In her novel, Mademoiselle Benoir (2006), Christine Conrad has Tim, her American protagonist, write a letter to his Mom in which he tries to explain what he means by "deeply French". The term itself is quite fascinating and the way Tim explains what he means invites our curiosity.
Tim is a New Yorker, who has decided to leave the city's hustle and bustle for a quieter life in the Lot area of
In his letter to his mother, Tim writes about Marcelline, a friend he has recently made. He calls her "deeply French". Then he goes on: "I'm not sure what I mean by this, but whatever it is I feel it strongly. ... My sketching has made me aware of the various French faces, and I've begun to recognize types that probably go back, oh, say 2,500 years. When I was in Villefranche a few weeks ago, I sat right next to a guy in a café who was right out of The Three Musketeers: thin hooked nose, angular face, goatee, an arrogant tilt to his chin. It was like looking at a painting from the seventeenth century. An American lives in a "melting pot," but in
I think that Tim's reflections illuminate several curious questions about
Another observation that outsiders often make is to see
Over the centuries, the face of
Fifty years before the birth of Christ, or 50 BCE (before the Common Era), Celtic culture was definitely on the wane. The Roman Empire had control of the whole of
As time went by this fiercely independent region steadfastly resisted the power of the Kings of the Franks in the 5th and 6th centuries, and, as the Merovingians, became the Carolingians, then the Capetians, they stood strongly against integrating under those crowns. It would take the marriage of Anne de Bretagne with Charles VIII in 1491 to begin the process that would weld the last autonomous princely state to
Strong Celtic roots honed by language and traditions would resist even the Napoleonic impositions of the nineteenth century and
All these thoughts from reading a couple of paragraphs in Christine Conrad’s neat and engaging, lavender-scented novel of love and discovery in the region of Quercy. I’ll have to read on and find out what happens.