On Amplifie Également Le Malheur Et Le Bonheur, Nous Ne Sommes Jamais Ni Si Malheureux, Ni Si Heureux Qu’on Le Dit

Balzac

“He’s reading Balzac, knocking back Prozac, it’s a helping hand that makes you feel wonderfully bland”

The first I’d ever heard of Balzac was in the above song lyrics from the Britpop classic ‘Country House’ by Blur. I loved that song when it came out, but then I loved all things Britpop back in the mid-nineties. ‘Country House’ was the single that beat Oasis’ ‘Roll With It’ to the number one slot, back when people cared about the singles chart. It was the beginning of a faux rivalry between the two that would result in both bands going on to sell lots of records. As a fan of both groups at the time, I loved the whole affair, but it was clearly absolute nonsense. This stuff was in the actual news for goodness sake, and not just the tabloid press, it was the number one story on the BBC news.

I wonder what Balzac would have made of it all. Probably not much. He was French and unlikely to have been overly interested in Britpop. Particularly because it all took place 145 years after his death.

I later came across Balzac when I was studying for my degree in French Studies. There was a significant literary component to my course, so studying Balzac was inevitable. Unfortunately, as I was struggling to master French literacy at the time, reading literature in the language was a little beyond me. I couldn’t find an English translation of the Balzac novel we were supposed to read (Le Colonel Chabert) so I chose to study the other authors on the reading list instead – namely Stendhal and Flaubert, for whom the chosen texts were readily available in English. By the end of the course my French was good enough to have a go at the original texts, but by that stage I’d chosen to specialise in other areas – more of the aforementioned Stendhal (on the basis that I’d already read his stuff) and quite a lot of French theatre, (on the basis that plays are quicker and easier to read than novels).

So I never got around to reading any Balzac. I’m not sure if I missed out too much. Mrs Proclaims has read quite a bit, indeed that is predominantly what she spends most of her time doing these days. We met on our degree course. She was the one who came top of all the classes we were in, whereas I was the one who rolled into the lectures bleary-eyed and hungover most of the time.  She seems to not hate Balzac, but I’m not sure she loves his work, so much as she enjoys the act of studying. We’re very different to each other in that regard.

Maybe one day I’ll read some Balzac. Although, if I’m honest, the Prozac does sound more appealing.

Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 3b: More mendacities on multilingualism

James Proclaims (4)

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So this is the second part of the third part of my series of posts on stuff I used to do. It might help to read ‘the first part of the third part’ for this post to make sense. It may, or may not, help to read parts 1 and 2. Then again, it could be quite optimistic to assume that any of this makes sense.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that it does make sense. If you recall, at the end of the last post (part 3a) I’d just moved to Paris (narratively speaking of course, it was some years ago, in October 2002, that I actually moved to Paris) to begin my degree course in French Studies as a mature (but really not that mature at the age of twenty-three) student.

Starting my course wasn’t easy. Nearly everyone else on my course spoke French better than I did, through a combination of having only just finished their A-levels (whereas I hadn’t spoken French in any capacity for two years) or, in some cases, having French parents (which seemed like cheating to me but who am I to judge?).

The standard of accommodation I could get for my money left something to be desired too. I lived in squalor with a nightmare of a flatmate for the first year and in further squalor with a different but equally nightmarish flatmate for the second year. There’s no time to describe either of them in this post, but I’m certain I’ll circle back to them in future posts. Continue reading Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 3b: More mendacities on multilingualism

Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 3a: A Prevarication On Polyglotism

James Proclaims (4)

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This is the third in my series of missives about how I used to do more stuff than I do right now. This one is about languages. I got quite carried away when I wrote this and even by last week’s standards, (which was a marathon post about marathons) this part was threatening to be too long. So I’ve cleverly split it into two posts, except that, as it was already meant to be the third part of a much longer series, splitting it into two parts and calling them parts 1 and 2 wasn’t going to work. So I’ve adopted the ‘maths textbook’ method of classification and I’m calling this part ‘3a’ and the second part will be ‘3b’. I hope that’s clear enough. I could just learn to self-edit and then I wouldn’t have these problems, but for now this system will have to do.

And so without further ado, let us begin…

In many ways I have all of the hallmarks of a secret agent and international man of mystery.

If nothing else I have the correct initials. For, and this may come as something of a surprise to long-time readers, my name is not James Proclaims. That is a pseudonym I use for the purposes of sharing my inconsequential ideas, meaningless meanderings and witless witterings with the literally tens of readers who visit this blog on a daily basis.

Indeed, my first name isn’t actually James. But lest you abandon this blog in disgust at my fraudulent forename, I should point out that ‘James’ does appear on my birth certificate as my given middle name. And, perhaps more pertinently, ‘James’ is the name most people call me. So it really is my name to all intents and purposes.

But I do have a different legal first name that I never use. It is a name of Indian origin. That fact is possibly pertinent to this post, but more of it later. Its only relevance now is that, like ‘James’ it begins with a ‘J’. And my actual surname begins with a ‘B’.

So my initials are JB. Well JJB if we’re going to be pedantic.

But much as I enjoy a bit of pedantry, now is not the time.

So we’ll dispense with the middle initial and state that my initials are JB.

And, in the world of fictitious spies, having the initials ‘JB’ is qualification enough to join the club.

A club which includes luminaries such as James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer.

Need I go on?

Obviously I can’t actually go on, those three are all I can think of. Continue reading Stuff I Used To Do But Don’t Do Anymore (Or How I’ve Become A Less Interesting Person Over Time): Part 3a: A Prevarication On Polyglotism

D Is For Dictionaries

James Proclaims (4)

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Day four of the A-Z challenge and perhaps now would be as good a time as any to stop counting the days.

But not the letters of course, for they are entirely the point of the challenge. And so it is we find ourselves at the letter ‘D’.

I awoke this morning with very little idea how I might tackle ‘D’. There are many words of course, that begin with the letter ‘D’ but none were ‘Distinguishing’ themselves. I was more than a little ‘Disconcerted’. It was quite a ‘Dilemma’. Perhaps I should turn to a dictionary for inspiration, I mused. Then it struck me, the word ‘Dictionary’ begins with a ‘D’ and that seemed a very appropriate thing to write about.
Continue reading D Is For Dictionaries