A decade ago when I was in graduate school studying French Literature in Massachusetts, there was an endowed lecture program that enabled the university to invite renowned French authors to speak to the students.
In our Contemporary 20th-century literature course we were reading Annie Ernaux, Tahar Ben Jelloun, J.M.G. Le Clezio, and other great post-1950 French authors.
We had the great fortune to have Ernaux, poet Yves Bonnefoy, Le Clezio, and a handful of others, as speakers that year. And in true French-American style, there was always a small wine-cheese-crudités reception following the intellectual portion of gathering, where we had the chance to talk more informally.
Le Clezio visited our graduate seminar and fielded questions from the small group of students about his novel, Onitsha, which we were studying.
I was, as usual, so tongue-tied and awestruck by his fame and ability that I was only able to sputter unintelligible questions about the work, and the powerfully moving poetry of his novel. Besides, Le Clezio in person was an Adonis. A brilliant, literate French Adonis.
I may have semi-flunked the seminar-participation portion of my graduate school grades.
But, wow. As of today I can boast that I have met and discussed French literature with a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Time to read some more of his works.
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