Summer Reading

It is raining, the first in over a week, but unlike the past month, today's rain was an all-day affair and cold! It has been cold enough the last couple of days that I do not venture out without donning at least a sweater, usually two, plus a jacket. As I march down the street at a brisk pace, hoping to warm up, I notice the people around me in spring-like skirts, t-shirts, and light jackets, and wonder if I am coming down with something. I have spent sub-freezing evenings in Truckee (California, by Lake Tahoe) shoveling snow from the driveway dressed in my long underwear, proof that I am not rendered entirely useless in the cold, but the mountains are a bit more arid. The cold here is similar to the Bay Area in that it tends to be humid as well, and the moisture seems to conduct the cold deeper into my body.

This weekend celebrates the L'été du Livre (summer of the book) in Metz, and there is a huge tent filled with books, their authors at the ready to speak with attendees and sign copies of their work. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, I might add, to read Le Parfum (the French translation of Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind). The vocabulary is more than a bit beyond me to try to parse out meaning as I go. So I headed up to the book sale to see if I could find an English translation so I could read them side-by-side, or another book in French that would be easier for me to get through. I wandered through the whole tent once, scanning covers only, to get an idea of what was there. I love history and socio-political commentary, and a few titles caught my eye, but I didn't want to bog myself down in those yet.

She is in my Metz Events album.

On my second pass, I stopped at the table of Zaz, whose books are produced by a small printer in the little town of Sarreguemines (I stayed there last November at Auberge St Walfrid, beautiful rooms, excellent food, highly recommend it). She had a book, Mémoires d'un Labrador, with a photo of a black lab leaning on a bed, paw held up as if wanting to shake hands. All of my dogs growing up, with the exception of one sheltie, were black labs. Of course I bought a copy! I skimmed through the first two chapters, and it looks to be an amusing read.

Zaz's links:

Mabrouck Rachedi
Also in the Metz Events album
I continued through the tent, and a man began speaking to me in what seemed to me to be rapid-fire French! I panicked and my brain froze. I picked up one word ... three. It is probably good that someone who works with numbers for a living can recognize them in more than one language. But in this case, it didn't help at all. I asked in my broken French to repeat what he said more slowly, and he said in English:

This is the third time you have passed by, which means that you must really want to read my book!

I was pretty sure I had only been through the tent twice, but I guess it was possible I had ventured down that particular aisle three times. I told him I needed a relatively easy read, because my French vocabulary is limited. His name is Mabrouck Rachedi -- Click here for his Myspace page -- and he assured me that his book, Le petit Malik, would be a perfect read for someone just learning French. If someone makes the effort to speak with me out of the blue, and yes, use one of the oldest sales tactics on earth in making what he has seem to fill my needs, I am more open to what he has to say. Of course I bought a copy of his book! I skimmed through the first chapter at lunch, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not need my dictionary to get the gist and was able to figure out most of the new words based on context. So far, it seems a bittersweet tale, although I have only been introduced to one of three main characters.

By the way, Mabrouck has been invited to attend what I think is a writer's workshop at the University of Iowa. Iowa is not exactly one of the more exciting places to visit in the world, but I hope he is able to go, as it seems he will have the opportunity to network with other writers from around the world.
Another man offered to make a little watercolor painting on a card for me as I passed by. His name is Eban, and his books are collections of his paintings and poems. He is from Vietnam, lives in France and has family in the US and Switzerland. I am ashamed to say I did not buy one of his books, although I like his work. I was on a mission to find books that would help improve my fluency in French, and when I am on a mission, I can be pretty focused. If you are of Japanese heritage, his books make nice omiage (hostess gifts, I think is the best English translation) when visiting someone's home.
I saw Veronique, the docent from the museum (she actually works at the library, I found out), who led me through one of the exhibits so she could translate for me today, as well. This time I remembered to give her the URL to my blog.
Learning to make ratatouille tonight... will report back!


  1. Clever and funny, your blog is excellent !


  2. Bonjour, Mabrouck - merci pour la visite!