Number the stars by Lois Lowry

Howdy y’all!

Numberthestars

How begin a report about this poignant book? It’s called Number the stars, written by Lois Lowry.
It takes place in Copenhaguen, Denmark, in 1943, during the Second World War. Annemarie is 10 years old. She ‘s used to tell fairytales to her little sister Kirsti, with queens and kings. Her best friend is Ellen, a Jewish young girl.
During the 1943 fall, the German are beginning the “relocation” of all Danish Jews. But thanks to some Danish politics “leaks”, the Jew community is warned during the New Year that something was going to happen.
It’s the story about the Danish resistance, helping thousands of Danish Jews to escape to Sweden, which is not invaded by the Nazis. It’s this story told by a young girl, not naïve, but who has genuine thoughts about the adult world, and help to protect her best 10 years-old friend, Ellen.
I’m half Danish. But from Denmark, I essentially know about culinary culture and Christmas. I didn’t know anything from the Second World War. My grandmother told us a very few, as we couldn’t speak Danish at that time. But I know about the rationing: rye-bread and some potatoes, and that was all. I had no idea about how the Danish people protected their friends. How the King Christian sank his float, so the German couldn’t use it…
Sometimes, I’m wondering if I would be as brave as Annemarie if I lived during the war. Anyway, I would advise you this book, very well written, in a simple English with just enough new words to enjoy the story AND learn English. The emotions are simple, but very poignant.
Thank you Sherri, for sharing this book with me.

 

On death and Dying – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Hello,

Today I would like to share a very precious reading of mine. As I’m thinking about how to continue to help people (as I used to do as a medical doctor), but without doing the equivalence, I’m reading a lot of things on dying, living with a cancer or other critical illness.

The first time I went back to my library after my last 2 months in France, I found that very famous book for me: On Death and Dying. It’s famous because I learned during my medical studies the different steps of grief, which come from that book. But I never read the book itself. So today I’m proud to tell you that I read it in its original version!!

On Death and Dying

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a psychiatrist, born in Switzerland. She worked in France and in Poland, during a typhoid fever epidemic. She also discovered black butterflies drawn by children in Majdanek concentration camp … After all these special life experiences, she moved to the USA where she became a psychiatrist, and dedicated her research to dying patients, and later dying children.

This book is the first that she wrote, while working in Chicago. She explains the seminar that took place at the hospital, initially with 4 theology students. The principle was to interview a critically sick person, in front of a one way mirror. Behind the mirror, at first 4 students but soon up to 50 people, nurses, medical students, theology students … What impressed me is that I’m not sure that those interviews given in 1965 would be so different today. The only difference would be that no patient would remain without knowing his diagnosis from the doctor himself. At that time, so many patients would only be informed by their family of the severity of the disease … So that’s definitely some progress of the last 40 years.

But the 5 steps of grief are still so true. At first it’s denial and isolation. « That’s not possible! » usually quite short, but sometimes pathologically long. Then comes the anger: « Why me? » People can be angry at their doctor, their nurse. The important thing for caring staff is to remember that this anger is not against them in particular, but against « the entire world » for being sick. And that’s a lesson that every new generation has to learn, that I learned a few times with patients…
The third stage is bargaining: people try to ask « nicely » to try to get something. To God, to their doctor… They try to stay functioning until a child’s wedding for example.
When bargaining cannot be positively answered comes the fourth stage, the depression stage. People are sad, realizing the different losses in life (work, physical appearance …) preceding the loss of life itself. It’s a difficult stage to go through, because often there are some conflicts about how to deal with spouse, with children…

Eventually, when those conflicts are dealt with, the patient enters the last step, aka acceptance. The patient gets detached from his family, is less hungry. That’s the final stage of grief and dying. Not everybody is able to attain that stage, depending on the ability of his entourage to let him go…

Those stages, I did learn during my medical studies. But what I didn’t learn really (or at least what I didn’t remember) is to give hope at every stage. Not false hope, but Hope. At least respect the patients’ hope, such as the discovery of a new treatment (rarely on time…). And I admit this is a hard thing to do in every day life as a thoracic oncologist… And that’s what I would like to work on in the future.

This book is not just a dissertation about the different stages, it’s most of all a collection of patients’ testimonies about dying, and about life. I would recommend this book to every health care student, but also to everybody who has to take care of a sick person (does that mean quite everybody?). This book is very touching…

La bibliothèque des coeurs cabossés

Bonjour à toutes et à tous,

Une fois n’est pas coutume, j’avais envie de partager une lecture en Français. Bon d’accord, l’auteur (Katarina Bivald) est Suédoise, écrit en Suédois et l’action se passe en Iowa … Vous me voyez venir … Mais comme cette lecture m’a accompagné durant mon immigration proprement dite, et qu’elle est très belle, je voulais la partager avec vous.

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L’histoire commence par une correspondance entre Sara Lindqvist, 28 ans, libraire suédoise récemment remerciée de son travail pour cause de fermeture, et Amy Harris, 65 ans, vieille dame respectable de la ville de Broken Wheel (« Roue Cassée ») en Iowa … C’est l’histoire d’une jeune femme qui voyage pour rendre visite à sa correspondante après 2 ans d’échange de lettres, avec un visa de tourisme (donc 90 jours maxi).

Sauf qu’à son arrivée, Sara découvre qu’Amy a eu le mauvais goût de mourir. Elle arrive « juste à l’heure » pour les funérailles, puis se retrouve invitée par le reste du village à rester dans la maison d’Amy. Et voilà comment l’histoire se met en place.

Je ne vous raconterai pas la fin … J’aimerais trop que vous la lisiez. Mais je peux vous raconter comment cette suédoise se cachait derrière une multitude de bons romans. Ses amis étaient les personnages. Et elle rêvait de devenir l’un deux, un second rôle. Et puis elle a atterri dans ce village et une tornade a traversé sa vie. Le fait est qu’elle est l’invitée du village qui lui offre le gite, le couvert et la bière … Afin de payer en retour ce village qui refuse son argent, elle décide d’ouvrir une librairie avec les livres de sa défunte correspondante. Attention hein, elle ne travaille pas ! Elle aide … (Je croirais m’entendre pendant mes semaines de touriste). Cependant cette librairie est la tornade qui traverse la vie du village. Les habitants vont se fédérer, chacun à leur façon, autour de ce projet complètement fou d’une librairie dans un petit village déserté et au bord de l’agonie …

L’histoire est saupoudrée de romans, bons amis lus ou à lire. Il est saupoudré de sensations, de sentiments d’une femme qui trouve un nouveau foyer alors qu’elle doit repartir 90 jours plus tard. Vous comprenez maintenant pourquoi ce livre m’a accompagnée ! Et en plus la fin est belle.

Aller zou ! Je vous laisse. Ma prochaine lecture est plus professionnelle, je vous en parle bientôt.

La grenouille immigrée !

 

Sound Reporting – Jonathan Kern

9780226431789Howdy y’all!

Before I left the US, I just finished Sound Reporting, written by Jonathan Kern. It took me quite a while to finish it, because it is very complete.
There are some chapters about how to make a « piece » of a few seconds to eight minutes, the kind of report you could listen on « All Things considered. » It’s a goldmine for beginners: write before you say, write as you would speak, how to record on the field, etc.

Then the author explains how to make an entire show, like on NPR. How to edit it, how to host it, how to manage the technical problems… And finally, you could one day be « beyond » the radio, like by having a community on social media, or by having your radio on internet.

So what ? Do you listen to the radio ? I try to listen to NPR when in the US, but it’s hard for me to do something else on the same time, either because of troubling noises (like washing dishes for example), either because I can’t concentrate on two things at the same time. But when I do listen to NPR, I find it « dry. » The hosts speak all the same way, and when it’s a talk-show, there is no music. « If you want music, there are music radio elsewhere, » was I told once…

When in France, I try to listen to France Inter. The public French radio is composed of several channels. France Culture would be the equivalent of NPR, France Musique broadcasts classical music and jazz, France Info is a continuous news channel… And France Inter is a mix of the others, with a touch of pop music.

But one show is not just news reports, or music. It’s generally a well-dosed mix. And there are some interviews of half an hour or three quarters. I used to listen France Inter all the day long during my studies. I had some voice-friends: at 4pm Frederic Lodeon and all his stories about classical music. At 5pm Daniel Mermet, from « Là-bas si j’y suis » (There if I am  there), about people, places, social initiatives. During the summer, « Dernier parking avant la plage » (Last parking lot before the beach) with some crime novel readings by Sophie Loubière. They all accompanied me during anatomy and physiology lessons, in my room in Strasbourg, as a medical student.

I wish I could find such a friend-voice in the US… I wish I could become such a friend-voice one day… Let’s see what’s next in the story!

And you? Do you have any experience with radio listening? Please tell me…

True Grit

Howdy y’all !51ecVhv3ltL._AA160_

Every year, in April, Dallas Public Library promote the reading of one book, the same for everybody. This year, it is « True Grit », and I was given one book. I wrote a report for my reading club for English as a second language speaker. It has already been published on their blog (dplread.blogspot.com). Because I’m sometimes a bit lazy, here it is.

When I asked my husband what means “grit”, he looked at me, showed me his teeth and made a sound like “Argh”. I asked that question before reading the book, and the answer was surprising, and not very much enlightening.

“People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day.” This is the beginning of the novel. A long and dry sentence, like several parts of the book.

Mattie Ross, the fourteen-year-old girl, is chasing Tom Chaney, her father’s murderer, through Arkansas and Texas. She’s looking for somebody with true grit to go with her. I had a hard time to begin the book, because the story goes very slow … Find someone with true grit, then meet him at the court (after retranscribing a long part of one trial…), discussing the price to go, finding a horse …

But at one point, they ride on their horses and the real story begins. Guns fire at every riverbank or every hill, toward different bandits. Bandit seems to be a job, with values, but very mortal… Then, it was hard to leave the book until the end, the suspense was important.

I had a journey through the Wild West, on a black pony. First Mattie sounds like a naive girl, but with no fear… Progressively, her character gets more profound, more intense. She eventually become human when she shows her fears at the end, even if that doesn’t stop her to go on… With justice.

After reading the book, we watched the movie (the original one, with John Wayne). And that confirms that I’m not fond with the “cow boys movies” as we say in French… But despite that, that book trapped me. A classic, indeed.

I hope that my next book report will be about « sound reporting » … I hope there are things coming. I’ll you soon.

A bientôt,

The Frog…

To kill a mockingbird

Howdy y’all !

I just finished the Harper Lee’s book « To kill a mockingbird ». It was written in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. It was precisely the time of the first protests of Black students against segregation.

to kill a mockingbird

This novel takes place where it was written, in Alabama. Scout, an 8 year old girl, explains that summer with her brother Jem and her friend Dill. She describes with her little girl’s eyes the trial of a black man accused of the rape of a white 19 year old white girl. Her father is the court-appointed lawyer of the black guy. This is the story of a girl discovering the human feelings like love and hate, but also the weird polite behavior of the white middle class towards the black population of the town, as well as the hostility of the poor whites towards the same black population. I was completely taken in by the warm ambiance of Alabama, the children playing, the adults working and sweating.

« I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. » That sentence from chapter 10 gives the title to the novel.  It summarizes all the book in one sentence. The father tells his children how they can use their new air-rifle. Bluejays and mockingbirds are birds (I’ve picked some YouTube videos for the non-American or non-naturalist who don’t know those birds), but they are also people or feelings …

It’s a profound book that I recommend to everyone.

The reading frog.

 

The Great Divorce – by C.S. Lewis

Good morning y’all !!

I finally finished that book by C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce. I say finally because every single word I didn’t know, I looked for it in the dictionary. And it’s 20 pages of my small notebook… But I’m cheating, there are some words I looked 3 or 4 times for… I will let you guess which ones…

The Great Divorce sur marbre

Here’s the summary. It’s the story of C.S. Lewis (he says « I ») in a strange world. At the beginning he is queuing to take a bus. During that time he discovers « the grey town ». A place where you can get everything material you need or want, but where people are quarrelsome. So you are often lonely. In that city, it’s an everlasting after-sunset gray light.
Some people renounce to take the bus, but Lewis eventually takes it. The journey with other people from a gray light to a radiant blue light is the instant to whimper about the gray town and its rules. It’s also the moment to be afraid of what’s coming: a bright land where everything is tough and so heavy that you couldn’t bear a leaf…
At the arrival, some people from the bus, who in fact are transparent as Ghosts, meet Spirits from that luminous land. But many of them experience the meeting with someone they knew on Earth and don’t want to see anymore. It becomes hard to repent and believe the joy you can see when that’s asked by a friend of yours that you call a murderer. It’s hard to « just » believe when you used to be a Protestant earthman and to like discussing the Bible … One woman is asked to renounce « taking in charge » her husband in Heaven (that means renounce trying to change her husband’s way of life). To « go to Heaven »,  you need to change, you need to trust, you need to be yourself, as the man who was acting during his life, represented as a Tragedian character clutched through a chain by a Dwarf, and who disappears when he doesn’t renounce his tragic appearance …
This fable is about the discovery of Heaven,  a wonderful land with plain joy and mirth, but where you change and leave grumbling and whining, lust, jealousy in the grey town, which is finally a very small place in the crackles of  Heaven’s ground.

I liked very much this book. Because ideas are not given dry nor complicated. They are given as fables, like stories for the child I am. I discovered a wonderful land, with deep colors as crimson, radiant blue or golden apples, with flowers as heather and hawthorn, covered with dew. I also went through the different human characters (and characteristic sounds): grumbling, whimpering, whining, sulkily, wicked, but also mirth, joy, in love and mere.

I looked on Wikipedia about The great divorce, and I learned that the original title was « Who goes home? ». That’s interesting when you read about people who created their own Hell on Earth. You choose your home as you can choose to truly love and to be happy before the death.

And you? Did you read The Great Divorce? Would you recommend me another reading?

The reading Frog

 

Le liseur du 6h27

Bonjour à toutes et à tous,

J’aimerais bous parler d’un nouveau livre aujourd’hui.

Il s’agit de « Le Liseur du 6h27 » de Jean-Paul Didierlaurent. Je vous parle d’abord de l’auteur. Il s’agit de son premier roman, après plusieurs nouvelles, dont 2 ont reçu le prix international Hemingway. Ecrivain originaire et vivant dans les Vosges, notre librairie locale a mis en avant ce roman « lorrain », publié « Au Diable Vauvert »

Pourtant il n’a rien à voir avec la Lorraine. Il se passe en banlieue parisienne. Là où les gens regardent leurs pieds, les écouteurs fichés dans leurs oreilles. Guylain Vignolles travaille comme opérateur d’une machine à détruire les livres (la Zerstor). Et chaque jour d’un travail harassant, il survit en sauvant quelques pages de l’oubli. Une fois récupérées, il lira ces pages dans le RER de 6h27 … C’est son acte de résistance dans la vie.le liseur du 6h27

J’ai dévoré ce roman en 2 jours. J’ai adoré imaginer le RER du matin, avec les gens groguis, qui écoutent néanmoins ce curieux lecteur. Un peu comme ces quelques chauffeurs de métro ou de RER qui vous parlent pour vous dire autre chose que « notre train est stationné en pleine voix pour une durée indéterminée ». Ceux qui vous souhaitent une bonne soirée au terminus, où celui qui m’a fait la visite guidée de l’Essonne sur la ligne D du RER …

Evidemment l’histoire ne s’arrête pas là. C’est l’histoire de rencontres … De partages de mots, de pensées, de lectures.

Aux anglophones qui me liraient grâce à Google translate, j’espère qu’il sera un jour traduit en anglais pour vous. Aux francophones de France, n’hésitez pas à choisir ce livre pour vous redonner un peu d’espoir dans un monde de brutes.

 

Une citation pour vous :

« Alors que le wagon s’ébranlait, il tira de la serviette de cuir qui ne le quittait jamais la chemise cartonnée. Il l’entrouvrit avec précaution et exhuma d’entre les deux buvards rose bonbon qui s’y trouvaient un premier feuillet. La pelure à demi déchirée et rognée dans son angle supérieur gauche pendouillait entre ses doigts. C’était une page de livre, format 13X20. Le jeune homme l’examina un temps avant de la reposer sur le papier buvard. Peu à peu, le silence se fit dans la rame. Parfois des « chut » réprobateurs retentissaient pour faire taire les quelques conversations qui peinaient à s’éteindre. Alors, comme tous les matins, après un dernier raclement de gorge, Guylain se mit à lire à haute voix : »

 

A grief observed by C.S. Lewis

Even from France, I try to keep practicing my English.

Last month I read “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis. For people like me who don’t know very much about theology, he is the author of “The chronicles of Narnia” (Les mondes de Narnia). But he also wrote different theological books, as he became a Christian during his life. He also loved his wife lately but deeply, until she died of cancer (my good old friend “cancer”).

After he died, he wrote what he felt in notebooks. The first sensations were the symptoms of fear but without being afraid, associated with the feeling that everything is too much to do. Meanwhile he is asking the role of God. Could He be so absent? That is a question I find hard to ask. Who dares to express angriness against God while believing in Him? I never did… Maybe I doubted His being, sometimes.

He inquires into life after death … What’s the life of a dead person? Is it through the remembrance by the living relatives, with the fact that all remembrance can be distorted with time? Is it just an end, with a rotten body in a grave? Is it a very comfortable place near God? Are the dead people as sad as the living ones being separate from each other?

The pain sounds intolerable at the beginning. Eventually it lessens, but remains, as a scar. Progressively, he’s afraid to forget. To forget his love for his wife, to forget the memories. It’s like if she’s dying another time…

But finally there can be a kind of peace in these feelings…

C.S. Lewis says it’s about him, his wife and God, in that order …

a grief observed

This book made me remember my classes about the end of life in Medical School. They taught us the 5 stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the depression and eventually the acceptance). But nobody told us anything about faith during the grief process.

Because I live in France, because we have the “laïcité”, we barely talk about religion in the public space. And as a Doctor with my white gown, I never bring faith up for discussion … And I think that it’s something I missed when I worked regularly with dying people.

Who cares about Doctors grieving their patients? How do the other doctors deal with the loss of their patients? If anybody knows, tell me.

Many stages of my life began with a grief of someone or something. Understanding doesn’t make it easier, but I guess that for my next loss, I’ll go back to C.S. Lewis. Because he shares something very important that all of us will unfortunately experience one day… And sharing is so important to get better. That’s why I share with you my reading, and that’s why I would be happy for you to share your comments.

 

Une semaine à Paris

Bonjour à toutes et à tous,

Quoi de mieux que de vous raconter cette semaine en amoureux à Paris pour exercer ma liberté d’expression ? Quoi de mieux qu’un voyage en terre cosmopolite parisienne pour exercer ma plume ?

Avec la venue en France de mon américain de Julot, nous avons décidé de retourner dans notre région de rencontre pour passer du bon temps, revoir nos amis (à tous le bonjour !!). Je ne vous raconterai pas toutes les rencontres amicales, mais quelques points forts de notre semaine.

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Nous avons visité une exposition sur la liberté d’expression par la contrainte, j’ai nommé « OULIPO, la littérature en jeux, à l’Arsenal« . L’entrée est décorée par Tito Honegger.

oulipo1Photo pillée sur le site de l’Oulipo à propos de Tito Honegger

 

L’OULIPO, c’est l’Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, fondé par Raymond Queneau et François le Lionnais en 1960. Le principe est de créer un Ouvroir, c’est à dire un atelier, pour explorer la littérature potentielle. Potentielle parce que la littérature n’a pas de limite, elle a seulement des contraints. Par contrainte on entend des règles, parfois compliquées, mais parfois simples. Par exemple : choisir de ne pas utiliser la lettre E (ce qui s’appelle un lipogramme). Georges Perec en a écrit tout un roman intitulé « La Disparition ». Et je voudrais saluer la traduction anglaise intitulée « A Void » par Gilbert Adair. Les contraintes sont répertoriées par ici, avec toute la poésie que ça évoque.

Comme exemple, je vous propose la Rime berrychone, par Harry Mathews (tirée du site www.oulipo.net)

Berrychonne (avec y) : origine les Dream Songs de John Berryman.

Fonctionne sur trois vers : les deux premiers vers ne riment pas, mais la fin du troisième vers est composée à partir de la consonne de l’un et la voyelle (ou élément vocalique : ou, on, etc) de l’autre.

La scène est sur la scène et la scène était vide,
un espace quelconque où tout se déroula,
se déroule et viendra. Pour l’heure il s’en évade.
(JJ)

J’ai choisi celle-ci, qui est proposée par un membre américain de l’Oulipo. D’autres règles ont un côté franchement mathématique. Alors autant vous dire qu’un mathématicien américain et une rêveuse française s’y sont beaucoup plus.

Pour ceux qui voudraient y aller, c’est jusqu’au 15 février 2015 à la Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal.

 

Un autre grand moment de cette semaine a été le visionnage du film Un Américain à Paris, de 1951, en Technicolor.

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Le film raconte l’histoire d’un peintre américain (Gene Kelly), installé à Montmartre, qui tombe amoureux de Lise (Leslie Caron). Dans le même temps, une riche héritière (qui n’a même pas de nom, jouée par Susan Cummings) s’éprend de lui et le soudoie en finançant son art. Je vous la fais courte…
En fan de swing que je suis, j’aime voir Gene Kelly danser et chanter dans les rues de Paris. J’aime aussi reconnaître des peintures célèbres dans les décors du final du film.

I got music, I got rhythm. Who can ask for anything more ?

Le dernier point fort de notre semaine a été la traversée du 5ème arrondissement, avec arrivée jusqu’à la Grande Mosquée de Paris. Nous y étions le 3 janvier, et c’est tombé le jour de la fête d’Al Mawlid Annabawi.
Je fais genre celle qui connaît, mais c’est à l’écriture de cet article que j’ai appris que c’est la fête de la naissance du prophète Mahomet (merci Wikipedia !)
Nous ne sommes pas seulement rentrés dans un lieu de culte, mais nous sommes également rentrés dans une communauté, avec des conférences, des chants. La fête quoi !

 

mosquee2La cour d’honneur

 

mosquee3Inspiré des jardins hispano-mauresques d’Afrique du Nord, l’impression de voyager en terre étrangère à l’intérieur de Paris

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La cour d’honneur (encore)

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Une fontaine dans le jardin … Avec quelques degrés en plus, nous serions bien restés là à rêver plus longtemps

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Le grand patio où se tient l’assemblée, richement décoré

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Un détail de stuc, de calligraphie et de mosaïque

Je vous montre cette mosquée plutôt que les églises que nous avons vues en raison des événements récents. Parce que j’ai vu une communauté pacifiste (les quelques mots de l’Imam que j’ai compris racontaient comment le Prophète est resté pacifique malgré les provocations). Parce que je suis croyante et que le mot Fraternité m’est également très important.

C’était une belle semaine de vacances. D’ouverture sur d’autres horizons. De rêveries éveillées. Nous avons fêté la nouvelle année en tête à tête avec mon Julot. Et  2015 sera riche.

Aller, je vous embrasse,

La Grenouille française dans son pays …