Inspiring Words From a French Poet: Rene Char
Last month I was at the school office waiting for my parent-teacher meeting. It was a long wait as the school decided to do all the parent-teacher meetings this year at the same time in 15-minute intervals. I bet you can already see where I’m going – yes, a long wait.
There was one magazine on the table beside me and the name didn’t actually appeal to me: 84 Magazine of the Department. France is composed of “departments” each with their own number (94 in total) – a bit like counties in the States. The one I live in is called Vaucluse and has the number 84. Out of boredom, I picked it up and suddenly got excited. The whole edition, which is normally dedicated to regional business and politics, was filled with 84 Reasons To Love Provence!
One day during the Christmas break, I sat down, exhausted from cooking, and picked the magazine back up. I found what I wanted to use as my New Year’s greeting. Number 84 – a quote by René Char (French poet):
“Impose ta chance, serre ton Bonheur et va vers ton risque”
Trust firmly in your luck, cling to your happiness, and dare to take risks.
Rene Char was born in Isle Sur La Sorgue in 1907 (which many of you may know for its extensive antique market). He went to school in Avignon (there’s a high school named after him), was involved in the French Resistance (came back to Provence from Paris in 1940) and later was a militant anti-nuclear protester. His close friend Albert Camus considered him the greatest after-war poet (which coming from Camus is consider an utmost honor).
Now, before I get back to Char, let me introduce you to a book: Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard. Just recently published (2015), this book is a combination of recipes and tales of Provencal life. What’s the connection? Rene Char could well be the spark of this book in a roundabout way.
During the Resistance, Char was in Provence (active in the movement) and settled (more or less) for a time in a town called Cereste. Char never published works during the Occupation but he did write. He hid what he wrote in a house in Cereste. If you are intrigued about this story please visit Elizabeth’s blog that recounts her story of visiting the exact place where the manuscripts were hidden – and then buying the house!