Archive for French

Renvoyer L’ascenseur…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2012 by Mj Rains

I decide to move to Paris because of its cafes, its writers, and its cultural life. I discover that none of this exists anymore:  the cafes are full of tourists and photographs of the people who made those places famous. Most of the writers there are more concerned with style than content; they strive to be original, but succeed only in being dull. They are locked in their own little world, and I learn an interesting French expression:  renvoyer l’ascenseur, meaning literally “to send the elevator back,” but used metaphorically to mean “to return a favor.”  In practice, this means that I say nice things about your book, you say nice things about mine, and thus we create a whole new cultural life, a revolution, an apparently new philosophy; we suffer because no one understands us, but then that’s what happened with all the geniuses of the past: being misunderstood by one’s contemporaries is surely just part and parcel of being a great artist.

They “send the elevator back,” and, at first, such writers have some success: people don’t want to run the risk of openly criticizing something they don’t understand, but they soon realize they are being conned and stop believing what the critics say.

The Internet and its simple language are all that it takes to change the world. A parallel world emerges in Paris: new writers struggle to make their words and their souls understood. I join these new writers in cafes that no one has heard of, because neither the writers nor the cafes are as yet famous. I develop my style alone and I learn from a publisher all I need to know about mutual support.

~from The Zahir, A Novel of Obsession by Paulo Coelho

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Posted in "Wit"icisms" with tags , , , , , , , on April 25, 2012 by Mj Rains

After yesterday I needed a good laugh, so be prepared. Not just for French cat lovers. This made my day!

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I have to admit I have a weakness for funny you tube videos. I can’t resist sharing them if I think other people will appreciate them.

Cat Portrait from JKphotography

Animal Love from PrettySoul

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Iconic and Controversial

Posted in Writers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2009 by Mj Rains

simone-de-beauvoirOne of the most controversial women of the century, essayist, novelist, and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir has changed millions of women’s lives, awakening us all to the mystique of being a woman by authoring her most famous work The Second Sex.  Though Simone, herself, was uninterested in being a mother, she had become known as “the mother to us all.”

She “was the vanguard of French intellectual life for nearly forty years,” and became notoriously “the most public sinner in all of France.”  Her life-long unmarried relationship with existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was the source of this.  “After we had decided what our relationship was to be, we were both embarrassed that we had even briefly considered the most bourgeois of institutions, marriage, to be the answer,” Beauvoir recalled.  Ah, yet another marriage without papers.

Beauvoir and Sartre were known as “the writing couple” who were together nearly every day, at work at separate desks or cafe tables…

Beauvoir and Sartre

Together they participated in rallies, visited heads of state on almost every continent, exchanging ideas with the greatest artists and writers of their era. 

Simone has become the ultimate feminist icon, always “deeply committed to her work yet always ready to put Sartre’s first.”  She had other love affairs on the side, both male and female, to which much criticism has been raised, and one longer ill-fated relationship with American writer Nelson Algren, to whom she wrote many love letters.  She always insisted that their relationship would go no further, for her committment to Sartre and his intellect was undeniable, even though her affair with Algren was physically satisfying. 

I had always thought of Simone de Beauvoir as this great, scary woman, independent of men, though not a hater of men (as some feminists have become), but one who sincerely did not need a man.  Yet, in reading her biography, I find that most of her financial “freedom” came out of Sartre’s open pocketbook.  Curious…isn’t it.   For a most admired feminist icon, she was surrounded by many men, the key to which, I feel, was their respect for her as an equal of intellect, and a contemporary in philosophic thought with all life matters.

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