A short post today. More of a question for the group than a post. How do people feel about Desrochers’ deployment of French words and phrases at the start of the novel (particularly Chapter 1)? And why do you think they’re there? What purpose do they serve?
For myself, I found they tripped me up. They were noticeable by their frequency. They jumped right out and punched me in the eyeball. And half my brain is thinking as I’m reading “you shouldn’t be annoyed by this. You’ll have to post about it and there’s a good chance Suzanne Desrochers is going to be directed to the discussion before she comes to speak, and she’ll probably bring an axe, or a small, easily concealed pistol and end your sorry life” and half is saying “doesn’t matter. You gotta be honest about your response to the book.” And whatever was left was saying “well buddy, turn it around. Ask yourself what purpose they serve. Try to get inside the writer’s head a little bit.”
So here’s my view: I think she’s striving for authenticity. It’s a noble goal. As someone who is completely obsessive about getting small details right, I understand it. And it’s not like they’re difficult to figure out, even for someone as linguistically challenged as me. It’s pretty obvious from the context what most of these words or phrases means. I remember being stopped in my tracks several times reading Sweetness in the Belly because of the Ethiopian words (and no glossary). I actually put the book down, got up off my chair and went to look the word up on the Internet more than once. I never had to do that here. But still, it tripped me. Not the first or the second time. But probably by the fourth or fifth. And every time I stumbled on another, the trip was bigger. Funny how it works that way – effects become cumulative. Sometimes that works in our favour, sometimes it hurts us. Here, for me, it hurt. How did you feel?