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Robert Merle and Fortunes de France: A Lecture by Rob Prince

March 31, 2017

Robert Merle

“Fortunes de France”

The Alliance Francaise de Denver is excited to host a special lecture on the work of French author, Robert Merle, and his 13 volume epic historical novel series, Fortunes de France.

Fortunes de France explores the religious wars in France that culminated in response to the crowning of Henry IV in 1594.

The lecture will be given by Rob Prince, retired Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

6-7:30 PM

@Alliance Francaise of Denver

Hour long lecture in French and English followed by a 30 minute question and answer.

Free for Members……..$5 for the public

Alliance Francaise of Denver – 571 Galapagos St. Denver, Colorado 80204 – www.afdenver.org – 303-831-0304

Robert Merle is the author of one of the most popular series of historical novels in modern French literature, Fortunes of France, in thirteen volumes. It details the turbulent period of French history in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries characterized by religious wars, bigotry and factionalism between Catholics and Protestants through the lens of a moderate Protestant family of the lower mobility. The series is much more than that: it is also a wondrous sociological portrait of French life — both rural and urban of that time period. All thirteen volumes of the French version are being translated into English, with Volumes 1 and 2 already done by Pushkin Press, and Volume 3 about to appear in June of 2016.

The program will be presented by Rob Prince, retired Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. Fifty two years ago, Prince was a student of Robert Merle at the University of Rouen’s Faculte de Lettres in Mont St.Aignon, France.

About Robert Merle’s “Fortune de France”:

Kirkup called the Fortune de France series “spectacular” and dubbed it Merle’s “major achievement”.[1] Douglas Johnson of The Guardian described the author as “a master of the historical novel”.[2] The series made Merle a household name in France, and he has been repeatedly called the Alexandre Dumas of the 20th century.[4][5] Le Monde dubbed Merle “France’s greatest popular novelist”, and Le Figaro observed, “Robert Merle is one of the very few French writers who have attained both popular success and the admiration of critics.”[5]

Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Allan Massie praised Merle’s “thorough research, depth of understanding and popular touch”, noting that “one of the strengths of Merle’s novels in his ability to evoke the feeling and texture of everyday life as well as high politics”.[3] Massie compared the first novel in Merle’s series to Maurice Druon‘s The Accursed Kings (Les Rois maudits), another famed French historical novel series, writing “There is a philosophical depth to the novel absent from Druon, for the Brethren are attracted to the Reformed Protestant (or Huguenot) faith … Though not as gripping as The Accursed Kings, The Brethren never strays, as Druon sometimes does, into the grotesque. It has a credibly human solidity.”[3] Toby Clements of The Telegraph wrote, “There are set-piece discussions on the dilemmas of faith that are informative if not the stuff of high drama, and passages on the history of France that can only be made sense of with the aid of a map and a memory for names. But elsewhere there is much colour, and, overall, The Brethren gives a salty and plausible idea of just how different, odd and parlous life might have been.”[4]

As of 2014, Fortune de France had sold over five million copies in France.[5]

(Source: Wikipedia)

For more information, visit Robert Prince’s blog page on Merle’s work.

 

Goat Hill and Our Lady of Visitation Parish: Part One

March 29, 2017

at Our Lady of Visitation Bazaar, summer, 2016

Our Lady of Visitation, Goat Hill, Unincorporated Adams County, Colorado

It takes a special kind of courage, for people within a religious community to challenge their hierarchy, regardless of the religion, especially those who hold deep religious conviction. It is a kind of intimate struggle, and these can be the most difficult, the most painful. And the consequences – shunning, excommunication, reputation destroying, efforts to press employers to fire dissidents – can be devastating.

Tonight I watched the parishioners of a small Catholic church, located just north of Denver, technically considered a parish, fight to save their church from closure, a key institution for the community the church has long served, Goat Hill, an overwhelmingly working class and poor Chicano community. Nationwide, such churches are often ignored and poorly served, contributing to the archdiocese, but getting little to nothing in return. I watched as parishioner after parishioner, those on the church council, others in the audience, screwed up their courage and confront the Archdiocese of Denver, whose representatives didn’t have the decency to show up to consider their case. They were represented by three empty chairs in front.  Speaking to those empty chairs, issue by issue, carefully, insightfully, the parishioners demolished the Archdiocese’s case for shutting down operations.

The crisis started some five months ago, last November, when representatives of the Archdiocese of Denver showed up unannounced  to tell the parishioners of the Our Lady of Visitation (OLV) that the church would be closed down in the near future. Since then, church membership has mobilized to fight for its life, trying to present its case. Archdiocese hierarchy from top to bottom refused to negotiate with the OLV  church council or concerned parishioners. Repeated attempts to meet with the Archbishop, Samuel J. Aquila, who spent his earlier years as a priest in the Denver area, were met by a wall of silence. Requests for meetings went unanswered or were cancelled at the last minute. Not only has the priest who serves OLV, Father John Paul Leyba, not fought alongside the parishioners, but, to the contrary, he has tried instead to squelch the growing opposition.

The reason the Archdiocese has failed to convince OLV-ers to close shop is straightforward enough: this is a church built by a poor, working class, Chicano community. It is the heart and soul of that community, known as Goat Hill, just north of Denver. OLV is financially sound with a stable constituency of all ages. While there is a priest shortage in the Denver area, one of the pretexts for closure, OLV church council members have proposed a number of concrete ideas to address this particular problem. They, the parishioners, are unwilling to abandon what has been a central focal point of their lives for 3, 4 generations, this at a time when institutions defending this often besieged, neglected community are few and far between.  Read more…

Trump’s Middle East Policies – The Blind Leading The Blind; The Military Takes Over Foreign Policy, Diplomacy Out The Window

March 28, 2017

Blue Line – Plan rejected by Syria in 2009. Red Line – Plan agreed to by Syria in 2011

Trump’s Middle East Policies – The Blind Leading The Blind; The Military Takes Over Foreign Policy, Diplomacy Out The Window. Hear Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince, Today, Tues. March 28, 2017 @ 6-7 pm MST. Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues hosted by Jim Nelson. KGNU Boulder and Denver. 1390 AM, 88.5 FM. 

Note: The transcript will be posted in about a week.

The Cameroonian Model For Africa (and Beyond)

March 6, 2017

“On a massacré des gens au Cameroun, on a massacré des gens à Madagascar, en Indochine car ils prétendaient défendre cette même liberté que nous mettions sur le fronton de nos mairies et de nos écoles”

– Yannick Jadot – French Green Party Candidate for the presidency –

(Translation: We massacred people in Cameroon, Madagascar, Indochina. Why? Because they embraced the same ideals of liberty and democracy that we, in France, place on the walls of our city halls and schools)

Countries usually considered as Francophone Africa. These countries had a population of 363 million in 2013. Their population is projected to reach between 785 million and 814 million in 2050. French is the fastest growing language on the continent (in terms of official or foreign language). Francophone but are Members or Observers of the OIF

Countries usually considered as Francophone Africa. These countries had a population of 363 million in 2013. Their population is projected to reach between 785 million and 814 million in 2050. French is the fastest growing language on the continent (in terms of official or foreign language). Francophone but are Members or Observers of the OIF

The “we” to which Jadot is referring is the French government. He is referring to the all out wars France fought in its then, soon-to-be independent colonies in the 1950s and 1960s. The wars were part and parcel of policies developed by De Gaulle and his Africa man, Jacques Foccart, to grant formal independence to its African colonies while maintaining economic, political and strategic control. A good trick, no? The broader policy is referred to simply as neo-colonialism. The masters of neo-colonialism by far has been the United States. This is the essence of U.S. policy throughout the Third World. In an effort to retain control of raw materials and markets for its manufactured products, France, under De Gaulle, developed its own brand of neo-colonialism, long referred to as Francafrique

France failed to implement its neo-colonial policies in two former colonies, Indochina and Algeria. It is perhaps in some measure because of having lost those wars militarily, and with those defeats, precipitous decline in economic and strategic influence, that it redoubled its efforts to cling to power in the rest of its (mostly) African colonies in order to secure their minerals, energy sources and raw materials.

Until recently, the wars against nationalist elements in Cameroon and Madagascar have been hidden from view, poorly known. Both resulted in the full-scale annihilation of hundreds of thousands of lives, involving, as in Algeria, massive use of torture, the extermination of whole villages and regions. With rare exceptions, these episodes have only surfaced due to the research of Cameroonian and Madagascan scholars with a will to learn their own history, a history hidden in French archives and among the French torturers and assassins who participated in what were nothings short of orgies of organized violence. Read more…

Cameroon: Review – La Guerre du Cameroun: L’Invention de la Françafrique 1948-1971 by Thomas Deltombe, Manuel Domergue and Jacob Tatsitsa. La Découverte: 2016. ISBN 978-2707-192141 (The Cameroon War: The Invention of Françafrique 1948-1971)

February 25, 2017

guerre-cameroun-2Review – La Guerre du Cameroun: L’Invention de la Françafrique 1948-1971 by Thomas Deltombe, Manuel Domergue and Jacob Tatsitsa. La Découverte: 2016. ISBN 978-2707-192141. (The Cameroon War: The Invention of Françafrique 1948-1971)

1.

Let’s begin at the end. At the end of this volume, the authors engage in what in English is referred to as “acknowledgments”, in French “remerciements” (which translates more precisely as “thank you’s”). Among those acknowledged or thanks for encouraging the authors is one Francois Gèze, publisher of Editions La Découverte, a French publishing house of repute noted for its excellent publications on current events (among other subjects).

Six years ago, during my last visit to Paris, I met Gèze, who kindly took me to lunch and introduced me to a number of Algerian ex-pats several of whom I subsequently interviewed. They included two former intelligence officers who had written persuasively about the rot infecting the Algerian intelligence apparatus and an Algerian energy economist, Hocine Malti, author of Histoire secrète du pétrole algérien, a most fascinating and insightful book, also published by La Découverte. Several articles, among the better ones I’ve written, resulted.

It’s a shame that these and other works by La Découverte have not (to my knowledge) been translated into English (and in the case of the stuff on Algeria, into Arabic as well) as they are all quality studies that add substantially to the subjects they probe. I should not have been surprised then, that La Découverte would publish two excellent full length studies – case studies in French neo-colonialism in Africa – on Cameroon, that oddly triangular shaped west African nation abutting on the Atlantic Ocean and wedged between seven countries – Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Read more…

Cameroon: Northwestern Cameroon Explodes in Peaceful Protest, Government Repression: The Language Question. Part Two of a Series.

February 21, 2017
Calgary, Canada Cameroonians

Calgary, Canada Cameroonians

North American Cameroonians Organize

In two weeks, on Friday, March 3, 2017 Cameroonians from all over North America will converge of New York City to protest the wave of intense repression which has blanketed the English-speaking regions of the Cameroon and go to the United Nations to present their case. Since mid November of last year as the repression grew, in their different communities throughout the United States and Canada, North Americans of Cameroonian origin, citizens or more recent immigrants have been calling for an end to the wave of arrests, censorship and purges that have covered large areas of Western and Northern Cameroon. Hopefully human rights, peace, religious groups will join them.

As Hippolyte Asah, now a Toronto resident put it in the January 23, 2017 edition of the Toronto Star,

“The situation in Cameroon is getting worse by the day. The marginalization of the anglophone people has caused so much civil disturbance…They feel like they are being colonized by the French. Lawyers and teachers (in English regions) go on protests and they are kicked, stoned, tear-gassed and manhandled…There are no opportunities left for those speaking English staying in Cameroon.”

The 2010 census puts the figure of U.S. citizens of Cameroonian origin at more than 16,000, while Canada claims to be hosting 6,500. But for the U.S. at least, the numbers are woefully underestimated as the  American Community Survey notes an additional 33,181 Cameroonian-born immigrants in the United States, concentrated in Los Angeles, Houston and Pittsburg. They are concentrated in Illinois, Southern California (in cities such as Los Angeles), Houston (Texas) and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania). The Pittsburg Cameroonian Community is considered one of the better organized. In Canada, there are concentrations of them in Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal. Read more…

A Visit With Jeanette Vizguerra

February 17, 2017
Jeanette Vizguerra in Sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church of Denver

Jeanette Vizguerra in Sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church of Denver

Jeanette Vizguerra. 

Exhausted from the tension and the recent media attention, still JeanetteVizguerra, Mexican undocumented immigrant who has sought sanctuary at Denver’s First Unitarian Society church (corner of 14th Ave and Lafayette St. just east of downtown Denver) was willing to meet with me for a brief personal exchange. She felt safe and supported there, where she has gotten oceans of support from all over the city, country and the world. They help, give one strength to carry on against what I can only describe as the forces of evil.

I went simply to pay my respects, to express my solidarity with this mother of four, backbone of her family. She and her family have been in the United States for twenty years. Returning to the United States from Mexico after her mother’s funeral, her troubles with immigration began to intensify. Given the recent arrests of more than 600 people, including those technically protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) law, and getting essentially stonewalled by local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. This is Vizguerra’s sixth appeal to stay in the country with her children. She has been active, something of a leader among the undocumented fighting for their rights.  Read more…