Photo of the Week

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Left to right: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Pyramid, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and Ferris Wheel. © Paris Update

 

Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

Drawing through the ages

Paris-Update-Matisse-les-pommes
"Apples" (1944), by Henri Matisse. Eric Coatalem Gallery.

> Salon du Dessin: 39 galleries showing works on paper, from Old Masters to contemporary. Palais Brogniart, Paris, March 22-27.

Contemporary drawing fair
> Drawing Now: 73 galleries, Carreau du Temple, Paris, March 23-26.

More contemporary drawings
>Ddessin: 20 galleries. Atelier Richelieu, Paris, March 24-26.

Art and design fair
> PAD (Paris Art + Design),
67 galleries, Tuileries Garden, Paris, March 22-26.

African culture festival
> The 100% Afriques festival showcases dance, theater, music, fashion, design, art, food and more from all over the continent. La Villette, Paris, March 23-May 28.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Audrey Dana's Si j'Étais un Homme, preceded by a themed cocktail party (€4.50). Studio 28, Paris, Feb. 24.

Documentary film festival
> Cinéma du Réel showcases documentaries from around the world. Various venues, Paris, March 24-April 2.

Suburban blues
> The Banlieues Bleues festival brings major French and international jazz acts to the Paris suburbs. Various venues, through March 31.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, through April 13.

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Hot Topics - Tales of la Ville

 

Bandes Dessinées

bandes dessines

The bande dessinée section in any Paris bookshop
is bound to be packed. Photo: J. Gascoigne

Walk into any large bookshop in Paris, and you are sure to find one section full of people with their noses buried in books, leaning against the walls, sitting on the floor, hunched over the book-laden tables. In the ...

bandes dessines

The bande dessinée section in any Paris bookshop
is bound to be packed. Photo: J. Gascoigne

Walk into any large bookshop in Paris, and you are sure to find one section full of people with their noses buried in books, leaning against the walls, sitting on the floor, hunched over the book-laden tables. In the great land of rational thought, might that be the philosophy section? Emphatically not. Or the wonderfully diverse literature section? Non!

Look at the sign above this mass of slouching Gallic humanity, and you will see the words “Bande Dessinée,” or just the letters “BD.” That’s cartoons or comics to you and me. Yes, cartoons! Surely only children or teenagers would pass their time reading such junk? But in fact, you will see every conceivable type sitting beside the bookshelves: respectable men in jackets and ties, unrespectable men with greasy hair, mothers with babies in strollers, girls in jeans, aging hippies, boys in tracksuits and trainers, women on crutches, even tramps.

Indeed, the BD has become an indelible part of French or francophone identity in the 20th and 21st centuries, with comic books being written as much for the adult market as for younger generations. In 2006, 4,130 different BDs were published in France, and in 2007 more than 40 million were sold in France alone (bringing in more than €383 million). Nowadays you will find almost as many academic conferences on the BD as on other kinds of literature or film. There are also regular BD fairs, most notably in Angoulême and Blois.

Yet I have to confess that I simply don’t get the BD. Although I enjoyed reading the Asterix and Tintin comic books as a child, that’s when the enjoyment stopped. Now that I can appreciate real literature, the need to have one’s narrative aided and abetted by sketchily drawn cartoons feels like an affront to the crumbs of intelligence I possess.

My many dear French friends continue to attempt to convert me. Not a birthday or Christmas goes by without one of them presenting me with yet another BD album. And every time, I thank them politely for their generous gift, then dutifully start reading the book before giving up about 10 pages in and consigning the album to a distant shelf.

Perhaps I should sell my rapidly increasing collection of mint-condition BDs on eBay and make a fortune from some fanatic who appreciates them a whole lot more than I do?
James Gascoigne

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