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Any recommendations for French authors to read?


Phil & Pat

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Having made the decision to read more in French and joined the local library I am looking for recommendations for French authors who are not too demanding on my level of the language.  So far I have got on well with Pagnol (read all his novels, not too keen on reading plays) and with Simenon (now looking for a change of genre).  Having tried a couple of  modern writers I have found they use too many obscure words and phrases meaning that I have to keep referring to the dictionary which spoils the enjoyment a little.

Can anyone please suggest authors using the language at the same kind of level as Pagnol and Simenon?  I find that most of their unknown words and phrases can be guessed from the context allowing me to read through to the end of a chapter with a reasonable level of comprehension, leaving the dictionary work until the end.

As to subject, anything at all at the moment.  The intention is to read to improve my spoken French, not  really for the enjoyment of the reading itself.

One last thought, how about English/American authors in translation?  A good way to improve spoken French or not?

Thanks,

Phil.

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I've always found it's good to read translations of books you're familiar with - especially when you start off.  If you know the plot, it stops you looking up the words you don't know, and you just pick them up from the context - much easier to get the flow of the thing, and I personally found I absorbed new words as a result.  I started with people like Dick Francis and Ruth Rendell - lots of French translations available.

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It may not be everyone's cup of tea but, when I'm learning a new language, I start with the bible.  That's because I have grown up with it (and no, I'm no longer religious) and I practically know all the well known bits by heart.  For example, I have bought the French version of the new testament and, because I know Luke best of all, I have started with Luke in "Les Quatre Evangiles"

Then there are things like the 23rd psalm:  For everything there is a season......etc, etc.

At the moment I am reading Aesop's fables in French as interpreted by Jean de la Fontaine.  Nothing like memorising something like "Le corbeau et le renard" about the crow and the cheese to really get the learning juices flowing.

Don't know if any of this is helpful but I grew up with traditional schooling! 

 

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I once asked this question on another forum and someone suggested the stories of Guy de Maupassant. Partly because they're short and self contained. I've also read some books about the Resistance which are very dramatic , and I prefer non-fiction. Also french local history - you will find examples in the tabac/newsagents.
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I understand the suggestion of reading a familiar author but wouldn't myself have the commitment to read a book a second time to learn French phrases.

What works for me is to read on a subject that I find absolutely fascinating or have a real thirst for more knowledge of, this keeps me motivated and reading.

I am currently reading the French translated "Les isles heureuses d'Océanie" by Paul Theroux and have been for a long time, I read at night as I dont usually sleep well, in the past if a book (in English) was really interesting I would often not sleep at all for many hours or would wake up and read again in the middle of the night.

This bad sleep pattern has been totally cured since I started reading French books, it strains the grey matter to such a degree that after a few pages I sleep right through.

Today I got through the post from my belle mêre a copy of "Birdsong" by Sabastien Faulks which should be interesting as it is set in my area during WW1, however I am going to give it to my French teacher to read and try to buy a French copy if it exists.

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J.R. has hit the nail right on the head : read a book about something you are very interested in, even a fiction book can fit the bill.

Here are a few books which seemed to be liked by some advanced French students:

"Le bonheur est dans le pre" by Pierre Bonte (Livre de Poche) - some short interviews of ordinary bur remarkable people (often very rural) leading ordinary but remarkable lives, all of them very happy about their lives.

"Grenadou, paysan francais" by Ephraim Grenado, Alain Prevost (Points) - something similar, published in 1966. Again, an interview book.

"Histoires extraordinaires de la Resistance" by Paul Dreyfus (Livre de Poche) - self-explanatory

"L'enfant" by Jules Valles. Written in autobiographical mode by an unhappy child, also split into self-contained chapters, some saw it as an attack on the family.

Happy reading, all!

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Sweet 17

On another post you were asking whether it is still possible to lose your mother tongue these days.

As an example last night I was desperately searching for a word to put in my posting and it wouldnt come, I kept thinking of sleep apnae, narcolepsy and several others, until I read your post this morning with "insomnia"!

I rest my case[:)]

In my case I have had close to total immersion for 2 years as I live on my own and hence am not speaking English to a partner, apart from writing on this forum I converse in English maybe twice a week.

Editted

I also gave up English TV 4 months ago after being hospitalised and forced to watch French TV which surprise surprise I really liked. In hindsight (once again I struggled to find the english word for retrovision) I wish I had given it up long before or never started watching it.

Sky TV is a major contributing factor to the number of English immigrants who never learn the language.

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JR

I will not be so ill-mannered as to ask you what charming and (possibly mature) age you have reached.  But, I do think that some of your description of not being able to remember words certainly comes from getting older.

Sometimes, I have to describe something using 3, 4 or more sentences and yet, the word itself will elude me!  I find this profoundly annoying and I get very cross with myself when that happens.

I'm quite convinced that you can get more fluent and comfortable in a tongue other than your mother tongue.  If a person lived in, say, France long enough and, like you, got little chance to speak their own tongue, then I can easily conceive of a time when they would feel more "natural" speaking French than English.

One other thing that does interest me is that of accent.  Because I have lived in different parts of the UK, I have found myself speaking more like the people that I lived and worked with, whichever part of the UK that happened to be.  For example, because the last place I lived in was South Wales, I often meet people who tell me that I sound a bit Welsh!  I find that very strange (and alarming) indeed as I don't think that I have ever consciously adopted a Welsh accent.

Now I am in France, many French people have complimented me on my French accent.  Mind you, I don't think I speak particularly well.  It's just that where we live, to find a Brit that speaks more than a few words of French is as rare as finding a truffle in your back garden!

Kind regards, JR, and thank you for a thought-provoking post.

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J'ai quarante huit ans, mais je préfére dire <quarante ans> et marmotter <hors taxes>[:D]

In French I am quite used to having to use a sentence to describe the word I am seeking, people are quite understanding and will usually tell me what it is.

The problem that I have is that I do this more and more when speaking English, and because I have always been fairly erudite and the friends that I speak to have even less understanding of learning a second language than most of the French I encounter, they think that I am going senile. Which I probably would be (like them!) without the challenge of a new life in a new country.

I will have my biggest ever challenge this weekend, if it works out as I hope I will report on it, if not I won't as I would be too embarrassed[:)]

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Why, JR, you are a mere sapling, a spring chicken, what have you! 

I do what you have just described when I am stretching myself in French.  Went to the Bricolage place when we first came (last April) and asked for a door-stop.  Because I didn't know the word, I asked for something that stops the door banging on the wall.  I think I was told it was called a "buttoire" but the French people on the forum will tell me whether I heard right!

I await to hear news of your biggest challenge.  Keep telling yourself you will sail through it and you will!  I am a great believer in the power of positive thought.  Good luck.

PS.  Like you, we also came for the challenge and to expand our lives in retirement.

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The bible is strange and very hard going in French. I want the King James English version read at my cremation despite a firm conviction that God if he or she exists speaks and read Aramaic. Not mad on Jules Verne but if you like hard SF then he can be a good read. Chester Hymes and James Baldwin despite their roots are good fun in French if you know their books in Amerenglish.

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Well, Anton, if you're going to have the King James bible, I think I might be allowed Shakespeare?

Anyone know of any good books (simplified, abridged possibly) with parallel texts.  When I was learning Italian, I found such books very useful and enjoyable.

Mind you, if it's Camus, don't bother to tell me.  I find him particularly difficult; must be my bird brain or my grasshopper mind (as my OH would have it)!

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[quote user="cooperlola"]I've always found it's good to read translations of books you're familiar with - especially when you start off.  If you know the plot, it stops you looking up the words you don't know, and you just pick them up from the context - much easier to get the flow of the thing, and I personally found I absorbed new words as a result. [/quote]

Wholeheartedly agree with cooperlola on this one.  I am currently reading Le seigneur des anneau (Lord of the Rings), as I have read it circa 20 times( in English) since having first discovered it as a teenager.  It means you can just relax as you are reading, and only have to look up the occasional word.  It is also interesting for spotting the occasional idiom.  At first I was reading it really slowly, but my pace is picking up now.  The wierdest thing is the fact that all the names were translated, and being so familiar, that took some getting used to[8-)].

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  • 3 weeks later...
My friend's hypothesis is that, because Henri Troyat is not a native French speaker, his written French is easier to understand than that of a native French speaker, presumably because he may not have as full a command of the complexities of the language, idioms etc as a native and so, as a result, he writes in a simpler style.  Obviously, this is only one person's opinion but it sounds plausible to me. 
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I'm reading Plus Tard Tu Comprendras by Jerome Clement at the moment.  I already know the outline of the story, as it revolves around the Jewish families that were taken in during the war and hidden by people in the the Lot.  Some of these were later betrayed, and killed.

It's a good read, and the author is also the chairman of Arte TV.  He came here a few months ago to present the legion of honour medal to one of the people that took in and sheltered a Jewish family.  A lot of people around here are very secretive or reticent about what went on during the war, and it's fascinating to get an insight.

 

 

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[quote user="crépuscule"]My friend's hypothesis is that, because Henri Troyat is not a native French speaker, his written French is easier to understand than that of a native French speaker, presumably because he may not have as full a command of the complexities of the language, idioms etc and so, as a result, he writes in a simpler style.  Obviously, this is only one person's opinion but it sounds plausible to me. [/quote]

I can see the logic of the thought.

Bear in mind that Troyat emigrated to France as a child, so he is not a native speaker, but the fact that he was a member of the Académie française, which oversees everything concerning the use of the French language makes me think that he may well have had as "full a command of the complexities of the language, idioms etc as a native "...
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