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Questions tagged [french-language]

Questions about works of literature which were originally written in the French language, regardless whether they were written or published in France or elsewhere.

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What are the "eighteen methods of arranging Minerva's tresses"?

In Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, Jean Passepartout, Phileas Fogg's new servant, is introduced. We're given a description, which includes a descrption of his hair: As for Jean, also known ...
Mithical's user avatar
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22 votes
6 answers
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How is 11:22 four minutes slow if it's actually 11:29?

In the first chapter of Around the World in 80 Days, Phileas Fogg meets Jean Passepartout, his new servant, and they introduce themselves. As part of this, Fogg asks Jean what time it is: “...
Mithical's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
93 views

What's the meaning of this sentence from "L'enfant noir" by Camera Laye?

I'm reading Camara Laye's novel L'enfant noir, translated in English as The African Child or The Dark Child. At the end of chapter 5, one can read: Mais le monde bouge, le monde change, et le mien ...
Charo's user avatar
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4 votes
2 answers
135 views

Which saying or proverb is Stendhal referring to in this passage from "Le rouge et le noir"?

The following passage from chapter XVI of Book I of the novel Le rouge et le noir (The Red and the Black) by Stendhal refers to "un dicton de province", that is, at some kind of saying or ...
Charo's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
331 views

Where in "À la recherche du temps perdu" does the main character indicate that he would be named after the author?

Over the years, people have asked me whether the main character of Remembrance of Things Past has a name. It is some forty years since I read it. I thought I read somewhere in the three volumes that ...
Gerry1234's user avatar
3 votes
0 answers
62 views

A quotation by Jean Bernard

Jean Bernard [1907-2006] was a famous French medical doctor, also a University Professor and a researcher. He was a member of the Académie Française and wrote several books, both on scientific topics ...
Bazin's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
2k views

What is the source of this cheesy quote?

Many years ago, I came across this quote regarding Switzerland: Quelle pays sanguinaire, même le fromage est plein de trous. What a bloody country, even the cheese is full of holes. I seem to ...
verbose's user avatar
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9 votes
4 answers
1k views

When or where did Gustave Flaubert say that Alexander Pushkin's work was "dull"?

Tommaso Landolfi wrote that Flaubert, speaking about Pushkin, told to Ivan Turgenev: "Il est plat, votre poète." What are the sources? (plat, per Dictionnaire Le Robert, figuratively refers ...
Bruno's user avatar
  • 193
5 votes
1 answer
268 views

What is going on with Edmée's marriage settlement?

In Colette's Chéri, I do not understand what is going on with the marriage settlement. The eponymous hero reports to his lover, Léa, that his fianceé's mother, Marie-Laure, had wanted Chéri and her ...
verbose's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
314 views

Why is the eponymous Chéri exoticized in colonialist terms?

TW: Quotations from the original and the translation include racially insensitive terms. In Colette's Chéri, shortly after the ageing courtesan Léa has taken the eponymous teenager as a lover, she is ...
verbose's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
953 views

Did Voltaire say, "I’m not a believer, but I prefer my barber to be a Christian"?

I've been haunted by a quote from my teenage years that goes something like, "I’m not a believer, but I prefer my barber to be a Christian, even more when he’s using his razor on my neck." ...
alexmolas's user avatar
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32 votes
1 answer
11k views

Why did Alexandre Dumas use Greek names for the three musketeers?

In the 1844 novel The Three Musketeers by French novelist Alexandre Dumas there are three musketeers who are named Aramis, Athos, and Porthos. But they are French. Why did Alexandre Dumas choose Greek ...
Snack Exchange's user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why did Dantès have to be imprisoned?

The text of The Count of Monte Cristo states multiple times that Villefort must imprison the innocent Dantès in order to fulfill his ambition. This ambition is realized in his gaining an audience with ...
Devsman's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
194 views

Seeming contradiction in 'Absurdity and Suicide' (The Myth of Sisyphus)

From the section "An Absurd Reasoning: Absurdity and Suicide" of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus: I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions. How to ...
user392289's user avatar
6 votes
0 answers
172 views

Reference to Novalis in Ghérasim Luca's poem "La Poésie Pratique"

Ghérasim Luca's poem "La Poésie Pratique" / "Practical Poetry" contains the following lines: En pratiquant le bouche à bouche de mot à mot de « feu » le mort à « feu » vif d' « ...
Le Petit Nicolas's user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
5k views

Contrasting depictions of Asians in Tintin

In The Blue Lotus, Tintin talks to Chang about various 'silly' stereotypes held by Westerners. The story is pretty thoughtful in its representation of Asians. But in earlier adventures, Herge drew ...
CDR's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
42 views

What's the significance of the scene where Christine loses Erik's gold ring?

In Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, the ring that Erik had given Christine goes missing: Suddenly Christine changed color. A mortal pallor overspread her features. "Oh heavens!" ...
Mithical's user avatar
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14 votes
2 answers
2k views

Why the smiling devils in Hergé's 'The Broken Ear'?

At the end of The Broken Ear (one of the Tintin adventures), the villains Alonso and Ramón are chased, presumably to hell, by a gaggle of winged, horned, merry devils. It, as far as I can tell, is ...
CDR's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
146 views

Meaning of Proust's "Real life, life at last laid bare and illuminated ... is literature"

Marcel Proust writes in The Past Recaptured (English translation by Andreas Mayor, 1970): Real life, life at last laid bare and illuminated—the only life in consequence which can be said to be really ...
Caleb's user avatar
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20 votes
1 answer
4k views

Censorship of African-American characters in "Tintin in America"

From the Wikipedia page on Tintin in America: For the 1973 edition published in the U.S., the publishers made Hergé remove African-American characters from the book, and redraw them as Whites or ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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19 votes
3 answers
8k views

If Phileas Fogg had a clock that showed the exact date and time, why didn't he realize that he had arrived a day early?

How can it happen that, with a complicated clock which indicated the hours, the minutes, the seconds, the days, the months, and the years in Fogg's room, as we are told in the first chapter of the &...
Laura's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
483 views

Why is Esmeralda still sentenced to death?

In the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame by French author Victor Hugo, Esmeralda is sentenced to death for killing Captain Phoebus. But when you continue reading the novel you'll find out Phoebus is ...
Snack Exchange's user avatar
0 votes
2 answers
78 views

A song in Pierre Martin's "Madame le Commissaire"

In the book "Madame le Commissaire" by Pierre Martin, Isabelle has dinner with her friends. A song by Edith Piaf plays in the background and Isabelle thinks about the meaning of the lyrics. ...
T L's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
29 views

Is there some kind of blossoming towards the existentialist vision in French pre-Romantic poetry?

I remember to have read somewhere, but, unfortunately, I don't remember where, that in certain pre-Romantic French poet one can find some kind of blossoming towards the existentialist vision. Does ...
Charo's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
177 views

What figure of speech is "trèfles de braise" in "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame"?

This is an extract of Book X, chapter IV of Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, emphasis mine): Tous les yeux s'étaient levés vers le haut de l'église. Ce qu'ils ...
Charo's user avatar
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13 votes
1 answer
2k views

Is this a typo in my copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

Nevertheless, as be harangued them, the satisfaction and admiration unanimously excited by his costume were dissipated by his words; Hugo, Victor. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (AmazonClassics Edition) ...
ICD's user avatar
  • 171
2 votes
0 answers
51 views

Reason of scare quotes in a text from Via Mala by John Knittel

Via Mala, John Knittel Il fonda une société. L'évêque de Coire, l'abbé d'Andruss, les barons de Thusis, et quelques paysans qui avaient de l'argent constituèrent un capital, et le capitaine Lauretz ...
LPH's user avatar
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9 votes
2 answers
255 views

Difference between "conte" and "nouvelle" at the time of La Fontaine

One of the works of the French poet Jean de La Fontaine is a collection of stories that's usually known as Contes et nouvelles en vers. It seems to me that this title implies that there was a ...
Charo's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
128 views

Science Fiction version of Queneau's "Exercices de Style"?

I somewhere read there is an "extended" version (I only know the "standard" one which has a German translation) of Queneau's "Exercices de Style". Including an SF version ...
Hauke Reddmann's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
52 views

French children's book with a cat turned into a deer

I'm trying to remember the title of a children's book that I read when I was a kid in the late 90s, in French. The year must have been about 97 or 98, not later than 99-2000. The only thing I can ...
corydalis's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
227 views

Where/what is "C" in Annie Ernaux's short story "Returns"

A girl is going to visit her mother by train. She mentions Motteville and then she talks about her destination that points to as "C": "I travelled there by train. At Motteville, we sat ...
Bahram Farhang's user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
1k views

What does "men of straw" refer to in this passage from an Arsène Lupin story?

The story in question is "Le coffre-fort de madame Imbert" or in English "Madame Imbert's Safe". The passage reads, in the translation I've got: For six months, I have worked on ...
pathOS's user avatar
  • 123
6 votes
1 answer
291 views

Choice of title in Nausea (Sartre)?

Long ago a reader of this book told me that Sartre wanted a word that described something worse than pain (I see in the wikipedia article that the original title was Melancholia) or perhaps some ...
releseabe's user avatar
  • 490
10 votes
2 answers
812 views

Why does de Villefort ask for a letter from Salvieux and not Saint-Méran?

In Le Comte de Monte-Cristo as Villefort begins to enact his plot, he asks the Marquis de Saint-Méran to ask the Comte de Salvieux for a "laissez-passer" to get him in to see the king ...
Tim's user avatar
  • 203
5 votes
1 answer
223 views

How does this fencing game work in the Three Musketeers?

I quote here a paragraph from the Three Musketeers (chapter II, Penguin). I am confused about how the game really works. I checked other translations but found they are not clear as well at least to ...
Ethan's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
3k views

What does 'levee' mean in the Three Musketeers?

What does "levees" mean in this paragraph quoted from The Three Musketeers (chapeter II, Penguin, translated by Richard Pevear)? Checked dictionaries and googled but I am still confused. ...
Ethan's user avatar
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6 votes
0 answers
111 views

How much of “À la recherche du temps perdu” is autobiographical?

To what extent is it an account of Proust's own life? How much is made up? With so much detail (it's thousands of pages long), and knowing a little bit about the life of the author itself, it'd be ...
tripu's user avatar
  • 161
8 votes
2 answers
618 views

What did Lem find in his game-theoretical analysis of the writings of Marquis de Sade?

According to Peter Swirski in Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future (Liverpool University Press, 2015; on Google Books; emphasis mine), The author [Lem] himself eloquently argued on behalf of ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
363 views

What is "epic caesura" in French "chansons de geste"?

I'm reading the book La chanson de geste by Jean Rychner. In a certain passage, the expression "epic caesura" ("césure épique" in the French original) appears, which I don't ...
Charo's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
719 views

Maupassant, "j'ai en effet pour amie Mme Rosset", is this a typo?

One of Maupassant's stories in the Gallimard edition contains the following sentence. Ma chère petite, j'ai en effet pour amie Mme Rosset, que je connais depuis six ans et que j'aime beaucoup; j'...
Jacob Wegelin's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
109 views

Have the lyrics of the Song of Father Dûchene (Chanson du Père Dûchene) been translated into English?

The Song of Father Dûchene (Chanson du Père Dûchene) is an anarchist song written anonymously in France, probably in 1892, and which was famously sung by Ravachol on his way to the guillotine in July ...
user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
386 views

What was Victor Hugo's attitude towards religion, especially referring to a chapter in "Les Miserables"?

I'm reading "Les Miserables", knowing almost nothing about his author, and I'm now approaching Volume II - Book VII - Chapter VI (The absolute goodness of prayer). Here, Hugo is criticizing ...
Fede's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
138 views

What distinguishes Maupassant's style from Flaubert's?

Suppose you were given a passage in French that you had not seen before, written either by Flaubert or Maupassant. Suppose that nothing about the subject matter or vocabulary gives a hint as to its ...
Jacob Wegelin's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
624 views

What did Camus mean by "the odd vegetation of those distant regions" in "The Myth of Sisyphus"?

In his essay 'The Myth of Sisyphus', Albert Camus considers suicide, the "one truly serious philosophical problem", and asks, "is there a logic to the point of death?" Then he ...
Patrick S's user avatar
5 votes
0 answers
60 views

Why is "warm" removed in the translated English title of Eberhardt's "In the Shadow of Islam"?

Isabelle Eberhardt's book Dans l'Ombre Chaude de l'Islam has a title whose direct English translation would be "In the Warm Shadow of Islam". My guess is that the word "chaude", ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
35 views

What is the origin of the third-person descriptive interludes in the Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt?

I've started reading The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt (English translation by Nina de Voogd, edited and annotated by Elizabeth Kershaw). The original was written largely in French, with a few ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
1k views

Why did Urquhart choose "neck of a goose" in his English translation of Gargantua?

In Rabelais' Gargantua, in Chapter 13, we find a discussion on the best means to wipe one's bum. You can find Urquhart's translation here. I am specifically interested in the conclusion: But, to ...
Greg Sadetsky's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
138 views

Why does the Phantom repeatedly mention Carlotta's throat in "The Phantom of the Opera"?

When Erik is monologuing to Christine in his room underneath the Opera, and Raoul and the Persian are trapped in the torture chamber, Erik says this: Meantime, the other had already begun to play the ...
Mithical's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
51 views

What does Erik gain by lying to the Persian about the chandelier?

When the Persion meets Erik on the underground lake, and confronts him about the chandelier, Erik denies any involvement: "Well, the chandelier... the chandelier, Erik?..." "What about ...
Mithical's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
157 views

What does "Oaths are made to catch gulls with" mean?

In The Phantom of the Opera, Erik uses a strange phrase when speaking to the Persian, saying that oaths are useless: "Erik," I asked, "Erik, swear that..." "What?" he ...
Mithical's user avatar
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