E4S1 Claire Messud

When I started as Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy, everyone told me that I had to meet Claire Messud—that she was quintessential Francophile intellectual, not to mention author of six works of fiction. We conversed about what it means to be a citizen of the world (2:04), literature (4:45), Flaubert (5:20), Algeria (7:20), and feminism (9:50)—as well as her memories of childhood vacations in the south of France (20:12). It was like talking with a friend, as you’ll hear now. C’est parti.

Show Notes

The below notes are designed to enrich the listener's experience by further explaining the more obscure French references mentioned throughout the show.

3:32 Toulon 

City located in the south-east of France, nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, between Nice and Marseille. It is the epitome of the French south with its beautiful beaches, its capricious winds, and its inhabitants' passion for rugby! It is also the main port used to reach Corsica.

 5:20 Gustave Flaubert

One of the most famous French writers and a pioneer of the literary realism movement in France. Madame Bovary is arguably his most famous novel, but his works also include Salammbô, Sentimental Education and Dictionary of Received Ideas. There is probably no French literary syllabus that doesn’t include Flaubert!

 7:19 Albert Camus 

French philosopher, author, and journalist born in Algeria. His writings explored the human condition and absurdity. He is also known as a politically engaged figure, having attacked Franco’s fascism, defended pieds-noirs in Algeria, and criticized totalitarian Soviet regimes. A 1957 Nobel Prize winner, he wrote novels (The Stranger, The Plague), plays (Caligula), and non-fiction (The Myth of Sisyphus).

19:42 « Grand-mère, est-ce que je peux quitter la table s’il te plaît ? » translates to "Grandmother, may I please leave the table now?"

22:22 Pied-Noir  

A person of European––most often French––descent born in Algeria during the French rule between 1830 and 1962.

At 23:30, Claire Messud reads from the ball scene in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, one of her favorite French books.