, self-confident, and self-sufficient all in the space of one year (Jeanne) and five years (Vic), due to the new environment in which they found themselves and which was so vastly different from the one they grew up in. In effect, Jeanne became very courageous on the occasion of the mill fire that killed her brother and destroyed the mill she worked in. Both novels also contain a love story, speak of broken hearts, of the pain of separation, and of refound love. In spite of the hard life that they spent in a foreign and also strange land, both women find happiness, peace of mind, riches, and the love of the man of their choice in Quebec. With the help of those novels, French teachers will satisfy the Culture, Connections, and Communities Strands of the Foreign Languages National Framework.
- Recommended by Marcel LaVergne, Ed.D. French Book Review Editor

Spanish

Los jefes: 6 cuentos cortos
Mario Vargas Llosa
1959, 2010

Seis cuentos que se tratan de la dominación o la tiranía de una persona, un grupo, o una gente por otra persona, grupo, o gente. Por medio de la fuerza física, el terror, o pura alegría de dominar entramos en la vida de jóvenes, adultos, y ancianos. Todos quieren presentarse a sus compañeros como alguien de valor, o hacer lo correcto. Es una colección bastante deprimida porque por la mayor parte el personaje principal con quién el lector identifica más es él que pierde al fin. Así es la vida. Su facilidad de describir los alrededores, las emociones, la acción es evidente. Lleva al lector a la ciudad, al bosque, a la selva, o en la casa. Se ve la pobreza y la comodidad y la desesperación. Invita que el lector o entre en la acción o observe la acción de cerca. De todos modos, participa en lo que lee.

English translation
These are six short stories that deal with the domination or tyranny of one person, group or people over another person, group, or people. Through physical strength, fear, or pure joy of domination, we enter the life of adolescents, adults, and the elderly. All want to present themselves to their associates as somebody of value, or as someone who does the right thing. This is a fairly depressing collection because, for the most part, the main character, or the one with whom the reader identifies with most, is often the one who loses in the end. Such is life. Mario Vargas Llosa’s facility in describing the surroundings, emotions, and action is evident. He carries the reader to the city, the forest, jungle, or into a home. One can see poverty and comfort and desperation. He invites the reader either into the action or to observe the action from nearby. In any case, one participates in what one is reading.
- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Film Review Editor

La canción verde
Doris Troutman Plenn
Publisher: The Troutman Press

Las noticias sobre la “invasión” del coquí caribeño en Hawaii junto con el renovado interés en la literatura para niños me hicieron pensar en La Canción Verde por Doris Troutman Plenn. Su personaje principal, Pepe Coquí, emprende un viaje a Nueva York “para ver el mundo”. El viaje resulta en un descubrimiento de sí mismo en el que Pepe aprende que la harmonía universal no depende solo de su canción verde sino de todos los colores del mundo. Admitir el orgullo patriótico está muy bien pero hace falta aceptar la contribución cultural de todo el mundo para completar el arco iris del mundo. Escrito en 1956, el mensaje del libro está muy al día para celebrar la diversidad que existe en nuestras comunidades. Enseña lo que se puede cumplir con el respeto, la comprensión y la compasión. Muestra que de la tolerancia pueden nacer amistades que duran toda la vida.

English version
News of the Carribean coquí “invasion” in Hawaii along with the renewed critical interest in children’s literature made me think immediately of La Canción Verde by Doris Troutman Plenn. The main character, Pepe Coquí, embarks on a journey to New York “to see the world.” The trip becomes a voyage of self-discovery in which Pepe learns that the harmony of the universe depends not only on his green song, but also on that of all the colors of the world. Accepting and embracing one’s patriotic pride is good, but in painting a global rainbow, all cultural contributions need to be considered and admitted. Written in 1956, the book’s message is very timely in order to celebrate the diversity that exists in our communities. The story shows us what can be accomplished through mutual respect, understanding, and compassion. It highlights how a single act of tolerance can blossom into lifelong friendships.
- Recommended by Donna Chambers, Spanish Book Review Editor

April/May2011

French:  Pardon My French: Unleash Your Inner Gaul
Spanish: Doña Rosa, la soltera o el lenguaje de la flores  1935 by Federico García Lorca
 

FRENCH

Pardon My French: Unleash Your Inner Gaul, 2008
Charles Timoney
Gotham Books N.Y.

Consult the Teachers’ Lounge to see if you can pass the test based on this book that I have created for you!!   

The English version follows the French version

Version française

frenchbookVous arrivez en France après avoir passé 4-6 ans à apprendre le français et dès le premier moment vous vous rendez compte que le français que l’on parle n’est pas celui que vos profs vous ont appris. Si seulement vous aviez lu ce petit livre!  Charles Timoney dont l’épouse est française a vécu et travaillé vingt ans en France et à cause des difficultés qu’il a subies a décidé d’écrire ce petit dictionnaire linguistique et culturel pour quiconque a l’intention de voyager ou de déménager en France. Il nous explique l’usage particulier de certains mots et expressions et leur contexte culturel dans les matières suivantes: la nourriture, le pays et comment s’y prendre, l’éducation, divertissements et sports, les formules, le calendrier, paraître français, l’histoire et l’Angleterre, les jeunes (et leur argot), les relations (familiales et autres), la vie quotidienne, et le monde des affaires. Etant Britannique, l’auteur compare sa culture avec celle des Français et nous offre des commentaires amusants et personnels sur les différences. Chaque chapitre contient une série de mots et d’expressions suivis de leur sens anglais et des exemples de leur usage.  Timoney nous dit que les formes brèves sont plus communes que les formes longues: apéro pour apéritifcoca pour coca-cola, les clous pour un passage clouté, un PV pour un procès-verbal, le bac pour le baccalauréat, coef pour coefficient, prépa pour classe préparatoire, VO pour version originaleune radio pour radiographie, etc.   D’autres mots ont un sens alternatif qu’on ne trouve pas dans  les textes:   une chambre, les Bleus, sécher, manger chaud, Hexagone, morceau de sucre,  tablette de chocolat,  à poil, etc.  L’habitude qu’ont les Français d’insérer certains mots  dans la phrase peut confondre les non-francophones qui apprennent la langue: allez!, avec ceci?, petit, quoi, bon, écoutez!   Ce livre est un délice culturel qui doit absolument être lu par tous ces professeurs de français qui veulent faire de leurs étudiants des petits Français.

Recommandé par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français    

English version

  If you have ever gone to France and realized that the French that you took in high school or in college did not include words that the French actually use when conversing, then perhaps you should have read this book.  Charles Timoney , married to a French woman, has lived in France for 20 years and because of the difficulties that he experienced he decided to write a very useful up-to-date mini linguistic and cultural dictionary for anyone wanting to have an easier time while visiting or moving to France.   He covers a multitude of topics: food and drink, the country and how to get about it, education, entertainment and sport, paperwork, the calendar year, how to sound French, historical matters and perfidious Albion, young people (and their slang), relations (family and others), day-to-day life, and the business world.   Being British he also compares his culture with that of the French and provides amusing personal comments about the differences.  Each chapter presents a collection of words or expressions followed by their English equivalents and some examples of their use.  Timoney tells us that short forms are more commonly used than long forms: apéro for apéritifcoca for coca-cola, les clous for un passage clouté, un PV for un procès-verbal, le bac for le baccalauréat, coef for coefficient, prépa for classe préparatoire, VO for version originaleune radio for radiographie, etc.  Other words have an alternative meaning, not usually found in textbooks:   une chambre, les Bleus, sécher, manger chaud, Hexagone, morceau de sucre,  tablette de chocolat,  à poil, etc.  Especially useful is the habit of inserting certain words into one’s sentence that can confound all non-francophones learning the language: allez!, avec ceci?, petit, quoi, bon, écoutez!   This book is a cultural delight and a must read for all teachers of French who want their students to sound native.

Recommended by Marcel LaVergne, French Language Book Review Editor

SPANISH

Doña Rosa, la soltera o el lenguaje de la flores  1935
Federico García Lorca

spanishbookThe English versión follows the Spanish
Otra selección electrónica que me causó alegría leer.  Hace varios años que he leído una de las obras de García Lorca y leyendo ésta fue una experiencia muy amena. 
El cuento en tres actos se trata de una joven enamorada.  Su novio tiene que salir para Argentina de donde su padre está requiriendo su presencia.  Ahora a solas, ella espera el regreso, y espera, y espera, y espera.  Mientras tanto las amigas se casan y la vida continua para los otros.  Ella se queda en casa con sus tíos y espera.  El tío tiene un invernadero llena de rosas de todos tipos, pero su favorita es la rosa mutable.  Esa flor, que dura solo un día, empieza el día de color rojo, pasa el mediodía rosada, y acaba el día blanca.  Cuando ella está en el escenario, se viste de un rosado morado y lleva una rosa roja.  El tema del paso del tiempo es evidente:  Ella empieza joven y jubilante en el primer acto.  El segundo acto, 15 años más tarde, es más reservada y preocupada.  Al tercer acto, unos 5 años más, ella vive recluida.  Cada acto es como una fase de la rosa. 
Además del toque compasionante que García Lorca emplea con sus personajes femininas, él nos lleva a la Granada de los últimos años del siglo XIX y la vida de la clase media, sobre todo de las familias sin padre y con pocos ingresos.  Hay humor y música al lado de la tristeza.  Si quiere saber la simbología de las flores en la literatura hay una canción que identifica muchas.  Aunque es muy probable que leí esa obra de teatro durante mis estudios universitarios, no lo recuerdo, y gocé la experiencia de leerla de nuevo. 

English Version

Another electronic selection that I enjoyed reading.  Several years have gone by since I last read a play by García Lorca so reading this one was a pleasurable experience.

spanishbookThe 3-act story is about a young lady who is in love.  Her fiance must go to Argentina where his father is demanding his presence.  Now she is alone and waits, and waits, and waits, and waits.  Meanwhile her friends marry and life goes on for others.  She remains at home with her aunt and uncle and waits.  Her uncle has a green house filled with roses, the favorite of which is the rosa mutable, the changing rose.  Lasting only one day, the rose starts out red, goes through mid-day pink, and ends the day white.  When we see our young lady on the stage she is always dressed in a rose pink dress and carries a red rose.  The theme of passing time is evident:  She starts out young and jubilant in act one.  In act two, 15 years later, she is more reserved and withdrawn.  By the third act, another 5 years have gone by and she lives the life of a recluse.  Each act is like a phase of the rose. 
In addition to the compassionate touch García Lorca uses when portraying women, he carries us to the Granada of the late nineteenth century and middle class life, especially that of fatherless families with little income.  There is humor and music alongside the sadness.  If one wishes to know what each flower symbolizes there is a song that identifies many of them.  Although it is quite likely that I read this work sometime during my university years, I do not remember it, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading it once again. 
Recommended by Sheila W. Cockey, Spanish Language Film Editor


March 2011

French: French Toast, A Memoir
Spanish: Pasión india

FRENCH

French Toast: A memoir, 2010
Harriet Welty Rochefort
Thomas Dunne Books

french toast

(A lesson plan based on this book can be found in the March 2011 Teachers’ Lounge.)

[insert image of book cover]

Version française

Welty Rochefort, neé en Iowa et ayant vécu plus de 20 ans en France avec son mari français, écrit dans le dernier chapitre de son livre que “In spite of all the things that I appreciate about the French and even the ways in which I myself feel almost French, there are still a number of things that daily prove to me that I will never, ever be French.”  Tout francophile aura plaisir à lire cet amusant récit de malentendus culturels.  Aucun sujet n’est exempt de la plume de cet auteur qui raconte les ajustements qu’elle, épouse américaine d’un homme français, a dû faire.  On suit les problèmes issus du choc culturel dès le début de son séjour, l’appréciation des différences culturelles entre les deux nationalités lors des années, et la réalisation à la fin que malgré tout du fond de son coeur elle est toujours américaine.  Les titres des chapitres « The French and Their Food, » « The French Woman, » « The French and Sex, Love, and Marriage, » « The French and Money, » « The Parisians, Politesse, and School Daze » contiennent beaucoup de renseignements intéressants pour les professeurs qui désirent enrichir leurs cours de français.

Recommandé par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français    

English version

In the last chapter of the book, Welty Rochefort, from Iowa and living in France for more than 20 years with her French husband, admits that “In spite of all the things that I appreciate about the French and even the ways in which I myself feel almost French, there are still a number of things that daily prove to me that I will never, ever be French.”  Francophiles everywhere will delight in reading this charming and enjoyable account of cultural misunderstandings.  No topic is immune from the author’s pen describing the adjustments that she has had to make as an American married to a French man.  We follow the problems arising from culture shock at the beginning, the appreciation along the way of the cultural differences between the two nationalities, and the realization at the end that in her heart she is very much an American in many ways.  The topics covered are: The French and Their Food, The French Woman, The French and Sex, Love, and Marriage, The French and Money, The Parisians, Politesse, and School Daze.  For those interested in cultural comparisons, the book and especially the last chapter contain valuable information for those teachers who seek current and up-to-date material with which to enliven their lessons.

Recommended by Marcel LaVergne, French Language Book Review Editor  

Editor’s Note: You might be interested in Rochefort’s website: http://www.harrietweltyrochefort.com/FrenchFolio/Home.html

Spanish

Pasión india 
Javier Moro
Seiz Barral © 2005
ISBN 84-322-9641-4
~430 pages
Available in both Spanish and English

pasionindia

An English version follows the Spanish
Un maharajá a quien le gusta la Europa Occidental avista [Susana, is avista the right word?] a una joven bailarina andaluza de dieciseis años.  Se casa con ella y la trae al lomo de un elefante enjoyado a su reino.  Vive allá por unos veinte años y por fin viaja a París con su hijo, donde vive hasta su muerte.  ¿Es cosa de cuento de hadas?  Puede ser, pero en este caso, no.  Javier Moro ha escrito un cuento revelador e interesante de la bailarina, Anita Delgado, y su vida como la Maharani de Kapurthala.
El libro está bien documentado, y el lector tiene la oportunidad de ver a la India bajo el control del Emperio Británico, tal como del punto de vista indio y de lo inglés.  ¿Cómo es la vida de un harén?  ¿Cómo se tratan el uno con el otro los ingleses y los maharajas?  ¿Cuáles son las intriguias políticas y domésticas que corren desenfrenadas por la India durante la primera parte del siglo XX?  Pasión india nos da unas respuestas.
Los choques que los malentendimientos culturales causan son claros y agudos.  La atracción entre la mujer española y el hombre indio es muy obvia.  Los privilegios de la riqueza y el poder influyen la vida, causando fidelidad y traición.  Las personalidades son irrestibles al pasar por los días diarias; ninguno de los dos podía rechazar quiénes eran antes de conocerse.  Anita, como la Majarani, enseña a las otras esposas y los hijos de su esposo.  Les enseña a leer y les abre un mundo nuevo.  Cuando sale, deja atrás progreso y caos.
Un buen amigo español me regaló este libro, pero yo no estaba segura de que pudiera leer la novela con el contenido y vocabulario desconocidos, pero al contrario, fue un gran placer leerla.  Las riquezas, las fragancias, los sabores, y los sonidos de la India estimula los sentidos mientras estaba leyéndola.

English versión
A seventeen-year-old Andalusian dancer catches the eye of a Western-looking majaraja who marries her and brings her to his kingdom on the back of a jeweled elephant.  She stays there for some twenty years and finally goes to Paris with her son, where she lives the remainder of her life.  The stuff of fairy tales?  Probably, but not in this case.  Javier Moro has written an interesting and revealing account of Anita Delgado’s life as the Majarani of Kapurthala. 
The book is well documented, and the reader has the opportunity to see inside India under the control of the British Empire, both the Indian side and the British side.  How does life work in a harem?  How do the English and the Majarajas deal with each other?  What are the political intrigues, both domestic and diplomatic, that run rampant in India in the first half of the 20th century?   We get some answers in Pasión india
The clashes caused by cultural misunderstandings are clear and sharp.  The attraction between the Spanish lady and the Indian man is obvious.  The privileges of wealth and power influence their lives, causing both fidelity and betrayal.  Their personalities are irresistible as they go through their daily lives, neither being able to reject who they were before they knew each other.  Anita, as the Majarani, teaches her husband’s other wives and children how to read and opens the world to them.  When she leaves, she leaves behind progress and havoc.
Given this book as a gift, I wasn’t sure I would be able to work through the unfamiliar content and vocabulary, but found reading it a true pleasure.  The riches, fragrances, tastes, and sounds of India teased the senses as I read it. 

  • Recommended by Sheila W. Cockey, Spanish Language Film Review Editor

February 2011

French: French-Canadian & Québécois Novels
German: The Book Thief
Spanish: Espía de Dios (God’s Spy)

French

frlibraryFrench-Canadian & Québécois Novels, 1991
Shek, Ben-Z.
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Canada

Version française
Ce livre qui fait parti d’une série de 7 livres de la collection Perspectives on Canadian Studies décrit la production littéraire de romans Canadien-Français et Québécois des années 1837-1990. Shek sépare ces années en 5 sections: la gestation longue: 1837-1937; le roman moderne: 1938-1959; les années soixantes; l’avènement du féminisme; les 20 dernières années.

En lisant ce livre on s’aperçoit très clairement que les thèmes et la matière décrits dans les romans reflètent les changements qui ont eu lieu pendant chacune de ces périodes au Québec: l’époque agriculturelle indiquant l’importance de la ferme familiale, l’influence de l’Eglise catholique, la pauvreté extrême et le manque d’éducation du people; l’attrait de la ville et de l’industrie avec la promesse d’emploi, et l’appel pour explorer et développer le territoire du nord-ouest québécois; la naissance du nationalisme et de l’esprit d’indépendance, la perte de contrôle de la part de l’Eglise catholique, et la déclaration de la place légitime de la langue et de la culture québécoises françaises dans la province; la disparition des valeurs catholiques traditionnelles et la naissance du féminisme; et finalement la reconnaissance de la valeur de la littérature québécoise indigène et de son expansion et influence en dehors de la province.

Shek nous fournit la liste des auteurs les plus importants et de leurs oeuvres majeures. Chaque roman est résumé, analysé, et critiqué de sorte que le néophyte dans ce domaine de la littérature française puisse se familiariser avec ces romans et choisir lesquels lire avant de les intégrer dans son programme scolaire. Il faut noter que cet aperçu général contient pour la plupart ces livres qui ont aussi été
Soumis par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français

English version
This book, part of a series of 7 books in the collection called Perspectives on Canadian Culture, covers the literary production between 1837 and 1990 of French-Canadian and Québécois novels. Shek divides those years into 5 sections: the long gestation: 1837-1937; the modern novel: 1938-1959; the sixties; the emergence of the feminist; and the last twenty years.

As one reads this book, it becomes quite clear that the themes and subject matter depicted in the novels reflect the changes that took place during each of these periods in Québec: the agricultural era showing the importance of the farm, the influence of the Catholic Church, and the abject poverty and ignorance of the people; the lure of the city and industry with the promise of jobs, and the call to explore and develop lands in the northwest area of Québec; the emergence of nationalism and independence, the breakdown of the Catholic Church’s control, and the proclamation of the rightful place of the French Québécois language and culture; the breakdown of traditional Catholic values and the emergence of feminism; and finally the recognition of the value of Québec’s homegrown literature and of its expansion and influence outside of the province.

Shek provides a list of the most important authors and the best of their works. Each novel is summarized, analyzed, and critiqued so that the neophytes in this area of French language literature can familiarize themselves with these novels and make choices concerning which they might want to read before integrating this literature into their curriculum. It should be noted that this survey includes mostly those books that originally written in French are also available in English translation.
- Submitted by Marcel LaVergne, French Book Review Editor.

German

germanfebZusak, Markus
The Book Thief, 2005
Publisher: Picador, Australia; Knopf, USA

Let me begin by saying that The Book Thief was not written in German by a German author. It was written in English by Australian Markus Zusak. The story is set, however, in Germany before and during World War II and should be of interest to teachers and students of German as well as any reader interested in history and culture. The story is narrated by Death, who is inexplicably interested in the story of a particular young German girl named Liesel. At the beginning of the story, Liesel’s destitute mother takes her to the home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who become her foster parents. Liesel is treated well and becomes especially attached to Hans, who teaches her how to read. She develops a passion for books as she discovers the power of the written word and she becomes “a book thief.” Life is not easy for the financially-strapped Hubermanns but becomes more difficult when the Nazis begin to impact their lives. Their situation becomes especially tense when they decide to hide Max, a young Jewish man, in their basement. Max and Liesel become friends as their common love for words creates a strong bond between them. Another important character in the book is Rudy Steiner, Liesel’s devoted friend who idolizes the Olympian Jesse Owens. This is a very powerful, moving book with numerous tragedies, some humorous moments, and many heart-warming examples of love and friendship.
- Recommended by Christine F. Meloni, Culture Club Editor

Spanish

GodSpyEspía de Dios (God’s Spy)
Juan Gómez-Jurado
Print Publisher: Roca Editorial, 2006
e-Book Publisher: December 2009 by the author

An English versión follows the Spanish-language review

Otra novela que leí en mi e-book.
Ubicado en Roma, y principalmente en el Vaticano, este thriller/misterio es una novela detective que nos trae a la época cuando se murió el Papa Juan Pablo II. Alguien está asesinando sístemáticamente a varios de los cardinales quienes van a elegir el próximo Papa. ¿Por qué? ¿Quién va a ser el próximo? ¿Cómo se puede impedirlo?

Hay escenas bastante inquietantes que describen no solo los asesinos sino también el maltrato de los niños. Son necesarios para crear el personaje del asesino y dar crédito a sus acciones…hasta el fin cuando todo cambia. Los personajes incluyen una inspectora de policía italiana especialista en los asesinos en serie, un padre sacerdote americano ex militar¬, y un sacerdote desconocido. Además, hay varios policías, guardias suisas, y gente religiosa que pueblan el libro.

Muy pronto identifican el asesino y poco a poco, por medio de documentos históricos y vistas de los lugares del crimen, llegamos a conocer parte de su vida. El problema is cómo encontrarlo para prohibir más muertes macabras. Seguimos a la inspectora mientras ella trata de resolver el caso. Entramos en su vida profesional y personal para tener idea de cómo ella piensa y busca las pequeñas pistas hasta acabar con todo.

Es un libro que yo no podía dejar al lado. Tenía que leerlo hasta el final para saber el por qué de las acciones del sacerdote desconocido. De vez en cuando tenía que dar gran saltos para creer lo que pasaba, pero después de todo, es una obra de ficción. Me entretenía leyéndolo.

English language review

Another novel I read on my e-book.
Situated in Rome, mostly in Vatican City, this mystery/thriller is a detective novel that takes us back to the time of the death of Pope John Paul II. Someone is systematically murdering various cardinals who are part of the conclave that will select the next Pope. Why? Who will be the next victim? How can it be stopped?

There are several disturbing scenes that describe not only the murders but also child abuse. They are necessary to create the character of the murderer and to give credit to his actions…until the end when everything changes. The characters include an Italian police inspector whose specialty is serial murders, an ex-military American priest, and an unknown priest. In addition, there are many Italian police officers, Swiss Guards, and religious people who populate the book.

The assassin is very quickly identified and little by little the reader learns a little about his life, through historical documents and visits to the scenes of the crimes. The problem is how to find him and prevent more of these macabre murders from happening. We follow the Inspector as she tries to solve the case. We enter her professional and personal lives so we have an idea of how she thinks and looks for the small clues that will help her solve the case.

This is a book I could not put down. I had to read it through to the end so I could find out the reasons behind the unknown priest’s actions. From time to time I had to take great leaps of faith in order to believe what was happening, but after all, this is a work of fiction. I enjoyed reading it.
- Recommended by Sheila W. Cockey, Spanish language film editor


January 2011

French: Paris to the Moon
Italian: Un Posto nel Mondo
Norwegian: The Redbreast
Spanish: Una mujer como tú

French

Paris to the Moon, 2000
Gopnick, Adam
Random House

ParisToTheMoon

English version
This book recounts the experiences of Adam Gopnick who spent 5 years in Paris as a writer for The New Yorker. He finds Paris enchanting, the French perplexing, and the culture unique. The book is an accurate account of those people everyone loves to hate but still find attractive, of the cuisine and the couture industries that are the finest in the world, of the role that the state plays in everyone’s life and its impersonal bureaucracy, of the tradition of national strikes as a means of protesting the people’s anger toward its leaders, of the peace and tranquility to be found in the Luxembourg Gardens and in the many museums of Paris, of the French attraction to and fear of all things American. Gopnick also expresses his concern about the effect that the family stay in France will have on his young son Luke, whose upbringing will be French rather than American: his language, his play activities, his schooling, etc. I truly recommend this book to all those interested in the differences between the French way and the American way of life. It will help those teachers of French who want to enliven their French classes with accurate cultural information. In the Teachers’ Lounge, you will find a list of quotes from the book as well as some activities that are designed to develop the students’ communicative skills.
-Submitted by Marcel LaVergne, French Book Review Editor.

Version française
Ce livre nous raconte l’histoire d’Adam Gopnick qui a vécu 5 ans à Paris en qualité de journaliste pour le magazine The New Yorker. Il trouve Paris enchanteur, les Français difficiles à comprendre et la culture unique. C’est un récit exact de ce peuple que tout le monde aime à détester, tout en les trouvant aimables, de leurs industries de la couture et de la cuisine qui sont les plus superbes du monde, du rôle que l’Etat avec sa bureaucratie impersonnelle joue dans leur vie personnelle, de la tradition de la grève générale pour protester les actions du gouvernement, de la tranquillité et la paix qu’on trouve dans le Jardin du Luxembourg et dans les nombreux musées à Paris, et de l’attrait pour et de la crainte contre toutes choses américaines. Gopnick exprime son anxiété sur l’effet que son séjour aura sur son petit fils dont la formation sera plutôt française qu’américaine: sa langue, ses loisirs, ses études, etc. Je recommande ce livre à tous ceux qui s’intéressent à comprendre les différences culturelles entre les Français et les Américains. Il sera d’usage aux professeurs de français qui veulent enrichir leur cours de français avec des renseignements culturels exacts et précis. Dans la section Teachers’ Lounge, vous trouverez des citations du livre ainsi que des exercices désignés à développer la capabilité communicative des étudiants.
-Soumis par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français

Italian

Un Posto nel Mondo, 2006
Volo, Fabio
Mondadori
246pp
Availability: http://www.ibs.it

PostonelmondoItalian Version
Un Posto nel Mondo, di Fabio Volo, è stato il libro più letto dai giovani nel 2008 soprattutto da quelli di età compresa tra i 20 e i 30 anni. È scritto in un linguaggio semplice, ma è anche sofisticato in quanto l’autore riesce ad unire le proprie riflessioni ad un punto di vista prettamente femminile. Tratta di due amici che stanno sempre insieme, si conoscono da molti anni e condividono i desideri, le frustrazioni, i pensieri più intimi e a volte anche le donne. Improvvisamente Federico decide di andarsene. È insoddisfatto della vita che vede di fronte a se’. Vuole cimentarsi, viaggiare, vivere diverse esperienze, andare all’avventura, scoprire se stesso. "Voglio lasciarmi andare ... voglio di più per me, voglio buttarmi per cadere verso l’alto." Michele ha pero’ un carattere diverso, è più riservato e gli piace mantenere le sue routine e controllare gli eventi. È turbato dalla decisione dell’amico, ma resta con il mondo che conosce. È un libro sul coraggio di superare i limiti imposti dalla propria cultura, dall’ambiente sociale e dal condizionamento famigliare.

Per secoli la realtà sociale italiana è rimasta sostanzialmente statica. Seguitare a fare il contadino, seguendo le orme della propria famiglia, o imparare un mestiere sono state le uniche prospettive realistiche per la maggior parte dei giovani della penisola. Si stava ingabbiati in una vita monotona circondati da un mondo provinciale. Negli ultimi decenni tuttavia sono emersi con forza la voglia di varcare i confini ed esplorare il mondo, dedicarsi a nuove esperienze, rivalutare supposizioni, vincere le proprie paure, mettersi in discussione, migliorare se stessi e conseguentemente la relazione di coppia. I protagonisti del libro affrontano le stesse sfide e quando alla fine Federico torna in Italia, Michele inizia finalmente a capire ciò che l’amico aveva tentato di fare e anche lui decide di superare i propri limiti ed affrontare con coraggio la ricerca del proprio posto nel mondo.
- Suggerito da Carlo Mignani, Italian Book Review Editor

English version
Un Posto nel Mondo by FabioVolo was the most widely read book by young people in Italy in 2008, especially those in their 20’s. It is written in simple language, but it is also sophisticated since the author is able to combine his own reflections with a point of view particularly feminine. It is about two friends who are always together, they have known each other for many years and have shared desires, frustrations, the most intimate thoughts and at times even women. Suddenly Federico decides to leave. He is not satisfied with the life that he sees in front of him. He wants to travel, have various experiences, set off in search of adventures, discover himself. "I want to let myself go … I want more for myself, I want to jump, to fall upwards toward the sky."

Michele, however, has a different character; he is more reserved and he likes to maintain his own routines and to control events. He is shaken by the decision of his friend, but he stays with his familiar world. It is a book about the courage to overcome the limits imposed by one’s own culture, social environment and family conditioning.

For centuries in Italy the social reality remained substantially static. Be a farmer, following in the footsteps of your own family, or learn a trade, were the only realistic possibilities for most young people of the peninsula. One was boxed in a monotonous life, encircled by a provincial world. In recent decades, however, the desire to move across borders and explore the world, to dedicate oneself to new experiences, revalue assumptions, conquer one’s own fears, and reexamine and improve oneself has arisen with force. The main characters of the book confront the same challenges and when, in the end, Federico comes back to Italy, Michele starts finally to understand what his friend tried to do and he too decides to overcome his own limitations and to face with courage the search for his own place in the world.
- Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian Book Review Editor

Norwegian

theredbreastThe Redbreast (Rødstrupe), 2007
Nesbø, Jo (translated into English by Don Bartlett)
Publisher: Vintage
Paperback: 618 pages

Scandinavian crime novels seem to be the rage. Swede Stieg Larsson’s trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) has taken the book world by storm. Norway also has its popular crime writers. Books by Norway’s Queen of Crime, Karin Fossum, have already been reviewed here in the Library. In this edition another Norwegian, Jo Nesbø, will be introduced. It is hard to write about a mystery because one doesn’t want to give away any information that would spoil the reader’s enjoyment of the book. This book is also hard to write about because it is extremely complex and not easy to follow. This complexity makes it a very interesting read, however. The main character is Detective Harry Hole, who is brilliant but he also happens to be an alcoholic and a heavy smoker. Hole has discovered that a very costly Marklin sniper rifle has been smuggled illegally into Norway and he sets out to discover who purchased it and why. This leads him into the midst of individuals who had fought in World War II on the Eastern Front with the Nazis. The book becomes complex as the chapters alternate between "now" (the 1990s) and "then" (the early 1940s). One meets the same characters but they are not always who they seem to be. You must pay close attention while reading this book and, if you do, it will definitely be an interesting experience. Not only will you read an exciting and suspenseful story, but you will also learn about the historic situation in Norway during the Nazi occupation and about the character and personality of the "typical" Norwegian today.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

Spanish

Una mujer como tú
Neus Arqués

Spanish Version
Recientemente exploraba la lectura digital que está disponible en español. Me sorprendió y me agradeció lo que encontré. Hay una gran variedad de libros disponsibles, de los clásicos a los autores recientes. Una nueva autora que acabo de leer es Neus Arqués.
Autora de la amena Una mujer como tú, ella se dirige a las mujeres quienes siempre están tratando de organizar y controlar una carrera exigente, una familia, los amigos, y la vida social. La autora se centra los personajes y la trama en el mundo de los degocios en España y Europa hoy en día. Con su fondo de relaciones internacionales, negocio, y lenguas, Arqués presenta el mundo del mercado de nuevos productos y proyectos como el fondo donde los personajes buscan sus propios respuestas.
Siguiendo la vida de 4 mujeres quienes son amigas, Arqués presenta a cada una bajo la luz de sus presiones sociales: establecer su propio negocio, adelantar en la oficina, continuar la educación, las relaciones intra-oficina e inter-personales, los hijos y esposo/parejo, y simplemente cuidándose. Sus sacrificios, triunfos y fracasos, alregrías y penas son los que cualquier mujer en el mundo lucha para superar. Neux Arqués presenta los enredos y desenlaces con claridad, humor, y sensibilidad.

English Version
Recently I’ve been exploring digital reading in Spanish and have been both surprised and pleased by the options I’ve found. There is a wide variety of books available, ranging from the classics to newly published authors. One new author I’ve come across is Neus Arqués.
Author of the enjoyable Una mujer como tú, she speaks to all of those women who try to juggle and control a demanding career, a family, friends and social lives. The author centers her characters and plot around the world of business in Spain and Europe today. With a background in international relations, business, and languages she presents the world of marketing new products and projects as the backdrop for her characters as they search for their own personal answers.
Following the lives of 4 women who are friends, Arqués presents each one of them in the light of her current social pressures: establishing a business, getting ahead at the office, continuing education, intra-office and inter-personal relationships, children and husbands/significant others, and simply trying to take care of themselves. Their sacrifices, triumphs and failures, joys and sorrows are those that women trying to succeed all over the world struggle to overcome. The entanglements and denouements are presented with clarity, humor, and sensitivity.


December 2010

FRENCH: Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French
HUNGARIAN: The Book of Fathers
ITALIAN: Dino’s Story
NORWEGIAN: Skis against the Atom

FRENCH
Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French, 2006
Stephen Clarke
Bloomsbury USA, NY

Version française
Stephen Clarke, journaliste, a vécu en France pour 12 ans. Pendant ce temps, il devint observateur perspicace des Français et nous présente un portrait à la fois, comique, critique, et plein d’admiration. Les dix commandements (il y en a onze vraiment!) sont expliqués par le moyen d’une série d’anecdotes qui racontent ses expériences et celles de ces amis Anglos. Le livre qui contient aussi des expressions utiles se rapportant à ces situations servira de vadémécum à quiconque se prépare à voyager en France ainsi que d’une ressource culturelle aux professeurs de français. Lire davantage...

English Version
Stephen Clarke has worked as a journalist and lived in France for twelve years. During that time, he became a keen observer of the ways of the French and has captured them with humor, some criticism, and a bit of admiration. Each of the commandments (actually there are eleven!) is explained by means of anecdotes which tell of his experiences and that of his Anglo friends. He also gives the reader some useful French expressions to be used in those situations. This book would be a useful vademecum to anyone travelling to France and is a source of valuable cultural material to the teacher of French. Read more...

HUNGARIAN
The Book of Fathers, 2006
Mikós Vámos
English translation by Peter Sherwood
Abacus/Little, Brown
466 pages

Vamos relates the last 300 years of Hungarian history through the eventful, violent, endearing lives of generations of the Csillag clan, passing from father to son. The men of the family survive -- barely -- war and other violence, displacement and chance. Along the way they find love and prosperity, joy and luck. In all generations, Vamos brings the young men to life -- businessman, writer, gambler, musician -- the women they love, the children they father and then raise or lose or leave. Through the generations, a magic book passes from father to son. Each records his own thoughts until the terrible tides of history wash over him, to our own time. Vamos tells this history with verve, humor, and marvelous descriptions of countryside and town. The novel pulses with joy and hope, bringing the most recent Csillag home to Hungary, now full of promise.
Everything important in Hungarian history and the hopes of human beings is here in The Book of Fathers, a grand novel.
- Recommended by Susan Willens, George Washington University professor of English emerita, who visited Budapest this past summer

ITALIAN
Dino’s Story: A Novel of 1960s Tuscany, 2010
Paul Salsini
iUniverse, Bloomington, IN
www.iuniverse.com

Dino’s Story is the conclusion of Paul Salsini’s “A Tuscan Trilogy.” The first volume, The Cielo: A Novel of Wartime Tuscany,” tells the dramatic story of villagers in a Tuscan town during the German occupation of 1944. The second volume, Sparrow’s Revenge: A Novel of Postwar Tuscany, set in 1955, focuses on a partisan nicknamed Sparrow who is obsessed with bringing to justice an Italian who collaborated with the Germans during the war and caused the deaths of many civilians. (Both of these books were reviewed in the Culture Club and can now be found in the Library Collection.)
This third volume in the trilogy continues the story of the Tuscan villagers and Dino, a boy born in the first volume, becomes the novel’s protagonist. Dino leaves his village of Sant’Antonio to go to Florence to study art at the University. He goes back and forth between the city and the village so the reader has a taste of both city life and country life. The most remarkable part of the novel is the account of the treacherous flood of November 1966. Salsini recounts in great detail the arrival of this devastating flood and puts it into a memorable context as the reader follows Dino, who is, as a resident of Florence, personally affected by this natural disaster. It is interesting to watch as he becomes more involved in the efforts to help save both people and art treasures.
It is an engaging story that teaches the reader about an historic event in Florence and, at the same time, introduces the city of Florence as Dino and others wander the streets of this great Renaissance city.
This book was particularly meaningful to me as I too studied art at the University of Florence, in 1963-64. And I returned to Florence in December 1966 and personally saw the devastation caused by the flood. It was an event that the Florentines will never forget.
- Recommended by Christine Foster Meloni, Culture Club Editor

NORWEGIAN
Skis against the Atom, 1989
Knut Haukelid
North American Heritage Press
Minot, North Dakota

When reading about World War II, we Americans don’t usually hear very much about Norway’s role but some very dramatic and significant events took place in this country during this time. The Nazis began their brutal occupation of the peaceful Scandinavian country in 1940. Soon after their arrival, they took over a facility where “heavy water” was produced. This water was extremely important to Hitler, who wanted to develop the atom bomb before the Americans did and heavy water was an essential ingredient. A small group of very courageous Norwegians managed to infiltrate this facility and to destroy part of the works, thereby slowing down the German’s progress toward their goal. After their act of sabotage, they had to go into hiding and lived in the snowy wilderness in the mountains near the facility for several years. During most of the time, they slept outside in the snow and lived on reindeer meat and berries.
The leader of this small band of exceptional men was Knut Haukelid and he is the author of this book. It is an intriguing story that will acquaint the reader with a very exciting part of not only Norway’s history but of World War II history.
This raid inspired Hollywood to create the film “Heroes of Telemark” in 1948, starring Kirk Douglas.


November 2010

FRENCH Le Testament français, 1995
GERMAN Adam und Evelyn, 2008
ITALIAN Filippo Tommaso Marinetti,2009
HUNGARIAN Skylark, 1993
RUSSIAN Жемчужное ожерелье (The Pearl Necklace)

FRENCH
Le Testament français, 1995 
Makine, Andreï
Mercure de France: Folio #2934  

FR. Ce récit que certains disent biographique et autobiographique gagna les Prix Goncourt et Médicis en 1995, honneur unique et exceptionnel, surtout quand on apprend que l’auteur Andreï Makine, est  d’origine russe.  C’est l’histoire d’Alyosha qui apprit à aimer la France et sa langue lors des étés passés dans les steppes russes chez sa grand’mère, Charlotte Lemonnier, française.  Il y passa tous ses étés jusqu’à l’âge de 15 ans à Saranza avec ses plaines immenses à écouter les récits de sa grand’mère qui lui racontait sa jeunesse à Neuilly-sur-Seine. Télécharger toute la revue.

EN.This novel, that some deem to be both biographical and autobiographical won both the Prix Goncourt and Medicis in 1995, a unique and exceptional honor, given the fact that the author Andreï Makine is Russian born and for whom French is not a mother tongue. It’s the story of Alyosha who learned to love France and its language during the many summers spent in the Russian steppe with his French born grandmother, Charlotte Lemonnier. He spent every summer until the age of 15 in Saranza listening to her tales of youth in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Download full review.

GERMAN
Adam und Evelyn, 2008
Schulze, Ingo
Berlin Verlag

DE. Sommer, Sonne, Ferienzeit – und Herzschmerz dazu.  Ingo Schulze legte mit “Adam und Evelyn” eine spielend leichte Sommergeschichte vor, wenn sie nicht im Sommer 1989 spielte.  Evi überrascht Adam beim Seitensprung, man streitet sich, Evi packt und ist weg, Adam lässt alles stehen und liegen und fährt ihr nach, Richtung Balaton.  Schliesslich ist sie seine grosse Liebe, und ohne seine Eva ist ein Adam nichts. Runterladen Beitrag

EN.Summer, sunshine and vacations – Adam and Evelyn by Ingo Schulze would be the season’s light summer read if it were not about the summer of 1989 when the world fell apart. Adam and Evelyn’s life falls apart when Evelyn surprises Adam with another woman. She is leaving at once, and Adam chases after her, towards the East, back to the Garden of Eden. Download full review.

ITALIAN
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti,2009
Guerri, Giordano Bruno
Mondadori

IT. Guerri descrive la vita e la visione artistica di Marinetti, il fondatore del Futurismo.  Durante la prima parte del Novecento grandi cambiamenti politici, le guerre, il dinamismo delle città' in crescita, l’industrializzazione, nuove scoperte tecnologiche come la macchina, l’aeroplano, il telegrafo senza fili, la luce artificiale, cambiano la percezione del tempo e dello spazio.  Marinetti nel 1909 fonda il primo movimento artistico d’avanguardia che investe tutti i campi dell’arte e che influenzerà correnti artistici in tutto il mondo.  Propone scuole laiche, la previdenza sociale, il tetto di otto ore lavorative, libertà di sciopero, suffragio universale di uomini e donne e partecipazione di tutti i cittadini al governo.  “Queste idee che oggi potremmo chiamare progressiste, erano all’inizio del secolo rivoluzionarie”. Scaricare recensione completa

EN. Guerri describes the life and the artistic vision of Marinetti, the founder of Futurism. During the first part of the 1900’s vast political changes, wars, the dynamism of the growing cities, industrialization, new technological discoveries such as the automobile, the airplane, the telegraph without wires, artificial light, change the perception of time and space. Marinetti in 1909 founds the first artistic avant-garde movement, which spans all fields of art, that will influence artistic currents all over the world. He proposes secular schools, social security, the limit of an 8 hour work day, freedom of strikes, universal suffrage of men and women, and participation of all citizens to the government. “These ideas that today we could call progressive, at the beginning of the century were revolutionary.” Download full review.

HUNGARIAN
Skylark, 1993
Kosztolányi, Dezsö
English translation by Peter Esterhazy
Nyrb classics

It is 1899 in the small city of Sarszeg, Hungary.  Skylark, the daughter of Akos and Antonia, has been invited on holiday with relatives in Tarko, a small town a day's train ride away.  Usually Skylark hardly ever leaves home, but she has accepted this invitation,
 and her protective parents fear her absence.  
But when she is gone, their rigid, solitary lives thaw out.  They permit themselves some quiet pleasures. The opera, father's club with its drinking and card games, the mother's piano, closed for years, all return gently to fill their days. The week flies by.  
When Skylark is about to return, father blurts out his sorrow about her, his dread of
 the family's return to hidden days. Their torment is that Skylark is ugly, an ugly old maid, isolated, and safe only in her home with her parents. When she returns, they close up again to protect her from the world that scorns Skylark and all of them.     
This small, tender novel written in 1923 can break the reader’s heart.  It also shows small town life, long gone, and the pain of love.
- Recommended by Susan Willens, professor of English emerita, The George Washington University

RUSSIAN
Жемчужное ожерелье
Лесков, Н. С.
The text can be downloaded from http://www.lib.ru

RU.Рассказ менее известного, но замечательного классика русской литературы. Произведения Лескова отличаются оригинальностью сюжетов и богатством, живописностью языка. «Жемчужное ожерелье» это рассказ в рассказе. На святки собираются друзья и спор заходит о литературе, в частности о жанре святочного рассказа. Так как святки всегда были одним из любимых праздников в России, многие писатели обращались к этому жанру в своем творчестве. Чтобы доказать, что святочный рассказ не обязательно должен всегда повествовать о сказочных духах, один из гостей рассказывает историю из собственной жизни, которая могла бы послужить сюжетом такого рассказа. В «Жемчужном ожерелье» брат рассказчика знакомится с очаровательной девушкой и они решают пожениться. Отец девушки, известный своей скупостью, дарит дочери жемчужное ожерелье. На самом деле это испытание, которое призвано проверить духовные ценности жениха. Жених выдерживает испытание с честью. Но главный смысл рассказа заключается в том, что происходит чудо, и отец девушки вдруг понимает, насколько неправильно он живет. Рассказ написан с юмором и изобилует множеством литературных приемов, которые будут интересны студентам более продвинутого уровня. Текст рассказа можно найти на сайте www.lib.ru

EN.“The Pearl Necklace” is a story by a less well-known but nonetheless brilliant author of Russian literature—Leskov. Leskov’s works are known for the originality of their plots as well as their rich, colorful, language. This particular tale is a story within a story. A group of friends gather during the week of Christmas and in conversation a literary dispute arises related to the Christmas story genre. As a beloved holiday in Russia, Christmas and its attendant themes are often woven into literary works. In order to prove the point that a Christmas story does not necessarily need to incorporate fantastic characters, one of the guests presents a true to life story that could very well serve as a plot for such a work. In “The Pearl Necklace” the storyteller’s brother meets a wonderful girl whom he longs to marry. The girl’s father, known for his miserliness, gives his daughter a pearl necklace as a gift. As it turns out, the necklace was really given as a test aimed at checking her fiancé’s spiritual values. The fiancé stands up to the test, but the core meaning of the story involves a miracle that happens to the girl’s father; he suddenly realizes he is not living his life properly. The tale is an enjoyable and humorous read—filled with entertaining figures of speech that would be interesting for more advanced students.


July 2010

Notice: The Culture Club needs three German Book Review Editors. If you would be willing to write three or four short summaries per year of books by German-speaking authors or books about German culture, please contact Christine. You will be performing a valuable service to your fellow teachers of German.

French: French or Foe? Getting the Most out of Visiting, Living and Working in France
Italian: La Boutique del Mistero

French

French or Foe? Getting the Most out of Visiting, Living and Working in France
Platt, Polly
Culture Crossings, LTD, London, 3rd American Edition
2003

Version française

Après avoir fait un voyage en France ou après avoir eu des rencontres avec des Français, avez-vous jamais eu l’impression que les Français sont un peu arrogants et insolents?  Si oui, vous vous devez de lire ce bouquin.  Polly Platt a écrit un guide pour ceux qui veulent comprendre les différences culturelles entre les Français et les Américains qui répondra à la question “Pourquoi sont-ils comme ça?”

Elle explore le concept de l’espace et du temps et énonce les 6 codes indispensables pour apprécier et jouir de la France, Paris et son peuple.  Parce que ce sont les premières impressions qui durent, il se peut que cette image d’arrogance et de froideur vient du fait que les Français au contraire des Américains ne donnent pas leur sourire à tous les étrangers qu’ils rencontrent en passant.  Un sourire est gagné pas attendu.  D’après Platt, “If one thing is sure, it’s that you don’t understand another culture just by living in it; you need to find out the reasons behind different procedures and thought processes.  After this come recognition that other cultures do some things better than you do.” p. 20

C’est bien ça le but de son livre et elle y a réussi.  Parmi les matières couvertes dans ce manuel de style “Comment s’accorder avec les Français,” on trouve une explication historique de la réticence qu’ont les Français envers les étrangers, la différence du style administratif d’une direction française, l’amour de la  langue et de la logique, le rapport sensuel entre les sexes, le respect cérémonial accordé à la nourriture; en somme, elle réussit à donner un aperçu perspicace sur l’esprit français.

Ce livre servira de point de référence pour ces professeurs de français qui désirent en savoir plus sur les pratiques culturelles des Français et comprendre leurs raisons d’être.  Platt illustre toutes ses données et croyances avec des anecdotes réelles et relatives vécues pendant les 25 ans passés en France et les 8 années comme directrice de Culture Crossings, organisation qui entraîne les businessmen américains qui viennent travailler en France. 
- Recommandé par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français 

English version

If your trip to France or your dealings with French people has left you with the feeling that the French are rude and arrogant, then this is the book for you.  Polly Platt has written a guide to understanding the cultural differences between Americans and the French that will put everything into perspective and will answer the question: Why are they like that? 

She explores the concept of time and space and sets forth 6 codes that you need to know if you are to appreciate and enjoy France, Paris and its people.  First impressions are usually lasting and perhaps the impression of rudeness and unfriendliness comes from the fact that unlike Americans the French do not smile at strangers or at passersby in the street.  A smile is something one earns over time and is never expected. (p. 23)  According to Platt “If one thing is sure, it’s that you don’t understand another culture just by living in it; you need to find out the reasons behind different procedures and thought processes. After this come recognition that other cultures do some things better than you do.” p. 20

That is exactly what Platt set out to do and did very well.  The topics covered in this “How to get along with the French” manual include a historical perspective explaining their reticence with strangers, their different managerial and business styles, their love affair with their language and with logic, the sensual relationship between the sexes, their ceremonial respect for food and for entertainment; in short she succeeds in giving the reader an insight into the essence of Frenchness. 

This book is a handy reference tool for all teachers of French who want to learn more about the cultural practices of the French and the reasons for them (i.e. the cultural perspectives).  Platt illustrates all her assumptions and beliefs with actual and very relevant anecdotes that she has experienced during her 25 years of living in France and in her 8 years as the manager of Culture Crossings, which trains American businessmen whose companies transfer them to France. 
- Recommended by Marcel LaVergne, French Language Book Review Editor  

Italian

La Boutique del Mistero
Buzzati, Dino
Mondadori

1968 (original); 2001
Available from amazon.com

Italian version

“La boutique del mistero” di Dino Buzzati contiene 31 racconti scelti dallo stesso autore “nella speranza di far conoscere il meglio di quanto ho scritto.”  Lo scrittore indaga il mistero che circonda l’uomo moderno, le sue debolezze, i suoi paradossi e la sua solitudine.

È evidente un certo distacco dalla realtà in quanto come rappresentante della letteratura fantastica preferisce i temi del sogno, del surreale, del mistero, tanto da essere paragonato a Kafka.

Nel racconto “Lo scarafaggio” ricrea l’atmosfera delle notti d’estate quando non si riesce a dormire.  Ogni piccolo rumore dentro e fuori la casa è ampliato, le impressioni sono acuite e sei solo con i tuoi pensieri sospeso tra il sogno e la realtà.  “Sette piani” racconta di un paziente che si reca in un famoso sanatorio dove è garantita un’eccezionale competenza medica.  Anche se si sente abbastanza bene, sempre in modo cortese in seguito ad una serie di errori e logiche burocratiche è inesorabilmente degradato ai piani inferiori.  Viene sospinto fino al primo piano, l’ultimo, dove l’angoscia, la rabbia e l’impotenza raggiungono l’apice.  Poi il nulla.  La “Fine del mondo” narra di un pugno immenso, sospeso nel cielo, Dio improvvisamente disceso sulla città consente solo poche ore di vita.  Descrive il caos che ne deriva e quello che la gente è disposta a dire e fare per assicurarsi la salvezza.

Fu scrittore, poeta, giornalista, pittore e si dedicò a opere teatrali. In questi brevi racconti, a volta solo 4 – 10 pagine, riesce in una prosa semplice e diretta e a un ritmo incalzante a fare immedesimare completamente il lettore nelle vicende. Se ti piace usare l’immaginazione, e non hai timore di addentrarti in altre dimensioni, troverai l’esperienza piacevole.
- Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian Language Film Editor

English version

"La Boutique del Mistero” by Dino Buzzati contains 31 short stories chosen by the author “in the hope of presenting the best of my writing.”  The writer delves into the mystery surrounding modern man, his weaknesses, his paradoxes and his solitude.  A certain separation from reality is apparent given that he, as a representative of “magical realism,” prefers the themes of dreams, the surreal and of mystery, so as to be compared to Kafka.

In “The Cockroach” he recreates the atmosphere of the summer nights when one can’t fall asleep.  Every little noise inside and outside the home is magnified, the impressions are sharpened and you are alone with your thoughts, suspended between dreams and reality.  In “Seven Floors” a patient goes to a famous sanatorium where an exceptional medical competence is guaranteed.  Even though he feels well enough, always in a courteous way, as a consequence of a series of errors and bureaucratic logic, he is inexorably degraded to the lower floors. Finally he is pushed to the first floor, the last, where the anguish, the rage and the impotence reach the apex.  Then nothing.  In “The End of the World” an immense fist, suspended above the sky, God suddenly descends on the city, allowing just a few hours more of life.  It describes the ensuing chaos and what people are willing to say and do to insure their salvation.

He has been a writer, poet, journalist, painter, and produced theatrical works.  In these short stories, at times only 4 or 5 pages, he is able, in a simple and direct prose and an escalating rhythm, to insert the reader completely in the story. If you like to use your imagination and you are not afraid to enter another dimension, you’ll find this a pleasant experience.
- Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian Language Film Editor

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June 2010

French: Sacrés fonctionnaires ! Un Américain face à notre bureaucratie
Italian:
Galileo’s Daughter

French

Sacrés fonctionnaires ! Un Américain face à notre bureaucratie
Stanger, Ted
Publisher: Editions Gallimard, Folio 45

Version française

Stanger réussit encore une fois à nous peindre la culture française par son exposé sur l’importance des fonctionnaires en France. Chaque aspect de la vie française doit avoir son papier, sa fiche, son formulaire, de sorte que “75% du budget de l’Etat, hors intérêt de la dette, sont désormais consacrés aux salaires et aux retraites des fonctionnaires.”(p. 11) D’après Stanger, “Etre français, c’est faire un dossier et être administré, et vice versa.”(p.50)

Contrairement à la plupart des autres pays, en France ce sont les fonctionnaires “qui prennent les décisions” et les politiques “qui les exécutent.” (p. 71) Faut-il donc se douter du fait qu’“(e)ntre 70 et 75% des moins de 25 ans veulent devenir fonctionnaires.” (p. 85) surtout si on sait que “le salaire minimum dans le public est 20% plus élevé que dans le privé.” (p. 186)

La Culture française est si importante qu’il y a “25.000 fonctionnaires culturelles” (p. 171) qui contrôlent les productions artistiques, musicales, dramatiques, cinématiques, etc. Le résultat est que la production culturelle de la France a beaucoup diminué en qualité parce, “(d)ans un système de subventions, pas étonnant que les créateurs soient fixés sur autre chose que le besoin d’attirer le public.” (p. 173) Tout est sous le contrôle de l’Etat: le logement, la santé, le bureau de poste, l’éducation, les taxes, les baby-sitters, le vin, la sécurité sociale, le chômage, les grèves, etc.

Il y a en France de nos jours un fonctionnaire pour chaque 4 personnes. (p. 284) Et Stanger conclut que “la fonction publique est si omnipotente qu’elle risque d’étouffer tout le reste du pays.” (p. 296)

Le professeur de français qui veut présenter le portrait réelle de la France à ses étudiants se doit de lire ce livre.
- Recommandé par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français

English version

Stanger succeeds once again in depicting French culture in his expose about the importance of civil servants in France. Every aspect of French life must have its paper, its file, its form, resulting in the fact that “75% du budget de l’Etat, hors intérêt de la dette, sont désormais consacrés aux salaires et aux retraites des fonctionnaires.”(p. 11) According to Stanger, “Etre français, c’est faire un dossier et être administré, et vice versa.”(p.50)

Contrary to most of the other countries, in France it’s the civil servants “qui prennent les décisions” and the politicians “qui les exécutent.” (p. 71) Is it so surprising to learn that “(e)ntre 70 et 75% des moins de 25 ans veulent devenir fonctionnaires.” (p. 85) especially if one knows that “le salaire minimum dans le public est 20% plus élevé que dans le privé.” (p. 186)

French Culture is so important that there are “25.000 fonctionnaires culturelles” (p. 171) who control artistic, musical, theatrical, cinematic etc, productions. The result is that France’s cultural production has greatly diminished in quality because “(d)ans un système de subventions, pas étonnant que les créateurs soient fixés sur autre chose que le besoin d’attirer le public.” (p. 173) The State is in charge of everything: renting, health, postal services, education, taxes, babysitters, wine, social security, unemployment, strikes, etc.

In France today there is one civil servant for every 4 people (p. 284) which causes Stanger to conclude that “la fonction publique est si omnipotente qu’elle risque d’étouffer tout le reste du pays.” (p. 296)

Every teacher of French who wants to present a true portrait of France to his/her students needs to read this book.
- Recommended by Marcel LaVergne, French Language Book Review Editor

Italian

Galileo’s Daughter (La figlia di Galileo)
Dava Sobel
Publisher: Walker & Co
1999
Original Language: English (also available in Italian translation)

galileoVirginia, la figlia maggiore di Galileo Galilei, apre una finestra nel tempo attraverso le lettere scritte al padre dal 1623 fino alla sua morte nel 1634. Ne emerge un ritratto intimo abilmente inserito da Sobel nel contesto della vita italiana del periodo. Sarebbe stato molto difficile far sposare le sue due figlie dato che non aveva sposato la loro madre, quindi le manda all’età di 13 e 12 anni in un convento, dove diventano suore pochi anni dopo. Suor Maria Celeste è una donna virtuosa, sensibile, intelligente e devota verso il padre che sostiene durante le sue difficoltà. I dettagli della sua vita austera, il bisogno occasionale di aiuti economici, i consigli pratici e le particolarità della sua esistenza sono sempre accompagnati da un vivo interesse verso il padre. Nonostante che nessuna delle lettere di Galileo alla figlia sia stata rinvenuta, Sobel colma le lacune con citazioni da lettere personali e da altri scritti dello scienziato.

La lotta interiore di Galileo è causata dal contrasto tra le sue scoperte scientifiche e la dottrina, accettata dalla Chiesa che, fin da Aristotele, poneva la terra al centro dell’universo. Dopo la pubblicazione dei suoi Dialoghi, fatti in forma di dibattito tra 3 conoscenti delle due opposte teorie, la Copernicana e la Tolemaica, nonostante ottenga il necessario permesso dal Vaticano per pubblicare il libro, è richiamato a Roma. Segue il resoconto testuale del suo primo interrogatorio con l’inquisitore dove si mostra umile e disposto a dire di non considerare la teoria Copernicana giusta, ma soltanto una teoria. Viene descritto poi il resto del penoso processo che culmina con i suoi arresti domiciliari.

La pia Maria Celeste fin dagli inizi accetta e incoraggia il lavoro del padre, perché sa che lui ha una profonda fede e pensa che Dio ci ha dato i sensi in modo da scoprire il mondo. Infatti Galileo stesso esprime chiaramente nei Dialoghi che le verità sulla natura possono portare solo alla glorificazione di Dio. Le lettere di Virginia, durante il soggiorno del padre a Roma, sono piene d’incoraggiamento e appelli a pensare alla propria salute. Come “farmacista” del convento a volte gli manda pillole e persino “ricette” su come evitare la peste, che nel 1633 imperversava in Italia. Lei lo tiene informato su tutto quanto riguarda la sua casa che è vicino al convento: dalla condizione della vite e dei fagioli ai barili di vino e alle faccende di famiglia. Nonostante che sia una suora di clausura, Galileo le dà accesso al capitale per pagare i conti, come necessario. Le preoccupazioni per le difficoltà del padre hanno però un effetto negativo sulla sua salute, e muore poco dopo il suo ritorno in Toscana.

Questa relazione affettuosa e avvincente tra il padre della scienza moderna e sua figlia, originariamente scritta in inglese, un best-seller del New York Times, è disponibile anche in italiano.
- Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian Book Review Co-Editor

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May 2010

French: La Condition noire: essai sur une minorité noire  
Italian: Cosa nostra: La Storia della Mafia Siciliana
Spanish: Ani Salva a la perra Laika 

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French

La Condition noire: essai sur une minorité noire  
Ndiaye, Pap 
Gallimard: Folio actuel # 140  
2008

Version française

Depuis que la devise Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité représente la philosophie officielle de la France, la position sociale et légale sur le cas de l’égalité dicte qu’il n’y a pas de minorités ethniques en France parce “la République française ne reconnaît pas officiellement les minorités, et ne les compte pas”(p. 21) lors du recensement de la population.  Quelque soit leur pays d’origine, i.e., le Maroc, le Sénégal, le Laos, la Martinique, etc., tous citoyens français sont français avec les mêmes droits et privilèges.  Donc le racisme et la discrimination n’existent pas dans l’Hexagone.

Mais dans son livre La Condition noire, Pap Ndiaye refute cette position en décrivant l’histoire des Noirs en France, ce que c’est que d’être noir, les formes du racisme et de la discrimination, et le développement de la cause noire à partir de la notion de la négritude des années 30 jusqu’à la naissance des groupes de solidarité contemporaines tels que le Conseil représentatif des associations noires (Cran). 

Selon Ndiaye, le problème de l’invisibilité pour les noirs par rapport aux autres groupes minoritaires réside dans la couleur de leur peau.  Il écrit: “Du côté français, la situation présente une similitude avec le cas américain du point de vue des hiérarchies sociales et coloristes: plus on est noir, plus la situation sociale est modeste, et plus le poids des discriminations se fait sentir.”(p. 124)  Il continue en disant : “Aux Etats-Unis, en France et certainement ailleurs, il demeure ce fait simple et tragigue: si l’on est noir, il vaut mieux avoir une couleur de peau démontrant une filiation proche ou lointaine avec le monde blanc.”(p. 125)

Malgré toutes les proclamations officielles, la doctrine de l’assimilation engendre le racisme et la discrimination d’une manière sournoise peut-être mais très réelle.  Une étude sur les modes de travail des noirs révèlent qu’“il s’agit d’une population plutôt jeune, plus masculine que la moyenne nationale et occupant majoritairement des emplois ouvriers et employés.” (p. 426)  Les noirs représentent 4% à 5% de la population française et se trouvent pour la plupart dans les grandes agglomérations comme Paris, Marseille et Lyon.

Descendants des Africains de l’ancien empire, des tirailleurs sénégalais de la Première Guerre, des Antillais, et des soldats noirs américains d’après la Deuxième Grande Guerre, la plupart de ces noirs sont nés en France, parlent français couramment et vivent sa culture.  Malheureusement, leur noirceur les stigmatisent comme non-français de la part de plusieurs blancs.

A la question “Que ça fait d’être un problème?” Ndiaye répond ainsi: “(N)ous voulons être à la fois français et noir, sans que cela soit vu comme suspect, ou étrange, ou toléré à titre de problème temporaire en attendant que l’assimilation fasse son oeuvre.  Nous voulons être invisibles du point de vue de notre vie sociale, et par conséquent que les torts et méfaits qui nous affectent soient efficacement réduits.  Mais nous voulons être visibles du point de vue de nos identités culturelles noires, de nos apports précieux et uniques à la société et à la culture françaises.” (p. 426)

Dès sa publication, ce livre a suscité de nombreuses discussions en France et ailleurs et selon Folio actuel est “déjà considéré comme le travail fondateur des blacks studies à la française. ”
Recommandé par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français

English version

Since the slogan Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité represents its official philosophy, the equality portion dictates that there are no ethnic minorities in France.  In fact “la République française ne reconnaît pas officiellement les minorités, et ne les compte pas” in their census taking. (p.21)   Whatever their country of origin, i.e., Morocco, Senegal, Laos, Martinique, etc., all citizens of France are French with the same rights and privileges.  As such, racism and discrimination do not exist in France.

But in his book La Condition noire, Pap Ndiaye refutes that position by describing the history of Blacks in France, what it means to be black, the forms of racism and discrimination, and the development of the black cause beginning with the notion of négritude in the 30’s up to the birth of contemporary solidarity groups such as le Conseil représentatif des associations noires (Cran). 

According to Ndiaye, the problem of being invisible for blacks in relation to the other minority groups resides in the color of their skin.  He writes: “Du côté français, la situation présente une similitude avec le cas américain du point de vue des hiérarchies sociales et coloristes: plus on est noir, plus la situation sociale est modeste, et plus le poids des discriminations se fait sentir.”(p. 124)  He continues by saying : “Aux Etats-Unis, en France et certainement ailleurs, il demeure ce fait simple et tragigue: si l’on est noir, il vaut mieux avoir une couleur de peau démontrant une filiation proche ou lointaine avec le monde blanc.”(p. 125)

In spite of all official proclamations, the assimilation doctrine engenders racism and discrimination in an underhanded way perhaps but nevertheless very real.  A study of the kind of work that Blacks do reveals that “il s’agit d’une population plutôt jeune, plus masculine que la moyenne nationale et occupant majoritairement des emplois ouvriers et employés.” (p. 426)  Blacks account for 4% to 5% of the French population and are mostly found in the suburbs of paris, Marseille and Lyon.

Descendants of Africans of the former French empire, of the Senegalese sharpshooters of World War I, of natives of the West Indies, and of the black American soldiers who stayed in France after World War II, today’s Blacks were born on French soil, speak French like natives, and have been shaped by its culture.

To the question “Que ça fait d’être un problème?” Ndiaye answers “(N)ous voulons être à la fois français et noir, sans que cela soit vu comme suspect, ou étrange, ou toléré à titre de problème temporaire en attendant que l’assimilation fasse son oeuvre.  Nous voulons être invisibles du point de vue de notre vie sociale, et par conséquent que les torts et méfaits qui nous affectent soient efficacement réduits.  Mais nous voulons être visibles du point de vue de nos identités culturelles noires, de nos apports précieux et uniques à la société et à la culture françaises.” (p. 426)

From the moment it appeared, this book gave rise to numerous discussions on the subject in France and elsewhere and according to the back cover of the Folio actuel edition it is “déjà considéré comme le travail fondateur des blacks studies à la française. ”
- Recommended by Marcel LaVergne, French Language Book Review Editor

Italian

Cosa nostra: La Storia della Mafia Siciliana
Dickie, John
Editori Laterza, 2006

Italian version

cosa nostraHo conosciuto siciliani, anche nati e cresciuti a Palermo, con la famiglia in seguito trasferitasi a Roma, i quali sinceramente credevano che la mafia non esistesse.  Questa organizzazione criminale era confusa con il carattere siciliano, “con quel senso spavaldo dell’orgoglio e dell’onore”.  Questo mito è stato esposto al grande pubblico italiano per la prima volta nel 1890 con l’opera La Cavalleria Rusticana di Pietro Mascagni, che ebbe enorme successo, lui un toscano che non aveva mai messo piede in Sicilia e di cui conosceva ben poco.  Il mito è stato poi sapientemente sfruttato da vari affiliati dell’organizzazione e alimentato da numerosi film.  Già in quegli anni “cosa nostra” era un’organizzazione criminale segreta con forti legami politici e un raggio d’azione internazionale”.

John Dickie, storico, giornalista e professore di studi italiani è il primo straniero a scrivere sul soggetto, basandosi su una ricerca accurata dall’unificazione italiana fino ai nostri giorni.  La sua prosa è chiara e scorrevole, anche quando si sofferma con particolare attenzione sulle relazioni tra la politica e la mafia. Si spinge fino ai processi di mafia di Andreotti, 7 volte Primo Ministro, e di Dell’Utri, braccio destro di Berlusconi. 

Dopo le indiscriminate uccisioni di sindaci, esponenti regionali, statali, giudici e soprattutto dei magistrati Falcone e Borsellino da parte della Famiglia dei Corleoni negli anni 80, lo Stato Italiano spinto dall’indignazione dell’opinione pubblica ha finalmente dovuto reagire.  La corte di Cassazione in forma definitiva ha riconosciuto valida la tesi di Borsellino:
La mafia esiste e ha un’organizzazione unitaria. I membri della commissione “il senato”, sono congiuntamente responsabili degli omicidi. Le testimonianze dei “pentiti” sono valide.  Altre leggi speciali sono state promulgate, tra le quali la sistematica requisizione dei beni dei mafiosi, e centinaia di criminali sono stati arrestati processati e messi in prigione.  Moltissime organizzazioni che si oppongono apertamente alla mafia sono spontaneamente sorte in tutta l’isola.  Lo Stato italiano può dichiarare vittoria?  C’è da dubitarne in quanto questa organizzazione, durante i suoi più di 150 di vita, ha dimostrato una straordinaria capacita’  di trasformarsi e di adattarsi ai tempi.  Per la successione di Provenzano, il capo dei capi e latitante per 42 anni fino al 2006, due capi mafia stavano per scatenare una guerra tra cosche, ma sono stati arrestati.   Uno era un imprenditore, l’altro un neurologo. 

Ora la mafia è sommersa, come un iceberg.   Ricorre raramente alle minacce, il pizzo (per la protezione) in alcune aree è regolarmente pagato e in vari settori economici l’ombra della mafia consente degli impliciti vantaggi ai suoi affiliati, soprattutto nell’area degli appalti e dell’accesso ai capitali.  Due siciliani, Tommaso Buscetta e  Leonardo Sciascia che sono tra quelli che si sono battuti di più contro questa organizzazione, non sono ottimisti.   Il primo è un grande pentito, che ha spiegato i meccanismi interni dell’organizzazione, il secondo è lo scrittore siciliano da sempre nemico della mafia.  Entrambi sono scettici e concordano: “La mafia è insita in ogni siciliano”.

English version

I knew Sicilians, even born and raised in Palermo and later moved with their family to Rome, who sincerely believed the mafia did not exist.  This criminal organization was confused with the Sicilian character, “with that overbearing sense of pride and honor.”  This myth was exposed to the wider Italian public for the first time in 1890 by the extremely successful opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, who, as a Tuscan who never set foot in Sicily, knew very little about it.  This myth has been skillfully exploited by the various affiliates of the organization and fed by many movies.  Already in those years “Cosa Nostra” was a secret criminal organization with strong political ties and an international reach.

John Dickie, historian, journalist and professor of Italian studies at University College in London, is the first foreigner to write on the subject basing himself on accurate research, from the unification of Italy to the present.  His writing is clear and flowing, even when he lingers with particular attention over the relations between politics and mafia.  He ventures up to the mafia trials of Andreotti, seven times prime minister, and of Dell’Utri, Berlusconi’s right hand man.

After the indiscriminate killing of mayors, regional and federal figures, judges and especially the magistrates Falcone and Borsellino by the Corleone family in the 80’s, the Italian state, pushed by the outrage of public opinion, finally had to react.  The Supreme Court recognized the thesis of Borsellino:  The mafia exists and is a unitary organization; the members of the commission “the senate” are collectively responsible for the murders; the testimonies of the “repentents” are valid.  Other special laws have been passed, among which the systematic requisition of the assets of the Mafiosi and hundreds of criminals have been arrested, tried and jailed.  Many organizations that openly oppose the mafia sprung up spontaneously all over the island.  Can the Italian State declare victory?  We should be doubtful since this organization, during its more than 150 years, has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity of transformation and adaptation.  For the succession of Provenzano, the chief of chiefs, on the run for 42 years until 2006, 2 mafia chiefs were ready for a showdown between their 2 clans, but have been arrested.  One was as entrepreneur and the other a neurologist.
Now cosa nostra is submerged like an iceberg.  It rarely uses threats, protection payments in some areas are regularly paid and in several economic sectors the shadow of the mafia allows implicit advantages to its affiliates, especially in the area of bids for contracts and of access to capital.  Two of the Sicilians, Tommaso Buscetta and Leonardo Sciascia, who have fought the hardest against this organization, are not optimistic.  The first is the important “repentant” who explained the internal mechanism of the organization, the second is the Sicilian writer, always the enemy of the mafia.  They are both skeptical and agree: “The mafia is inborn in every Sicilian.”
- Recommended by Carlo Mignani, Italian-language Book Review Co-Editor

Spanish

Ani Salva a la perra Laika,  1996
Ilustraciones por Lucas Nine
Edades  9-12
Editorial Sudamericana S.A., Colección Pan Flauta

aniEste libro contiene dos cuentos de aventura escritos para lectores jóvenes, con dibujos en plumín y tinta china que ilustran la acción.  El libro es la segunda de una serie de aventuras de la joven Ani.  En la primera aventura, Ani decide salvar a la perra rusa que viaja en el satélite Sputnik.  Shua explica que fue Sputnik para que los lectores jóvenes puedan entender donde estaba Laika y porque estaba allí.  Todo es parte de un plan de  Ani para ganar dinero por vender los cachorros de Laika.  En la segunda aventura, Ani busca una manera de salvar los desiertos de su sequedad.  Sale de Buenos Aires, caminando por toda Argentina para llegar a la Aconcagua, la montaña más alta de los Andes.  Sube la montaña y monta su aparato para derretirse el hielo de los glaciares.  En cada aventura la autora presenta unas lecciones sobre la historia, la geografía, y la imaginación.  Es un libro encantador que seguramente atraerá el interés y dar chispas a la imaginación de un joven.

 

Ani Salva a la perra Laika  1966
Illustrations by Lucas Nine
Ages 9-12
Editorial Sudamericana S.A., Pan Flauta Collection

aniThis little book contains two adventure stories written for young readers, with pen and ink sketches that illustrate the action.  The book is the second in a series of the adventures of young Ani.  In the first adventure, Ani decides to save the Russian dog who was travelling around the world in Sputnik.  Shua explains what Sputnik was so the young readers can understand where Laika was and why she was there.  All is part of Ani’s plan to earn a lot of money by selling Laika’s puppies.  In the second adventure, Ani looks for a way to save the deserts from their dryness.  She leaves Buenos Aires, walks across Argentina and arrives at Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Andes.  She climbs the mountain and sets up her equipment that will melt the glacial ice.  In each adventure the author presents lessons about history, geography, and imagination.  It is an enchanting book that will surely attract the interest and spark the imagination of young readers.

- Recommended by Sheila Cockey, Spanish Language Book Review Co-Editor

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April 2010

Notice: The Culture Club needs two German Book Review Editors. If you would be willing to write short summaries of books by German-speaking authors or books about German culture, please contact Christine.

Reviews:

French: Le voyage en France
German: Call for Reviewers; List of Recommended Books in the German Language
Italian: Dieci

Spanish: El Reino del Dragón de Oro

FRENCH

Le voyage en France  
Duteurtre, Benoît  
Gallimard: Folio # 3901  
2003


Version française
 

VoyageCe livre, qui gagna le Prix Médicis en 2001, est l’histoire de deux hommes, un jeune Américain qui rêve de la France et d’un Français anonyme de 40 ans qui rêve de l’Amérique.  Quoiqu’ amis, ils mènent une existence parallèle mais distincte, aiment sans être aimés de retour, et sont attirés par la culture d’autrui.  

David

David, le jeune Américain réalise son grand rêve d’aller en France qui pour lui est celle de Monet et des Impressionnistes, des cafés du 19e siècle, des discussions intellectuelles au café Flore, de la vie bohème.  N’ayant jamais connu son père français, il a toujours eu cette fascination pour la France et son langage. En effet, à l’Alliance française de New York, (i)l participait aux conversations, rêvait de Paris, idolatrait l’esprit français.”  Enfin arrivé au Havre, (p)assant d’une joie à l’autre, David se tourna vers la ville où avait grandi Monet, dans l’enchantement du ciel et de la mer.  Mais il aperçut une vaste cité grise, posée sur cette côte comme un jeu de construction en beton armé.”  Un peu déçu, il brûle toujours du désir de voir la maison de Monet et l’endroit où il a peint son tableau célèbre Le jardin à Sainte-Adresse et donc il se met à cette recherche.  Arrivé au centre-ville, à sa grande surprise, il voit partout l’influence américaine dans les vêtements des gens, dans la musique qu’on joue, dans les noms des magasins, etc.  Quand il demande où se trouve la maison de Claude Monet, on l’envoie à la ZUP Claude Monet.  Finalement une vieille femme l’envoie au lieu désiré mais il ne trouve qu’un Monet en imitation dont la toile est tout en noir pour représenter comment le vrai Monet aurait vu “ce paysage hanté par toutes les souffrances du siècle.”  Son premier jour dans ce pays tout vibrant de culture où il n’avait encore rien vu de vraiment beau, à l’exception des nuages sur la mer et des souvenirs qui guidaient ses pas” était décidément “bizarre.”

Poursuivant son rêve, il quitte Le Havre en train pour Paris, et “collé à la vitre, le voyageur aperçut enfin, au-dessus des voies, un authentique paysage parisien avec ses immeubles à six étages et ses toits de zinc: la ville des impressionnistes, préservé comme un noyau intact au coeur de l’agglomération.”  Mais sa joie se dissipe très vite parce que “(l)es boulevards et les jardins portaient tous la même signature ancienne, mais les têtes et les corps vivaient dans une autre époque.” 

Ironiquement, lui qui voulait connaître l’esprit français, connaît un grand succès à la télévision française: “un jeune Américain découvrant la France moderne.”  Les invitations ne cessent d’arriver; c’est vraiment le star du jour.  On dirait une bête rare: un jeune Américain qui aime la France.  Il se fait plusieurs connaissances mais tous les gens qu’il rencontre “critiquaient l’Amérique mais ils ne pensaient qu’à elle.” Désenchanté, “il se demandait pourquoi il perdait son temps à rencontrer des gens modernes qui rêvaient de vivre comme des Américains—lui qui était venu ici pour vivre comme un Français.”

Un soir il se rend dans un music-hall pour assister à une “revue à la française, mais les danseuses nues ressemblaient à des pin-up de Las Vegas.  Elles chantaient en anglais des refrains de disco…”  Il se demande ce qu’est devenu la France d’antan.  Existe-t-elle dans certaines régions provinciales?  Arnaud, un nouvel ami, et jeune séminariste, l’invite à visiter son abbaye en Val-de-Loire où “Tu verras des villages où rien n’a changé.”  Malgré les vieux bâtiments du monastère et l’austérité des cellules, les moines communiquent entre eux par téléphone portable et ont abandonné depuis dix ans “la culture et l’élevage pour s’approvisionner dans un hypermarché voisin.”  Au lieu de travailler les champs, ils travaillent aux ateliers parce qu’ils “rapportent davantage.”  L’abbaye “développe, depuis dix ans, plusieurs ateliers de pointe: assemblage de PC…” Au lieu d’être un centre de prières et de chants grégoriens, “une abbaye moderne fonctionne comme une véritable enterprise.”

L’histoire du Français

Quadragénaire anonyme, ce Français décore son appartement d’une “photo aérienne de New York, qui me faisait rêver quand j’avais vingt ans.  Et, juste à côté, une reproduction de Claude Monet qui représente la plage du Havre.  Je reconnais la couleur verte de la mer, ce sable luisant où je marchais enfant, quand les derniers paquebots partaient vers l’Amérique.” Jeune, il écouta la musique de Led Zeppelin, de James Brown, et de Jim Morrison.  Il se promenait souvent sur la plage du Havre et imaginait “les boulevards infinis de Los Angeles, les fumées jaillissant aux carrefours de New York.” Souvent, quand il rentrait chez lui et qu’il pédalait sur les quais, il rêvait “de New York au bord de la mer.”

Après avoir fait la connaissance de David et ayant formé une amitié avec lui, celui-ci l’invite à rentrer à New York avec lui.  Le klaxon des taxis est de la musique qui l’accompagne depuis 40 ans grâce aux séries télévisées et leurs poursuites policières.  Au Museum of Modern Art, en voyant les visiteurs extasiés devant les Impressionnistes, il a “envie de prendre ces touristes par la main et de leur dire :’Vous savez, ce lieu existe vraiment: je suis né juste à côté.’”  En apercevant le tableau de Monet Le jardin à Sainte Adresse, sa fierté est apparente et il est enchanté “qu’une parcelle de Normandie, oubliée dans la  dérive de l’histoire, ait traversé l’Atlantique, pour devenir le paysage le plus admiré, au coeur du grand musée de la cité qui est le coeur du monde.” Il est ébloui d’apprendre “qu’aujourdui, fuyant Paris, je retrouve Monet au coeur de New York où tout continue, où tout commence.” D’après lui, “le New York new-yorkais protégeait de toute sa hauteur le New York européen, où reposent quelques tableaux essentiels de la fin du XIXe siècle, devenus l’âme de cette ville archaïque et futuriste.”

C’est Monet qui unit ces deux hommes, qui forme un lien entre la France et New York.  Ce livre démontre l’attraît réciproque qui existe entre ces deux pays et illustre l’influence que leur culture agît l’un sur l’autre.  David ne trouve pas ce qu’il cherchait.  Trois mois en France “il regrette que les Français imitent continuellement les Américains, tout en se persuadant d’être très originaux.”  Ce qu’il regrette encore plus, c’est que “les Français s’agitaient beaucoup.  Ils brandissaient de pompeux projets culturels, lançaient de bruyants messages pour sauver l’humanité, mais ils semblaient indifférents à la disparition de leur propre monde.”

Si vous avez l’intention d’aller en France, ce livre vous préparera à la France changeante d’aujourd’hui, en vous peignant un portrait réel de sa culture en flux.  Comme David, vous trouverez peut-être que l’esprit français et la culture française sont en train de s’américaniser.  Ce bouquin aussi pourra aider les professeurs de français à satisfaire le “Culture Strand of the Foreign Languages National Framework.”
Recommandé par Marcel LaVergne, éditeur, revue de livres français   
 
English version 

Awarded the Prix Médicis in 2001, this book is the story of two men, a young American who dreams of going to France and a nameless 40 year old Frenchman who dreams of going to the United States.  Although friends, they lead parallel and distinct lives, they love but are not loved in return, and are attracted towards another’s culture.

David

This young American fulfills his great dream of going to France, the land of Monet and the Impressionists, of intellectual discussions at the Café Flore, and of the bohemian life.  Never having known his French father, he was always fascinated with France and its language.  In fact, at the Alliance française of New York, (i)l participait aux conversations, rêvait de Paris, idolatrait l’esprit français.”  When he arrives at Le Havre, (p)assant d’une joie à l’autre, David se tourna vers la ville où avait grandi Monet, dans l’enchantement du ciel et de la mer.  Mais il aperçut une vaste cité grise, posée sur cette côte comme un jeu de construction en beton armé.”  Disappointed, he yearns still to see Monet’s house and the place where he painted his famous Le jardin à Sainte-Adresse and continues his search.  At the center of town, he is surprised to see results of American influence everywhere,--in how people dress, in the music they listen to, in the names of stores, etc.  He asks where Monet’s house is located, but they send him to the ZUP Claude Monet.  Finally, an elderly woman sends him to the right place, but he finds a would-be Monet who explains that his totally black canvas represents the way the real Monet would have seen “ce paysage hanté par toutes les souffrances du siècle.”  His first day dans ce pays tout vibrant de culture où il n’avait encore rien vu de vraiment beau, à l’exception des nuages sur la mer et des souvenirs qui guidaient ses pas”was decidely “bizarre.”

Pursuing his dream, he leaves Le Havre by train for Paris and “collé à la vitre, le voyageur aperçut enfin, au-dessus des voies, un authentique paysage parisien avec ses immeubles à six étages et ses toits de zinc: la ville des impressionnistes, préservé comme un noyau intact au coeur de l’agglomération.”  But his joy dissipates quickly because “(l)es boulevards et les jardins portaient tous la même signature ancienne, mais les têtes et les corps vivaient dans une autre époque.” 

Ironically, he who wanted to know “l’esprit francais” becomes famous because of a TV program entitled “un jeune Américain découvrant la France moderne.”  Truly the star of the day, he is invited everywhere.   He is a rare find indeed: a young American who likes the French.  He meets many people but they all “critiquaient l’Amérique mais ils ne pensaient qu’à elle.” Disenchanted, “il se demandait pourquoi il perdait son temps à rencontrer des gens modernes qui rêvaient de vivre comme des Américains—lui qui était venu ici pour vivre comme un Français.”

One evening he goes to a night club to see a revue à la française, mais les danseuses nues ressemblaient à des pin-up de Las Vegas.  Elles chantaient en anglais des refrains de disco…”  He wonders if the France of yesteryear exists anywhere, perhaps in some provincial regions.  Arnaud, a new friend and a young seminarian, invites him to visit his monastery in Val-de-Loire where “Tu verras des villages où rien n’a changé.”  In spite of the old buildings and of the austerity of the rooms the monks communicate by cell phone and ten years ago abandoned “la culture et l’élevage pour s’approvisionner dans un hypermarché voisin.”  Instead of working the fields, the monks work in shops because they “rapportent davantage.”  The monastery “développe, depuis dix ans, plusieurs ateliers de pointe: assemblage de PC…”Rather than being a center of prayer and Gregorian chant “une abbaye moderne fonctionne comme une véritable enterprise.”

The nameless Frenchman

This 40 year old Frenchman has had a long fascination with the United States.  His apartment has a“photo aérienne de New York, qui me faisait rêver quand j’avais vingt ans.  Et, juste à côté, une reproduction de Claude Monet qui représente la plage du Havre.  Je reconnais la couleur verte de la mer, ce sable luisant où je marchais enfant, quand les derniers paquebots partaient vers l’Amérique.” As a youth, he listened to the music of Led Zeppelin, James Brown, and Jim Morrison.  He would often walk along the beaches of Le Havre and imagine “les boulevards infinis de Los Angeles, les fumées jaillissant aux carrefours de New York.” While riding his bicycle near the docks he often dreamed “de New York au bord de la mer.”

Having met David and becoming his friend, he accepts his invitation to return to New York with him.  He loves the sounds of the taxis which were very familiar to him as a result of the many American cop shows he watched at home.  At the Museum of Modern Art, whenever he sees patrons in awe of the Impressionists, he feels like taking ces touristes par la main et de leur dire :” Vous savez, ce lieu existe vraiment: je suis né juste à côté.”  When he notices Monet’s painting Le jardin à Sainte Adresse, he is both proud and enchanted “qu’une parcelle de Normandie, oubliée dans la dérive de l’histoire, ait traversé l’Atlantique, pour devenir le paysage le plus admiré, au coeur du grand musée de la cité qui est le coeur du monde.” He is astonished to learn “qu’aujourdui, fuyant Paris, je retrouve Monet au coeur de New York où tout continue, où tout commence.” According to him, “le New York new-yorkais protégeait de toute sa hauteur le New York européen, où reposent quelques tableaux essentiels de la fin du XIXe siècle, devenus l’âme de cette ville archaïque et futuriste.”

Monet units both men and links Paris with New York.  This book demonstrates the reciprocal friendship that exists between these two countries and illustrates the influence that each culture has on the other.  David does not find what he was looking for.  After three months in France, “il regrette que les Français imitent continuellement les Américains, tout en se persuadant d’être très originaux.” What he regrets the most is the fact that “les Français s’agitaient beaucoup.  Ils brandissaient de pompeux projets culturels, lançaient de bruyants messages pour sauver l’humanité, mais ils semblaient indifférents à la disparition de leur propre monde.”

If you are planning a trip to France, this book will prepare you for France’s changing culture.  Like David, you will probably discover how Americanized both its spirit and its culture are becoming.  This book will also help French teachers satisfy the Culture Strand of the Foreign Languages National Framework.
Recommended by Marcel LaVergne, French Language Book Review Editor

GERMAN 

Call for Reviewers; List of Recommended Books in the German Language 

If you have read any of the books listed below, would you be willing to write a review? While we prefer bilingual reviews, we would be happy to accept either an English- or a German-language review. If so, contact Christine.

Deutschland Magazine recently offered the following list of recommended German-language books.

  • Halbschatten by Uwe Timm
  • Adam und Evelyn by Ingo Schulze
  • Scherbenpark by Alina Bronsky
  • Liebesbrand by Feridun Zaimoglu
  • Die Abschaffung der Arten by Dietmar Dath Du
  • Taxi by Karen Duve
  • Das dunkle Schiff by Sherko Fatah

German Book Prize 2009

  • Du Stirbst Nicht by Kathrin Schmidt

German Book Prize 2008

  • Der Turm by Uwe Tellkamp

ITALIAN 

DieciDieci

Longo, Andrej
Adelphi (Collana Fabula)
2008
Available from IBS.com

I dieci racconti di questo libro seguono e richiamano i dieci comandamenti: il tredicenne che di fronte alla sofferenza della madre è capace di un grande gesto d’amore” perchè qualcuno doveva farlo” o di Enzuccio, il pizzaiolo, che ogni martedì torna a casa dopo avere trascorso tutta la settimana a Roma e “lavora come un disgraziato perchè non deve mancare niente” alla famiglia. L’autore riesce a raccontare una Napoli moderna con la sua quotidianetà e con le sue eccezionalità lasciando il lettore con il fiato sospeso.
Andrej Longo si è laureato in Lettere al DAMS di Bologna e dopo vari lavori (bagnino, cameriere e pizzaiolo) inizia la sua carriera collaborando come autore per opere teatrali, radiofoniche e cinematografiche. Nel 2002 pubblica la raccolta di racconti Più o meno alle tre e l’anno successivo il romanzo Adelante. Nel 2007 pubblica Dieci  per il quale verrà insignito del premio Bagutta e del premio Piero Chiara.
- Recommended by Cetti Mangano, Italian Language Book Review Co-Editor

Spanish

El Reino del Dragón de Oro
Allende, Isabel (2003)
Availability: amazon.com, alibris.com, Border’s

Spanish version

El reinoEl Reino del Dragón de Oro es la tercera novela en la trilogía que escribió Isabel Allende por lectores de 12 a 14 años. Como en las otras, Allende invita al lector que acompaña a Alex, su abuela Kate, y su amiga Nadia en otra aventura. Kate, quien escribe por la revista International Geographic, lleva a Alex y Nadia consiga en una misión al alto Reino Himalaya del Dragón de Oro. Viajan de la capital hacia las montañas. Semejante a los otros libros, la escritura diestra de Allende, llena de descripciones melódicas y fotográficas, da a sus lectores unos vistazos gloriosos tanto de la geografía, la flora, y la fauna de las montañas y valles como a la gente que vive allá. El elemento de intriga entra con personajes sospechosos quienes quieren robar el dragón de oro que es el símbolo del reino y que tiene poderes mágicos – unos poderes que solo el rey puede acceder. Típico de las escrituras de Allende, El Reido del Dragón de Oro contiene elementos de realidad, mágico, fantasía, y hechos reales, todos entretejidos en un libro (y una aventura) es creíble y da gusto.

Las versiones españolas están disponibles en la sección de “teen Reading” or de libros en español en librerías grandes como Border’s. Las versiones inglesas se encuentran en la sección de “Teen Reading”. También se puede encontrarlos en amazon.com.

English translation

El Reino del Dragón de Oro, the third novel in Isabel Allende’s trilogy for middle school age readers, once again invites the reader along on the travels of Alex, his Grandmother Kate, and his friend Nadia. Kate, a writer for International Geographic magazine, takes Alex and Nadia with her on an assignment to the high Himalaya Kingdom of the Golden Dragon. They travel from the capital city up into the mountains. As in the first book, Allende’s skillful descriptive phrasing treats her readers to wonderful glimpses of the geography, flora and fauna of the mountains and valleys, as well as the people who populate that area. An element of intrigue enters with shady characters who are trying to steal the solid gold dragon that is the symbol of the kingdom and holds magical powers accessible only to the king. Typical of Allende’s writings, there are elements of reality, magic, fantasy, and fact all woven into a believable and fun read.

El Reino del Dragón de Oro provides good reading for students and adults alike. The Spanish is accessible to students who are in advanced levels of Spanish, to adults who are rusty readers, and to anyone of any age who is comfortable reading in Spanish.

The Spanish versions are available in either the teen reading or Spanish language sections of any big bookstore, such as Border’s. The English versions are usually found in the teen section. They are also available from amazon.com.
- Recommended by Sheila W. Cockey, Spanish Language Book Review Editor

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