Accounts of people “lifting themselves up by their bootstraps” have been around for more than a century, since the phrase took on its current meaning. Critics say that hard work is not enough, but true stories of success from unlikely starts abound.
Thierry Marx, French chef of the year in 2006, is one of those stories. He was a poor student from a bad neighborhood. His grades weren’t good enough to get into hotel school, and he dropped out of a school for building trades. “I was furious…,” he told The Figaro, a French newspaper. “I messed around, got into fights. I ran away, I escaped to Paris … Champigny-sur-Marne, the city where I lived, was a ghost town, a wasteland.”
There were three things I was determined to do during my fourteen weeks abroad, only one of which I actually achieved.
The first was to journal every single day, and I did. I scribbled down every trivial memory, everything that made me mad, everything I ate, and then I taped down every ticket, leaf, and pamphlet to boot. Goal achieved.
I lean against the stone ledge, gazing out over the city as the embers of the setting sun heat the rooftops. Behind me, the château walls glow with orange light. The bells from the magnificent cathedral spire echo in my ears. Below, college students sprawl among the spring flowers sloping away from the château, giving way to bustling streets. Even from here, my ears catch the whispers of conversations and the chatter of distant shoppers and restaurant goers. Drinking in this image, I breathe out a profound sigh of contentment. A voice in my mind murmurs, How will you ever return after experiencing this life?
Standing atop an ancient castle at sunset, it is difficult to imagine that only a few hours later I might be curled in my bed, stricken and paralyzed while clutching my head in sheer, overwhelming anxiety.
A byproduct of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and media focus on the war’s developments is that growing tensions between other former Soviet republics wanting their place in the world are largely obscured. The rumblings that have serious local effects aren’t reaching the world’s eyes and ears while the louder conflict drowns out these smaller ones.
Thirty-one years after claiming its independence, Azerbaijan is trying to move through a slippery world of history and judgments and war with its neighbor Armenia to become recognized as a neutral, non-aligned country, a friend of both NATO and Russia.
One fall night last year, we created a project for ourselves. The American students were studying abroad in Paris, and I was a mentor in their program. Two artists and three writers, we assigned ourselves homework. We’d spend an evening all together at one of Ernest Hemingway’s famous haunts. The writers had to choose someone, or someones, from among the clientele as their inspiration for a short story. The artists’ drawings would be similarly inspired by someone who was there that night. We’d package the works together and discover what we’d jointly created
After waves of COVID-19 and the impending effects of war in Ukraine for the upcoming winter, France has been facing a pénurie d’essence—a gas shortage—for much of October.
Strikes that began in late September continued across the country last week. France’s second largest trade union, CGT, had called for employees in all public sectors to defend “wage increases and the defense of the right to strike.”
The French government reacted with sweeping measures in mid-October as the gas crisis worsened, forcing employees of the two ExxonMobil refineries to return to work or risk fines or jail time.
Some of the Ukrainians fighting Vladimir Putin’s Russian army are also French.
When Putin’s threats toward Ukraine increased in seriousness in mid-February, France encouraged its citizens there to leave. As war damage increased after Russia’s invasion began Feb. 24, there was a second wave of emigrants, said Sen. Hélène Conway-Mouret, the senator for French citizens living in other countries. But some French, she said, usually with dual Ukrainian citizenship, “made the choice to stay … and fight.”
This happens when I have been alone too long—the words start to leak out of everything and they will not stop. I cannot look around, I cannot take a single step, without it becoming prose, and it is not welcome. It thrusts me into a place where language imposes this acute separation between me and everything else—leaks its ink out of the bark, the pavement, the sky, flowing directly from itself to me in the form of a stream of words, and it will not let me rest.
Take up residence in France and you’ll find that everyday life is infused with history. If you’re a curious person, you can’t help but absorb facts it would take years of history classes and careful concentration to learn back in the United States. Here you see and touch history, observing how its effects are felt even long after its scenes’ original actors have departed.
The Brotherhood of the Blood (la Confrérie de la Sanch) is a religious and charitable organization that has existed in Perpignan since 1416. Its founding mission was to commemorate the Passion of Christ, which is the short, final period of the life of Jesus Christ; to assist prisoners who had been condemned to death; and to preach penance and help sinners prepare for their final judgement and salvation. As part of this mission, members of the brotherhood, known as penitents, would accompany prisoners condemned to death on their final walk through the city to the scaffold.