Sunday, March 8, 2009
Le Petit Nicolas
For the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Le Petit Nicolas there is a free exhibition on at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris featuring original manuscripts and drawings from this great French tale.
Petit Nicolas is a boldfaced 9 year-old French boy who tells tales of his days at school with his friends: Rufus, Alceste, Maixent, Agnan, Clotaire. It is his voice we hear narrating. The stories are wistful accounts of what we all experienced as kids. Reading Petit Nicolas is like being back in an elementary school classroom - the smell of crayons, the jeering at the teacher, the competition between kids - its nostalgia is broad and covers recall of schooldays widespread. There are French specificities: the ranking of students in the classroom - grades and scores read out loud by the master - Agnan ranks first and Clotaire stays perpetually at the very bottom of the class. The Frenchness of Petit Nicolas adds to its charm - the lure, though, is universal - I am as enchanted by these stories as my 10 year-old French niece is. (And he has been translated into English, so even if not in French you can read Le Petit Nicolas).
Here are the creators of Petit Nicolas: René Goscinny (who also co-created Astérix) and Jean-Jacques Sempé (illustrator).
And I can't help but think about Le Petit Nicolas - the one who runs the French State at the moment...