Thomas Hardy

Adam   Sun Nov 06, 2005 12:05 pm GMT
"TV in UK is much better than in the US ! Simply because in the UK and the rest of EU you have to pay for it ! "

In the UK, it depends which channel.

We have to pay for channel 1 and channel 2, both of which are BBC.

But I think we get channels 3, 4 and 5 for free.
Adam   Sun Nov 06, 2005 12:06 pm GMT
French humour

Very droll
Dec 18th 2003

The French have jokes, but do they have a sense of humour?

'Baron, how did you find the English?

'Very distracting. They have a form of conversation
called humour, which makes everyone laugh a lot.'

‘Humour—is this like esprit?'

‘No, not really.'

‘But then how do you translate it?'

‘Well, I can't. We in France don't have a word for it.'

This scene in the film “Ridicule”, by Patrice Leconte, shows a marquis at the court of Louis XVI in Versailles telling other courtiers and their crinolined companions about his discovery of humour during a trip to England. He tries to illustrate this peculiar phenomenon by telling a joke he has heard in England. No one laughs until another courtier adds a witty, slightly dirty remark to the English joke.

Does humour exist in France? Before the French revolution of 1789, the word humour was hardly known. People knew esprit (wit), farce (prank), bouffonnerie (drollery) and humeur (a state of mind, or mood), but not humour. Only in 1878 did the French Academy, the institution that stands guard over the French language, accept humoristique as a French word. A year later Edmond de Goncourt used humour without italics as a French word in his novel “Les Frères Zemganno”, but not until 1932 did the academicians give their approval to the noun humour.

Writers and intellectuals musing about English humour searched for an equivalent in France. François Marie Arouet de Voltaire, France's best-known writer in the 18th century, tells the Abbot d'Olivet in a letter in 1762 that the English pronounce humour yumor, and think they are the only ones to have a term to express that state of mind. Madame de Staël, the daughter of Jacques Necker, a finance minister of Louis XVI, wrote in a discourse on literature: “The English language created a word, humour, to express a hilarity, which is in the blood almost as much as in the mind ...What the English depict with great talent is bizarre characters, because they have lots of those amongst them.”

Caricature, yes, and satire too
When Goncourt used the word humour in 1879, he was discussing caricaturists. This was the year of the death of Honoré Daumier, the caricaturist who had become famous all over France after being sentenced to six months in jail for his depiction of King Louis-Philippe d'Orléans as Rabelais's gluttonous giant Gargantua. Daumier's works—“Memories” is reproduced on the left—were published weekly in La Caricature, until the government prohibited political caricature in 1835.

With Daumier, Charles Joseph Traviès, Henry Monnier, Gavarni and later Grandville, Cham and Gustave Doré, French caricature had its golden age in the 19th century. These caricaturists had a field day during the four years of the ephemeral Second Republic after the 1848 revolution, when they were able to make fun of Louis-Philippe without risking jail. Even under Napoleon III they could get away with most of their satirical sketches about the Parisian bourgeoisie, the armed forces or bouffant-haired ladies and mean landlords. During France's wars in the Crimea (1853-56), with Austria (1859) and, most notably, with Prussia in 1870, the country's caricaturists became fiercely chauvinistic. A favourite target of Daumier's pen was Germany's chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, and his spiked helmet.

To this day l'humour engagé—political satire and caricature—features prominently in France. Comic films and plays are either farcical or witty, with plenty of wordplays and rapid-fire verbal exchanges. But humour, in the English sense, remains an alien concept.

One of the fiercest critics of the government, “Les Guignols de l'Info” (“The News Puppets”), a daily television programme similar to Britain's satirical “Spitting Image”, is a huge success. “Les Guignols” has become sharper, even crueller, since it started in 1988. Hardly anything is taboo now. Supermenteur (“Superliar”), President Jacques Chirac's alter ego, is a particular favourite. In the following exchange he is pondering Mr Chirac's legal difficulties:

‘I have found a solution! I will kill the judge so I will be left alone.'
‘But, Monsieur le président, they will find another judge.'
‘Damn, I didn't think of that. Well, I will kill all of France's judges, the entire profession. I have enough time. A judge is like a tree, you need 30 years to grow another one. By the time they've grown new judges I will be as old as Pinochet and they will let me off for ill health.'
“Les Guignols” has felt obliged to apologise only a few times—once to Mr Chirac's wife, Bernadette, whom it had portrayed masturbating with her handbag.

Le Canard enchaîné, a satirical weekly, is equally feared by politicians and public personalities because of its investigative journalism and trenchant wit. Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Brown of the Peanuts cartoon strip was godfather to the magazine) and Hara-kiri hebdo, two satirical weeklies launched in 1969, are competing on the same ground. Hara-Kiri, which was created in 1960 as a monthly French version of Mad, an American satirical magazine, was twice censored by the government before its relaunch as a weekly. It has absorbed La Grosse Bertha, another satirical magazine that was launched in 1991 during the first Gulf war. Charlie Hebdo went bust in 1981, just after supporting Coluche, a comedian, in his bid for the presidency. It was relaunched ten years later.

None of these magazines can boast a political caricaturist as well known in France as Jean Plantureux, or Plantu. A satirical cartoon by Plantu—like the one on the right—has been on the front page of Le Monde, France's pre-eminent daily, for the past 20 years. Plantu used to pick his subject himself, but Edwy Plenel and Jean-Marie Colombani, who took over as the paper's editors in 1994, made him give up the right to choose his topic in 1995; now it is always the main story of the day. Earlier this year Plantu vehemently clashed with his bosses over a sketch (posted on his website) that showed Plantu's trademark mouse gagged while reading “La Face Cachée du Monde” (“The Hidden face of Le Monde”), a best-selling polemic about the editors' arrogance and abuses in their quest for political power.

“We still have the naivety to believe in certain things,” says Plantu. “We do not have the detachment that characterises English humour, we are more militant. If we have a cause to protest, however minor, we tear open our shirts, run into the street and shout ‘Shoot me!'”

Farci de farces
If the Latin emotions of the French sit uneasily with humour, so does the French logical mind. French children are instilled with Cartesian esprit (here meaning mind) at school and, even more, in the grandes écoles, the country's elite universities. When your correspondent was at university in France, she was told her poor performance was due to an Anglo-Saxon mind that made her unable to think properly, or rather logically. A French Cartesian mind does not know what to make of a nonsensical story, such as this one. “The governor of the Bank of England began an address to an assembly of bankers with these words: ‘There are three kinds of economists, those who can count and those who can't.'” A joke of this kind would be met with incomprehension by French listeners. It is not logical.

Self-deprecation, another essential ingredient of a “detached” sense of humour, is not the forte of the French. But if France is too emotional, too logical or too unsure of itself for humour, it can at least fall back on farce as a way of releasing the emotions. The French love Jerry Lewis, the American they call le roi du crazy; he has even been awarded the Legion of Honour, the country's highest decoration. And of course France produces its own farces. One of the best-loved of recent years is the at times heavy-handed film “Le Père Noël est une Ordure” (“Father Christmas is a Shit”), directed by Jean-Marie Poiré. It shows Pierre and Thérèse, staffers at a charity, manning the telephones on Christmas Eve to help callers in despair. Zézette, a pregnant woman, arrives at the office, fleeing her violent husband, Félix, who is close behind her. Félix, still wearing his working clothes as Father Christmas, is subdued by Pierre and Thérèse and ends up in hospital. The second visitor at the office is Katia, a manic-depressive transvestite in search of Mr or Miss Right. The ensuing series of catastrophes reaches its climax when Félix returns with a gun, a lift repairman is killed, Pierre loses his virginity to Thérèse, and Félix and Zézette dispose of the dead repairman.

“Le Père Noël est une Ordure” was a big hit in France, but flopped elsewhere, especially in America, where “Santa Claus is a Louse”, as it was called, bombed. So did Mr Poiré's next film, “The Visitors”, another farce, this one about medieval life, which also won a cult following in France.

Why do French comic films not travel well when those made in Britain or America—whether by Woody Allen, John Cleese or the Monty Python team—seem to make people laugh all over the world? One answer, perhaps, is that audiences in other countries simply do not have the French fondness of puerile farce. Another, though, may be that the things that make the French laugh involve linguistic somersaults that only work in their own language. Much of French humour is jeux des mots, untranslatable wordplays.

Cartoons are an exception. French-made cartoons and illustrated stories are a huge success worldwide. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo created Astérix, one of the most successful cartoons ever. They are also the fathers of Lucky Luke. And Jean-Jacques Sempé and Mr Goscinny together created a series of books about the adventures of a little boy, le pétit Nicolas.

Je dis, je dis! Bien je jamais!
A meeting organised by the French Ethnological Society in 1997 about “The Universe of Astérix” found that probably the most successful French cartoon was translated into 72 languages, five regional languages (such as Corsican and Alsatian) and 18 dialects, including Berliner German and Cantonese Chinese. Yet the cartoon's jokes were hard work for translators. Much of the humour in Astérix consists of wordplays, onomatopoeia and animal noises that are impossible to render in another language. Translators tended to leave onomatopoetic expressions like snip, tchac, paf or tchac in the original, though they mean nothing in Cantonese or Swedish. The cartoon's text also makes frequent use of the French language's countless homonyms such as la tribu (the tribe) and l'attribut (the attribute), or ma reine (my queen) and marraine (godmother). They generally have no equivalent in other languages, so the joke is lost.

The translation of “Astérix chez les Bretons” was particularly difficult, says Henriette Touillier-Feyrabend of the National Centre for Scientific Research, as its humour depended on using English grammar in French. Astérix and his companions would, for instance, look for the magique potion's tonneau (the magic potion's cask) rather than le tonneau de la potion magique.

Yet, despite translators' best efforts, a mésentente cordiale remains when it comes to funniness. At the end of the film “Ridicule”, mentioned at the start of this article, the hat of the Marquis de Bellegarde is blown away by the wind. Interrupting his lamentations, an English lord (who has caught the hat) remarks that it is better than losing one's head. Ah, cries Bellegarde, this is English humour!
Guest   Sun Nov 06, 2005 12:16 pm GMT
« »

One more newspaper that you SHOULDN'T read if you want to learn something accurate about the French.
Adam   Sun Nov 06, 2005 12:24 pm GMT
"You must be the only person in Britain under 70, who only has 5 channels. Even most Boltonians can afford £30 for a digitial box to get another 30 channels for free. "

I've got a digital box.

However, I did say that we have 5 TERRESTRIAL TV channels. (BBC1, BBC2, ITV 1, Channel 4, Channel 5).

That's on our normal TV. I wasn't counting digital, Sky or Cable.

And, being a Northerner, I can definetely afford a Digibox. The cost of living is much lower than it is in the South of England, and our quality of life is much higher. And we're politer than Southerners.

It wasn't just us Northerners that made Britain rich. It was us Northerners that made Britain the world leader in digital TV.
Guest   Sun Nov 06, 2005 12:53 pm GMT
<<And, being a Northerner, I can definetely afford a Digibox. The cost of living is much lower than it is in the South of England, and our quality of life is much higher. And we're politer than Southerners.>>

Since I receive my "Terrestrial" TV signal from Winter Hill, Bolton I'm not sure what the last tirade had to do with me.
Adam   Sun Nov 06, 2005 6:17 pm GMT
The way you said "Even most Boltonians can afford £30 for a digitial box to get another 30 channels for free" sounds like you were a cocky Southerner.
Guest99   Mon Nov 07, 2005 12:01 am GMT
Thomas Hardy subtly criticises both Church and State in his novel. I will quote the releveant passages when I have more time. I have also arrived at that part of the novel in which Tess confesses her entire past to Angel (this is on the eve of their wedding day). Despite his kind, generous, flexible, and open-minded nature he does not take the news very well. Tess expected him to take the news much better after he himself had just confesses to a brief and meaningless affair with a woman while he was in London. However, his brief 48 hour "fling" (48 hours is how he describes its duration) did not result in him getting pregnant and having an illegitimate child and a whole village knowing about it. Nevertheless, he is being unduly harsh.

I very briefly looked ahead in the book and it seems as if Angel and Tess eventually manage to reconcile. However, being familiar with some of Hardy's other works, I somehow suspect that the heroine (in this case, Tess) will have a tragic end.

I somehow doubt that this story is going to end on a "...and they lived happily ever after" note, although that would be nice.

Is there anyone out there who still wants to talk about the book or should I just give up all hope and just allow people to ramble on about topics which are not germane to my original posting?

It sometimes seems that I am addressing an obstreperous and fractious group of people who enjoy posting mendacious statements and vilifying statements made by others. It also seems that this thread is desultorily going from one topic to another without any unifying theme. Despite these vicissitudes and endless digressions, I am still open to the idea of discussing this novel and the social, moral, and philosophical issues raised therein.
Damian   Mon Nov 07, 2005 4:47 pm GMT
I'm sorry not to have read Tess of the d'Urbervilles yet so I can't offer much in the way of comment except agree that generally Hardy was a bit of a rebel in many ways so it's no surprise that he railed against Church and State and offered strong opinions on the social scene of 19th century England (essenttially he was an English writer).

Away from Hardy and on to Shakespeare. I enjoy The Bard of Avon and a reminder to those who share this enthusiasm that BBC TV starts the first in a series of modern adaptions of four Shakespeare plays this evening 07 Nov 05: BBC-1TV at 20:30hrs in the Drama of the Week slot.

The first of the four is "Much Ado About Nothing"...updated to a setting in a regional TV local newsroom.....incidentally called Wessex TV and the featured program is "Wessex Tonight" with the two main protagonists being a female anchor and a male. The entire story line follows exactly the same pathway as Shakespeare set out in the play he wrote in the first place. What the public see of the relationship between these two people is not the same that exists between them behind the scenes.

It just goes to show that human relationships and emotions and everything that goes with them remain the same in spite of the passage of time.
Candy   Mon Nov 07, 2005 5:31 pm GMT
<<Is there anyone out there who still wants to talk about the book or should I just give up all hope and just allow people to ramble on about topics which are not germane to my original posting?

It sometimes seems that I am addressing an obstreperous and fractious group of people who enjoy posting mendacious statements and vilifying statements made by others. It also seems that this thread is desultorily going from one topic to another without any unifying theme. Despite these vicissitudes and endless digressions, I am still open to the idea of discussing this novel and the social, moral, and philosophical issues raised therein. >>

Guest99, I really appreciate your intelligent comments about Tess and would love to discuss the novel with you, but unfortunately I've never read it. :( Maybe you could wait for me to speed-read it?? (Love some of your vocabulary, by the way: I never seem to get much chance to use words like 'fractious' and 'mendacious' these days, more's the pity!) :-) Don't give up on the forum, please: it needs people like you!
Come to langcafé   Mon Nov 07, 2005 5:34 pm GMT

All normal antimoon people are there!
Uriel   Mon Nov 07, 2005 6:31 pm GMT
And some of the rest of us, too ... ;) -- by the way, greg is proposing setting up a literature forum there very soon, so it might be just up your alley, Guest99.
Damian in Edinburgh   Mon Nov 14, 2005 8:05 pm GMT
Last week it was "Much Ado About Nothing". Tonight 14/11/05 on BBC1-TV it is the turn of the "Scottish Play" "Macbeth" is called in all theatrical is considered bad luck to utter the word "Macbeth" in the old superstition I reckon. Must be all that hubble bubble toil and trouble in the opening scene.

Anyway, it's another Shakespeare play beig performed on TV but adapted to the modern day, in a modern 21st century environment, but still retaining all the original character names most of the time and when practicable.


"Shakespeare's dark tragedy retold in a modern setting, with the original plot completely followed and adapted. When three binmen (to those outside the UK these are guys who collect your domestic trash/waste for recycling or disposal as appropriate, and equate to the three witches in the original play) tell (Joe) Macbeth that he's to become the owner of the restaurant where they work, the head chef, spurred on by his scheming, ruthless wife Ella, discovers the seductive, but highly destructive, power of avarice and ambition".

BBC1-TV 20:30hrs 14/11/05
Stijn   Fri Sep 01, 2006 11:58 am GMT
I would like to react on the comment of Adam.

Can you explain why you think the English are te most cultured people in the EU??

Stijn, from the Netherlands
Fredrik from Norway   Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:08 pm GMT
Uriel wrote:
<<That definitely explains why I despised "Pride and Prejudice". A whole book about people whose greatest horror in life was being faced with the prospect of (gasp!) having to WORK for a living!

Do you guys over there really relate to that crap in this day and age? Do you have some residual sense of nostalgia about it, even though you would probably never have been able to participate in that lifestyle.>>

The fact that so much more has been written about the lifes of the upper classes than the lower classes might have given us Europeans the idea that the real, European way of life is feudal, and that working for wages is just a ghastly American idea!

As the last patrician lady of Bern, Switzerland, said:
- Are you somebdoy or do you work for wages?
Fredrik from Norway   Fri Sep 01, 2006 1:34 pm GMT
Kirk wrote:
<<I despise formulaic sitcoms (which are apparently the ones Hollywood sends around the world) like Friends while brilliant and subtle mockumentary (no laugh track!) humor such as seen on shows like Arrested Development (still not very well known even in the US and probably not around the world) are top-notch. >>

Yesterday I watched Arrested Development on Norwegian TV and almost soiled my pants laughing! I would say it's the American equivalent of British The Office, which I also love. I think these two shows are of the kind of darker humour that Germans don't really understand, as Candy pointed out.