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Midweek Notes from a Practicing Writer

Vive la France!


Before I earned my MFA, I earned a PhD. In history. In French history.

In fact, ever since my first middle-school French class, France and its language, literature, culture, and history have been a significant part of my life. So last week was hard. It was hard on Wednesday. And as a Francophile Jew who—to be completely honest—has been a little frightened of traveling in France as reports of anti-Semitic incidents have filtered back here (mainly in the Jewish press) over the past year or two, I found Friday very hard, too.

Rather than write anything “new” on last week’s events, I’d like to highlight a few of my past France and French-related writings. (A few, at any rate, that have a presence—if not complete accessibility—on the Internet.)

You may also be interested in posts from my other blog that include references to French-Jewish literature.

Au Cinéma

OneDaySo maybe I didn’t actually go out to the movies last Saturday night. But I did catch a remarkable film on CUNY TV (Channel 75 for those of us served by Time Warner Cable here in New York City). Translated as “One Day You’ll Understand,” this French film dates from 2008—coincidentally, the last year I visited France. I’d never heard of it. But I was riveted to the screen on Saturday (much as my tweets during my viewing may suggest otherwise).

Starring French film stars Hippolyte Girardot and Jeanne Moreau, the film is set in 1987, during the famous trial of Klaus Barbie, the notorious “Butcher of Lyon.” As the trial unfolds, CUNY TV explains, “Victor Bastien reviews old family documents and finds a distressing ‘Aryan declaration’ authored by his late father, a discovery that throws Victor’s conception of his family’s history into darkness. A meditation on memory, identity, and the reconciliation that follows a French businessman’s growing obsession with the secrets of his family’s past.” Not least because of its opening shots of Victor (Girardot) studying the Le Mur des noms (The Wall of Names) at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, the film is profoundly moving. Especially now.

If you have the opportunity to see this movie, I recommend that you do so.


Even before the events of last week, I’d discovered a book that I thought I might like to review. It’s not a book of fiction—now that I’m working for a fiction-focused publishing company, I’m assuming that fiction reviews present a conflict of interest for me. I frankly don’t have a lot of time for reviewing right now, either. But this nonfiction book—which, yes, has quite a lot to do with French history—appeals to me very much. So I’m trying to win an assignment. Please wish me luck!

And what have you all been up to lately?

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6 Responses »

  1. I just read “Comprehension” and had to -really had to- let you know what a good piece you wrote. The awful pain of that woman’s loss- moments of insight like this, rare as they are, help us to comprehend that the Shoa destroyed real people. Real little brothers, Real big sisters. Thank you.

  2. Erika, thank you for your post. From your recommendation of the movie. I am going to check it out. Thanks, and good luck with Fig Tree.


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