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French language and culture – the past as prologue Posted by on Feb 19, 2019 in Culture, Music, Politics, Vocabulary

I’ve talked about nostalgia before. I’ve also shared mid-century songs from French yé-yé singers like Katty Line and Jacqueline Taïeb . But as the movement known as les gilets jaunes enters its third month, I had to share this new oldie I came across.

To read some of my earlier coverage of les gilets jaunes:
Early coverage of the protests from last December.
January updates including links to French news coverage.
The latest coverage on the grand débat.

Plus ça change… / The more things change…

While les gilets jaunes don’t have an official leader (nor according to many, a coherent strategy) their protests did start around major anti-tax protests and they seem, across France, to be protesting the way the world is moving trop vite (too quickly) around them. Well, way back in 1966 Pussy Cat, the young French singer of the group Les Petitis Souris (The little mice), was already singing about the same challenges.

Nous vivons comme des robots We live like robots
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s no life, no
On appelle ça un monde nouveau They call it a new world
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s no life, no
Ce n’est pas une vie. It’s not a life.
De se lever sitôt le matin Getting up so early in the morning
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s no life, no.
On court de peur de rater son train Always running out of fear of missing one’s train
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s no life, no
Ce n’est pas une vie. It’s not a life.
Voyez ces gens accablés de mille soucis See all these people overwhelmed by a thousand concerns (worries, cares)
Non, ce n’est pas marrant No, it’s not funny
Car la vie pour eux n’est plus un paradis Life for them is no paradise
Oh non, oh non, oh non, oh non, oh non. Oh no, oh no, oh no, …
Nous payons beaucoup trop d’impôts We pay way to much in taxes
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s no life, no
On ne peut plus trouver le repos We can’t even find any rest any more
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s not a life, no
Ce n’est pas une vie It’s no life
Voyez ces gens accablés de mille soucis See all these people overwhelmed by a thousand concerns (worries, cares)
Non, ce n’est pas marrant No, it’s not funny
Car la vie pour eux n’est plus un paradis Life for them is no paradise
Oh non, oh non, oh non, oh non, oh non. Oh no, oh no, oh no, …
Au lieu de visiter la lune* Instead of going to the moon
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s no life, no
Chacun de nous devrait faire fortune Each one of us should find fortune
Ce n’est pas une vie, non That’s no life, no
Ce n’est pas une vie. It’s not a life.
Ce n’est vraiment pas une vie (x3) It’s really not a life (x3)

* N’oubliez pas qu’en 1966 on n’avait pas encore marché sur la lune! / Don’t forget that in 1966 man hadn’t walked on the moon yet! It was also before les evenements de mai ’68 / the events of May 1968 (which in the category of ‘past as prologue’ may be more telling) and the first t.v. commercials in France!

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Photo by Spencer Selover from Pexels [CC0]

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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