Fashion Week in Paris – editors’ guide to Paris

I approve most of the addresses on this list (see New York Times article below.) The only missing details are the arrondissement numbers after each street name. Example: 14 rue Molière, 75001 (1st arrondissement) or 5 rue du Nil, 75002 (2nd arrondissement.) Parisians need to know this. I’m surprised the punctilious copy editors at The New York Times didn’t spot (or know) this.

If anyone’s interested … the postal code for Paris is 75. Divided into districts called arrondissements which coil around the city like a snail, there are twenty of them (75001 to 75020). Inside joke: there are so many French citizens living in London that Parisians call London the 21st arrondissement.

The Right Bank (north) and the Left Bank (south) are divided by the river Seine, with the arrondissements spiralling clockwise from the center. 

For Parisians, each arrondissement has its own flavor, status and identity. The très chic 6th, for example, (75006) where you’ll find the impossibly posh Le Bon Marché department store, the café Flore on the boulevard Saint-Germain, the fashionable little streets behind and some gorgeous museums and boutiques. Or the equally trendy 3rd and 4th arrondissements which is the Marais district. I could go on and on, but maybe I’ll save this info for another blog post.

Céleste

babar

I was reading an article the other day about an American author named Celeste Ng. What a pretty name that is, I thought to myself. Her new book, entitled Little Fires Everywhere, looks like a good read.

And then somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, that name rang a bell. Celeste. Where had I heard that name before? I racked and racked my brain until it came to me.

But of course, the wife of Babar! Queen Céleste who bore him four baby elephants: Pom, Flore, Alexandre and Isabelle. They lived happily ever after in Célesteville, a fictional town in Babar’s Kingdom (supposedly in South Africa.)

Babar.405116

The next day I asked a French colleague at work if she knew the name Céleste. “But of course,” she replied, “but it’s the generation of our grandparents. C’est un prénom très démodé !” It’s a name very out-of-fashion.

Céleste. Celestial. Derived from the Latin, Caelestis, which means “comes from heaven”, or “heaven-sent.”

A big success throughout the 19th century and then falling out of vogue, the name appears to be having a comeback. In 2006 in this country there were 302 births registered with this name. And in 2015, seventy-two baby French girls were christened Céleste.

There’s another French name that I like, also unusual and starting with a ‘C’, it’s Chymène (or Chimène). I once worked with a woman who had this name. When I commented on its originality, she replied “My parents loved Corneille.” Huh? I had to do some googling.

Pierre Corneille, considered one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine, wrote a five-act tragicomedy called Le Cid. In it, the main female protagonist is called Chimène.

I like the idea of taking names from famous works of literature. Mine too, a Shakespearian name (Romeo and Juliet).

 

Air France launches new low-cost Joon

Air France is unveiling a new airline aimed at millennials whose “lifestyles revolve around digital technology”, the carrier has announced.

Scheduled to start in December, Joon will offer an innovative and offbeat experience to its “young and connected” jet-setting clientele, claims Air France.

Does this mean that “old and unplugged” baby boomers won’t be allowed on? asks Juliet in Paris.

Air-France-JOON-700x301

Air France says that 40-year-old passengers would be allowed to fly Joon, however it is unclear whether passengers who fall further outside the millennial age bracket will be welcome onboard. It is also unclear whether cabin crew must be millennials.

Short-haul routes to Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon and Porto begin in December, before flying to Fortaleza in Brazil and Seychelles at the end of March 2018. Single fares to the European cities will start from 39 euros, while fares to Brazil will begin at 249 euros and Seychelles flights will start at 299 euros.

“This generation has inspired us a lot,” says Caroline Fontaine, VP Brand at Air France, describing millennials. “Epicurean and connected, they are opportunistic in a positive sense of the word.” (they are??)  “They know how to enjoy every moment and are in search of quality experiences that they want to share with others. Joon is a brand that carries these values.”

Philippe Jaroussky

France’s cherished sopranist and counter-tenor.

He’ll be performing for one night only at the Theatre des Champs Elysées on October 28. Ticket prices are from 5 euros to 110 euros (link below). Have a listen to his angelic voice. For more of this genre, listen to the superlative recording further below. Truly celestial.

http://www.theatrechampselysees.fr/saison/recital/recital-de-chant/philippe-jaroussky

Andrei Zvyagintsev’s stunning new film, Loveless

Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev has produced another masterpiece in this apocalyptic study of a failed marriage and the subsequent disappearance of a child.

This new drama film came to movie theaters Wednesday and everyone’s talking about it. It sounds devastatingly sad, but beautifully crafted. Pristine and merciless, one film critic says. Stark and mysterious. A pitiless critique on Russian society today, says another. Loveless won the Jury Prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and was selected as the Russian entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.

Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian writes – Loveless is the portrait of a failed marriage in its awful final stages. Boris is a burly, bearded man with a look of a young Fidel Castro who works in sales. He still shares the family apartment with his soon-to-be-ex-wife Zhenya. They quarrel endlessly, united only in their mutual loathing: each has found a new partner, and are both in the first flush of love and sexual infatuation. Boris has a girlfriend whom he has already got pregnant and Zhenya is with a well-off, older man who has a grownup daughter. But there is the matter of their son, Alyosha, a shy and unhappy 12-year-old boy who is the basic cause or symptom of their relationship’s collapse.

After Alyosha overhears a horrible argument in their cramped flat, he disappears. The moment when the bathroom door is thrown back after their ugly spat, revealing to us (but not them) Alyosha’s face in a silent scream of tears is utterly devastating: one of the most purely disturbing images imaginable.

 

Sex and Lies, the new “livre choc” book by Leïla Slimani

leila elle mag

Leïla Slimani, last year’s winner of the coveted French literary award for her novel Chanson douce, has just published a non-fiction livre choc titled Sex and Lies: sexual life in Morocco. (livre choc means a book that shocks people; but in this case it has scandalized an entire country.)

Born into a liberal, privileged family in Rabat, Morocco in 1981, Slimani is a Franco-Moroccan writer and journalist. She lives in Paris with her husband and two children. Leaving Rabat at the age of 17 to study political science and media studies in Paris, she began work as a journalist after graduation. In 2016, she won the prestigious Prix Goncourt for her psychological thriller, Chanson douce

Faber publishing house has signed an “electrifying” literary novel by Leila Slimani, which was awarded the French literary prize in November 2016. The novel is the tale of a “perfect” nanny who murders two children she is looking after. The book – which begins with the words “the baby is dead” – is already a bestseller in France. Slimani is only the seventh woman to have won the Prix Goncourt in its 112-year history. Translation rights have been sold in 15 countries thus far.

leila two

So what is her new non-fiction book about? Sexe et mensonges: la vie sexuelle au Maroc (Sex and lies: sexual life in Morocco) is based on the testimonials of dozens of Moroccan women –

  • it explores sexual repression in Islamic countries, 
  • it discusses the taboo subject of female sexual desires, 
  • it claims that millions of Arabs (men and women) are trapped in sexual misery in a sex-obsessed Arab world.

 

Free thought and criticism, for which Slimani is guilty, has enraged Moroccan authorities, religious clerics, and a large swathe of the Moroccan population (who believe she is washing their dirty linen in public.)

Moroccan law punishes all forms of sexual relations outside marriage, as well as homosexuality and prostitution. In this deeply traditional, misogynistic and patriarchal society, women have only one alternative: to be a virgin or a wife. 

Here’s an extract (translated) from an interview with the author in Nouvel Obs magazine: 

“To pretend to be a virgin is demeaning”

Nouvel Obs – You denounce Articles 489 and 490 of the Penal Code which call for six months to three years imprisonment for same-sex relationships, and one month to one year imprisonment for non-marital relations.

Slimani – Yes. In fact, a Moroccan woman can only be a virgin or married. Sexuality outside the conjugal relationship is forbidden. The Penal Code laws are obviously inapplicable. When they are applied, it’s completely arbitrary. In reality, this law is used to settle accounts. Either directly by the police who use it to arrest and then bribe people, or individually: to take revenge on someone and denounce him to the police.

All sexual relations can be subject to blackmail. When you get raped, you cannot file a complaint because you’re already illegally having sex outside of marriage. When you have to hide on the edge of a road or in a forest, you’re not safe. Because there is no sex education in schools, you can easily catch diseases or become pregnant … And then, in a country where abortion is prohibited, you find yourself in the situation of needing a clandestine abortion.

Nouvel Obs – You speak of “schizophrenia”: men want to both sleep with girls and marry a virgin.

Slimani – Men are also victims of this system, because they simply want to live. But this mentality endures because it is the last thing left to them, the last mark of virility in a society where the Western model is gaining ground. That is what I explain on the historical level. The colonization, then the hegemony of Western culture, creates a feeling of dispossession. So we cling to a traditional model for fear of the unknown.

Juliet in Paris interjects – Oh, please … stop with the blame game. How is it the fault of the West for the primitive, tribal customs of Muslim societies? Patriarchal power in the Muslim world is nothing more than the hijacking of religion by political and religious elites for their own interests, one of those interests being the subjugation of women. Religion is used as a tool of social control.

Slimani – The man may not have a job, no money, no car, no visa to travel – all these very humiliating things that one cannot imagine seen from the West – but he can still marry a virgin, keep a home (however humble) and have a virtuous wife. It’s a way to restore the honor of our societies. Honor is a heavy thing to bear, and unjust, for the women.

Nouvel Obs – What kind of story seems particularly symptomatic of the problem you are exposing?

Slimani – What saddened me were middle-class women who chose freedom at 20-25 years. They decided, when it was not in their upbringing to do so, to have a sexuality, lovers, to study, to work. Then around the age of 30-35 they regretted it, saying, “I won’t be able to marry or live in my neighborhood because people know that I have had relationships.” Female emancipation, when not supported by the State or the surrounding culture, has no real foundation. It must be supported by others. You cannot live it alone.

What really struck me is the immense solitude of these women who back off after choosing freedom, to have their hymen re-sewn, to veil themselves, or to lie. I find it very sad, 35-year-old women who pretend to be virgins, who mimic virginity with men in the hope they will marry them. To push people to this attitude is sad and dangerous for our societies. The State has everything to gain by having citizens capable of emancipation.

Juliet in Paris asks – What is the advantage or benefit of having subjugated women in a so-called modern society? In what way is this productive or of any value to children, families in general and society at large? Boys and girls need to see positive role models.

Niqabs and Wahhabism

Slimani – Moroccan culture integrates Sufi culture, an extremely spiritual culture of our own with a way of practicing Islam for centuries. Many Moroccans today fear precisely that this culture is lost to the influence of Wahhabism, people from the Middle East who came during the 1980s-1990s, notably to teach in our schools. They have created another type of Islam.

Most Moroccans are shocked to see women in niqabs in our streets. Thankfully, the niqab is now banned in Morocco, it does not correspond to our culture at all.

slimani 3

photo by Audoin Desforges pour L’OBS

Nouvel Obs – You quote Foucault to explain that “sexual rights are part of human rights”, that is to say, of women, and you explain that it’s all part of a coercive system allowing autocratic states to exercise their powers. From the moment those powers are exercised on bodies and the way people have sex (or not), it also conditions the mind to make them accept laws on other issues.

Slimani – We see citizens too much like children who are not capable of having an ethic, a private life, an intimacy. This way of touching their dignity is also a way of controlling them. Of course, the citizen has rights, but when his/her body cannot live totally in the public space, there is something constrained from the start. Freeing the bodies of citizens is also a way of freeing their minds. The two are related.

***

Juliet in Paris again to introduce award-winning novelist, journalist and independent-minded Kamel Daoud. Daoud writes for Le Monde, The New York Times and other publications. Born in Algeria in 1970, his debut novel, The Meursault Investigation, also won the French literary award, the Prix Goncourt in 2015. For his criticism and outspokenness, he was issued a fatwa by a Salafist imam. A heavyweight intellectual, here’s what Daoud says about Slimani’s book –

Islamist control, controversy over the burkini and nudity at the beach, sexist laws, or the latest August drama of a girl raped on a public Casablanca bus in Morocco, episodically sex is revealed as a “disease” in our country. Leila Slimani, in the long tradition of tenacious literature in the “Arab” world, says it powerfully.

Its novelty, however, is not to repeat that woman is despoiled of her rights, crushed or violated, but to go further in the unbelievable affirmation that sex and enjoyment are not only legitimate, but necessary. Orgasm must be and proclaim primacy over sacred texts. This is the first cry.

Sex as a right. Sex as an attack on puritanism, conservatism and political dictatorships. Sex as a reparation for this craving for life, which gives birth to our exiles, our kamikazes, our fatwas, our monstrous burkas and our national sadness of living badly. No “Arab” country is happy to live, none of us fight for happiness.

Machismo is not a disease of the past

The second revelation of this book is the dismantling of an old positivist belief: patriarchy, machismo, woman as a minor being. These are not the relics of a culture that does not fit into the universal mechanics of modernity, but rather a construction of the present. Not a disease of the past that persists, but a disease of the future that is taking hold. What’s at stake here is not the weight of rigid traditions that one can hardly disentangle, but a neoconservatism doctrine which is gaining strength, space and levers of power.

Stuck between YouPorn and YouPray

Daoud goes on to say – Authoritarian regimes cultivate the lie that sexuality is a threat, an invasion, destabilization, betrayal. Pleasure is a crime and women public property. Behind the cunning of some and the cowardice of others, there is a clear sign that we are unhappy. Leila Slimani investigates a culturalist pretext which clears a permanent inquisition against the body of the woman. We are stuck between YouPorn and YouPray, dreaming of death as an orgasm, of the hereafter as the only compensation. Erecting cultural specificity where we are afraid to go to the other, to touch it, to love it, to desire it.

daoud

Kamel Daoud

 

 

 

socca

socca

photo courtesy of The Kitchn

La socca, as it’s known in the southern French city of Nice, is nothing more than chickpea flatbread. Cheap and popular street food, it can be enjoyed as an appetizer with a glass of wine or on its own as a snack or even for breakfast. It’s great to serve to guests. Super-easy to make (I’m about to make some right now), it only calls for three ingredients: water, olive oil and chickpea flour (available in health and organic food stores).

I don’t own a cast-iron skillet, so I pour the batter into an ordinary round cake tin (greased with olive oil.) As for the optional ingredient to sprinkle on top – za’tar – this is a Middle Eastern spice mixture (not easy to find). You could replace it with thyme or rosemary. Thanks to two Lebanese colleagues of mine at work, they bring me some fresh from Beirut (it really is delicious on pizza, rubbed into chicken, on feta cheese, etc.) You could make your own; here are the ingredients of za’tar  –

4 tsp sesame seeds 
4 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano 
4 tsp dried marjoram 
4 tsp ground sumac 
1 tsp sea salt 
4 tsp ground cumin

As for the socca, here’s what The Kitchn says – (link and recipe below)

How to Serve Socca

Out of the oven you can slice the socca into bite-sized snacking pieces or into more substantial wedges for lunch or dinner. Socca is pretty delicious all on its own, but you can serve it warm from the oven with cheese and olives. 

Socca could easily stand in as a gluten-free pizza crust or as a replacement for the toast on your morning breakfast plate. I’ve easily passed plain, honey-drenched socca off as dessert for my children. We recently ate it topped with fried eggs and a dusting of Parmesan cheese for a late lunch; the runny egg yolk soaking into the creamy, crispy bits was just the thing to make me stop and marvel at the simple pleasure of life-affirming recipes like this one.

bon appétit !

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-socca-a-naturally-gluten-free-chickpea-flatbread-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-169513