Home > About reading > So the experience has been intense but worth the effort. I’m not giving up.

So the experience has been intense but worth the effort. I’m not giving up.

I started blogging two months ago and I feel I needed to think and share about this new experience. When I told a friend of mine that I was starting a literary blog in English, the first question she asked was: “Who’s going to correct your English?” When I said that no one would be re-reading before publishing, I saw several feelings flash through her eyes. Awe (“How can she dare sending to the void all these incorrect sentences ?”), reprobation (“Isn’t she a bit presumptuous to think she’s good enough for that?”) and astonishment (“Why not do it the easier way and write in French?”)

These have been intense two months. My head is so full of English words that I sometimes stumble on a French word when I speak, the English one coming first to my mind. Never mind, my colleagues probably already think I’m weird anyway and my husband knows whom he married.

I’m trying to learn as fast as I can many little details about writing in English that I never learnt at school or used in writing business memos. Among those are punctuation rules, how to insert book titles in a text, how to quote an author. All habits which are different from French. I still haven’t found how to create “clean” links in a post, but I keep on trying.

Truly, I knew this would be challenging for someone who hasn’t spent more than three weeks in a row in an English-speaking country. I’m not disappointed on that point and my dictionary is becoming my best friend.

What is the most frustrating is when I read other people’s posts that shout to my face how my English is poor and when I read mine, I see how the language barrier narrowed my thoughts. I almost gave up and was thinking about writing in French when I got my first comments. Thanks for the indirect encouragement.

Wandering on English-speaking blogs reminded me why I had made the choice in the first place: to expand my horizon beyond France. I’m not disappointed on that point either. It is refreshing to read about French literature through the eyes of people having another background. For example, I would never have considered reading Saint-Exupéry again without Max’s post on it. I got bored to death reading this at school and I was prejudiced against the author.

It is also very interesting to hear about other literatures and discover new reading possibilities. Thanks, I now have a long list of Hungarian and Czech authors to look for in my next stop at the bookstore.

So are reading comments and following discussions. The Anglophone world has issues about reading I couldn’t have imagined because it’s simply not an issue in France.

My endless curiosity is probably the most powerful motive.

There have been unexpected obstacles due to the permanent switch between the two languages.

First: Quotes. I can’t quote anything of an English book I read in French. Translating it back is out of the question. So with any luck I can find the original on the net and if not, there will be no quote at all and it impoverishes my post. Too bad for Sam Savage’s Firmin. I would have liked to show his lovely style.

Second: book titles. I have to look for the English names of French books, which took me a tremendous amount of time for the French reading list. The other way round, how can I find the corresponding French title of a non-Anglophone book if I want read it after seeing someone else’s review on it ? Nobody ever gives the original title, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have had the idea to put it either if I were writing in French. 

I also started blogging to force myself to pause between two books and think about what I read. This requires other skills than the ones I use all day long at work. My brains lack the training, hopefully, I will improve. My not having a degree in literature or arts doesn’t help either. (My English classes mainly consisted in translating fascinating FT articles in French and even more fascinating Les Echos articles in English…)

For me, reading is above all a pleasure. I don’t plan what I’m going to read, I have enough of planning and scheduling in my professional life. I’m impulsive on the choice of the books I read. (In French we say “un coup de coeur”, a blow of heart).

I don’t intend to write lectures about the books I read but mostly to share of my personal experience with them. I’m trying to keep a  balance between a distant tone and personal feelings. 

I feel I have to say that I’m not writing this to attract comments or encouragements. I just wanted to share about this, that’s all.

So the experience has been intense but worth the effort. I’m not giving up.


PS : I saw a pub in Paris named The Frog and the British Library and I thought “Damn it! This is how I should have called my blog!”

Categories: About reading
  1. June 29, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    I followed your link from Pechorin’s journal and have added you to my blogroll. Your English is incredibly good – I didn’t realise at first that you were writing in a foreign language. I am sure you will attract numerous readers by writing the type of intelligent posts I have found here.


  2. June 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Thank you, it’s very kind of you to say so.


  3. July 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Your English is excellent.

    That aside, I’m glad you’re sticking with it. I enjoy your blog and you cover things I’m not famliar with which is very welcome. Frankly a voice outside the Anglo-American world that most English language blogs (naturally enough) inhabit is very welcome.

    On titles by the way, if I omit them please do feel free to ask. I’d always be happy to check.


  4. July 1, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement and I’ll ask for the titles I need if I don’t guess them.

    I like reading your blog very much : you succeed in keeping that balance between personal and neutral comments on what you read.

    If you notice I make a recurring mistake, feel free to tell me.

    Oh! I looked for Czech, Hungarian and Polish books, the shelf was very small in my book store. But apparently, Banffy was translated in French after it was a success in its English translation. I thought you may like to know that.


  5. GB Steve
    July 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Likewise I followed your link and now I’m thinking that I should read more in French, given that I spent all of my secondary education years there. But then I wouldn’t no where to start. If you browse a bookshop in France, the covers don’t really tell you what the book is about. It’s so frustrating!


    • July 5, 2010 at 12:33 pm

      Hi GB Steve,
      Thanks for visiting my blog.
      That’s nice to hear from someone wishing to read in French. As you’re looking for ideas, go to the “reading list” page, there are two reading lists of French Literature. Or you can also look at the posts in the category “French literature”, but there are few as I started blogging a couple of weeks ago.
      Otherwise, if you want to buy French books (easily available on Amazon)you can rely on the publisher. As far as paperback are concerned, “Folio”, “10:18”, “Babel” and “Rivages” publish good literature.
      If you go on http://www.decitre.fr there will be a summary of the plot and information about the writer. But I don’t know if they deliver books abroad.


  6. July 29, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Hello, I stumbled on this seven years after you wrote it, via the links at the bottom of your current post. Reading your confident and illuminating billets now, it is amazing to me that you were ever uncertain about this blog which has widened my horizons about all kinds of things literary. You are now one of the preeminent bloggers in my network of must-read litblogs.
    One thing I have picked up from reading this, is that I should *always* try to include the titles of books I read in translation, in their original language too. *chuckle* That’s not always going to be easy since I don’t have a Russian or Chinese keyboard, but I can certainly do better with the Romance languages!


    • July 29, 2017 at 10:44 pm

      Thanks a lot for your kind message, Lisa. I learnt a lot about Australia and its literature through your blog and unfortunately, I don’t have time to read all your reviews.

      I’ve made progress since I wrote this billet. Now my problem is that I make spelling mistakes in French because of close English words. (recommendation / recommandation, literature / littérature…) Now, I also write quicker.

      I have found two ways to know the corresponding French title of a book: either I go to Wikipedia, and for a same author, I switch between the English and French version of the Wikipedia articles or I go to Goodreads on my computeur and click on “other editions” of a book cover and see which one is the French translation. It works almost all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. April 30, 2012 at 12:08 am

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