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Christo’s Arc de Triomphe Posted by on Sep 21, 2021 in Culture, Language, News, Vocabulary

A dream almost 60 years in the making is finally a reality. Last Thursday – on the eve of the Journées Européennes du Patrimoines – President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated l’Arc de Triomphe empaqueté de Christo1The wrapped Arc de Triomphe by Christo.

Christo’s Arc de Triomphe

Thursday’s ceremony celebrated a project that Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude first imagined in 1962, “une idée qu’ils ont eue en regardant le monument depuis leur premier appartement parisien, avenue Foch2an idea that first came to them as they looked out on the monument from their first Parisian apparement, Avenue Foch.

While the French president referred to the work – which required “25.000 m2 de tissu recyclé argent bleuté, maintenu par 3.000 mètres de corde rouge325,000 square meters of silver-blue recycled/recyclable fabric, held by 3,000 meters of red rope  – as “un chef d’œuvre4a masterpiece … not everyone who saw the work was as impressed.

While some of the reactions were esthetic (“Objectivement, c’est quoi cette horreur? / Objectively, just what is this horror?”; “Pardonnez ma vulgarité mais recouvrir l’arc de triomphe de papier cul5Note: papier cul is a slang term for papier toilette … / Forgive my vulgarness, but covering the Arc de Triomphe in toilet paper … “) others were offended by the 14 million Euro cost of the project (“14 millions d’euros dépensés pour le néant. / 14 million Euros spent for nothing”; “14 millions d’€, pour emballer l’#ArcDeTriomphe ! Dans quelques semaines, les SDF6SDF is an acronym of ‘sans domicile fixe’ / ‘without a fixed residence’ s’apprêteront à affronter le froid. La honte / 14 million Euros to wrap the Arc de Triomphe! In a few weeks the homeless will be getting ready to face the cold. The shame) even though “le projet est entièrement autofinancé, sans subvention publique, grâce à la vente d’oeuvres originales de Christo, dessins préparatoires, souvenirs, maquettes et lithographies7the project is entirely self-financed, with no public support, thanks to the sale of original works by Christo [related to the project including] working designs, souvenir models, and lithographs.

You can see pictures of the installation process here and a simple Google image search for ‘Christo Arc de Triomphe’ will bring you to many more. For a deeper look, check out this news story from the American news program CBS Saturday Morning.

News term of the week

Franco-American relationships hit a bump this week following the announcement of a joint US-UK deal to provide the Australian government with des sous-marins nucléaires. The new deal resulted in the “[l]a rupture du contrat du siècle par l’Australie [. U]ne commande de 12 sous-marins français8the breaking of the contract of the century. An order for 12 French submarines worth an estimated 66 milliards de dollars.9Billion dollars. Remember that un milliard in French is one billion … while un billion equals an English trillion.

The conflict also resulted in la France rappelant ses ambassadeurs aux États-Unis et en Australie10France recalling its Ambassadors from the US and Australia. As an American who loves France, I hope that the parties can come to a mutually acceptable resolution of the tensions soon.

It’s your lucky day

As I was wrapping up this week’s post, I happened across this fun new video from the French group Catastrophe. Here are a few useful terms that should help you interpret: l’inconnu / the stranger11Albert Camus’s most famous novel in English is, of course, The Stranger. The original French title is l’Étranger which can be translated as stranger, but also as foreigner or outsider., la chance / luck, la malchance / bad luck. I hope you enjoy Jour de chance / Lucky day.

Monumental Updates

French Culture – Catastrophe

Large–And Extra-Large–French Numbers

  • 1
    The wrapped Arc de Triomphe by Christo
  • 2
    an idea that first came to them as they looked out on the monument from their first Parisian apparement, Avenue Foch
  • 3
    25,000 square meters of silver-blue recycled/recyclable fabric, held by 3,000 meters of red rope 
  • 4
    a masterpiece
  • 5
    Note: papier cul is a slang term for papier toilette
  • 6
    SDF is an acronym of ‘sans domicile fixe’ / ‘without a fixed residence’
  • 7
    the project is entirely self-financed, with no public support, thanks to the sale of original works by Christo [related to the project including] working designs, souvenir models, and lithographs
  • 8
    the breaking of the contract of the century. An order for 12 French submarines
  • 9
    Billion dollars. Remember that un milliard in French is one billion … while un billion equals an English trillion.
  • 10
    France recalling its Ambassadors from the US and Australia
  • 11
    Albert Camus’s most famous novel in English is, of course, The Stranger. The original French title is l’Étranger which can be translated as stranger, but also as foreigner or outsider.
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


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