• France edition
 
British poet anointed to protect French language
The Académie Française in Paris/ Photo Spamdangler/flickr

British poet anointed to protect French language

Published: 21 Feb 2013 16:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Feb 2013 16:51 GMT+01:00

British poet Michael Edwards has been elected to join the "immortals" at the Académie Française, the elite institution whose job it is to uphold the integrity of the French language.

Professor Michael Edwards,73, has been elected to join the 40 so-called "immortals" at the Académie Française. His nomination means he becomes the first Briton ever to join the elite group tasked with protecting the purity of French language.

He was elected in the third round ballot after gaining 16 votes, far more than any of the other candidates. His nearest rival was former government minister and former head of Radio France Jean-Noel Jeanneney, who polled five votes.

Edwards, a respected poet in both French and English, was voted in a year after narrowly missing out on the post by just two votes. He also lost out on the role in 2008 after not receiving enough votes.

At the age of 74, he fulfills his life-long ambition in the nick of time, since the Académie has set an age limit of 75 for candidates. He will be a member for life, hence the title "immortal".

Marc Fumaroli, one of the institute's 40 immortals told The Local on Wednesday that the appointment of Edwards was good news for the Académie and good news for France.

"Michael Edwards is a francophone of the first order. He has a lot of talent and is very well respected here in France, and well liked," Fumaroli said. "It's not the first time we have appointed a foreigner who has chosen to adopt the French language.

"He has an excellent knowledge of literature and his courses are very followed here in France. He has a lot of talent, not just writing but speaking too. He was elected with a very big majority."

Defending the Académie's role to protect the French language, Fumaroli told The Local that it was necessary to protect French - the great language of literature and poetry, as opposed to English which has become "the language of the airport".

"English is not like French, which is a classic literary language. English is a language of communication and convenience. It is not poetic or literary. 

"We need to protect the great classic languages of literature and poetry like French and Italian.

"English too needs to be protected, because it is threatened by its own dominance. It is not the language of the great writers, it is now the language of the airport."

Edwards - staunch defender of French

Edwards joins the esteemed ranks of "immortals" who over the years have included some of France's most famous writers, philosophers and politicians including Cardinal Richelieu in 1635, explorer Jacques Cousteau and current member, the former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

Edwards, is a specialist in Shakespeare as well as 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud and 17th century French dramatist Jean Racine.

With the Académie's main role being to defend and promote the French language, the decision by the "immortals" to allow a British poet to join their venerated ranks may seem a strange one.

However, Edwards is a stout defender of the French language.

"This is a moment of crisis for French and it makes sense, I believe, for the academy to choose someone who comes from, as it were, the opposite camp but has become a champion of the special importance and beauty of the French language," Edwards told the Independent earlier this year.

The Académie is tasked with acting as an official authority on the French language. One of its jobs is to publish an official dictionary. Any rulings it makes, however, are not binding.

Edwards had his first French lesson at the age of 11 at his school in Kingston-upon-Thames outside London before going on to study modern languages at Cambridge. He later became a professor at Warwick University before taking up a role at the prestigious Collège de France.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Euro hunt for French girl ends in her hometown
Europe-wide search for missing French girl ends in her hometown. Photo: AFP

Euro hunt for French girl ends in her hometown

A Europe-wide hunt for a missing 15-year-old French girl ended in her hometown on Friday where she was located with a 48-year-old family friend who was suspected of abducting her. Police believed the friend was suicidal. READ () »

French MP proposes puppy custody law
A French lawmaker wants puppies looked after in case of a divorce. Photo: Robbee/Flickr

French MP proposes puppy custody law

Who gets custody of a dog after a divorce? A French lawmaker has proposed a bill to create a legal framework to answer precisely that and other tricky questions surrounding pets. READ () »

Threat letter to French mosque praises far right
A mosque in the Paris suburbs has gotten a threat tied to the recent election of far-right National Front mayor. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Threat letter to French mosque praises far right

After pork products turned up in the mailbox of a suburban Paris mosque along with a threatening letter praising the town's recently elected far-right National Front mayor, muslims are concerned about a "worrying" local shift. READ () »

'Slavery' protesters slash hundreds of Velib' tires
Hundreds of Velib' bike tires slashed in 'slavery' protest. Photo: Cyril Folliot/AFP

'Slavery' protesters slash hundreds of Velib' tires

Far-left activists slashed the tires on over 360 Velib’ bikes in Paris this week in protest of the ‘slave’ labour the programme’s operator uses to repair vandalized bikes. The vandals could themselves end up 'slave' labour. READ () »

New scandal means more bad news for president
France's president was smacked with his administration's latest embarrassing scandal. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

New scandal means more bad news for president

The latest blow to struggling President François Hollande came on Friday when a close aide quit over allegations he'd used taxpayer money to support a posh lifestyle and appeared to have breached conflict of interest barriers. READ () »

French bank bosses to explain 'indecent' pay
France's economy minister wants bank bosses to explain their "indecent" pay. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

French bank bosses to explain 'indecent' pay

France’s economy minister, outraged by huge pay hikes the bosses of the country’s biggest banks have awarded themselves in the past year, called the chiefs to a meeting to “explain” their “indecent” pay. READ () »

Eurostar: Major train delays after two incidents
Multiple incident snarl Eurostar traffic during Easter rush. Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

Eurostar: Major train delays after two incidents

Hundreds of travelers on Eurostar trains between Paris and London saw hours of delays and cancellations on Thursday night due to back-to-back technical and fatal incidents. Service was supposed to be back to normal on Friday. READ () »

Police finish DNA sweep in hunt for school rapist
Police have finished an unprecedented DNA collection in the hunt for a rapist. Photo: Xavier Leoty/AFP

Police finish DNA sweep in hunt for school rapist

All 527 male students and staff at a private school in France have turned over their DNA as part of an unprecedented hunt for whoever raped a girl in a campus bathroom. One student who'd refused relented under prosecutors' pressure. READ () »

‘France needs to change its response to crime’
France prison's have hit a new record for overcrowding. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

‘France needs to change its response to crime’

This month France had more prisoners behind bars than ever before in its history, according to statistics unveiled on Thursday. An expert on the country's penal system told The Local that Sarkozy-era sentencing laws are largely to blame. READ () »

Burgundy 'will be ruined by wind farms'
Will Burgundy's worldwide reputation suffer because of windfarms? Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

Burgundy 'will be ruined by wind farms'

The famous Burgundy region of France is synonymous with its vineyards but its image will soon be ruined, campaigners say, by the planned construction of new wind turbines. They say their chances of gaining UNESCO world heritage status are threatened. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
VIDEO: Take a look inside Paris’s first luxury hotel for cats
Education
French parents are the most laidback about their kids' education. True?
Tech
What do French TV viewers complain about the most? Yes it's English
Business & Money
French tax declarations: The key points to remember
Gallery
French slang: Everyday words you need to know (but use cautiously)
National
Paris cops told to ‘purge’ Roma from posh neighbourhood
International
VIDEO: ‘Anti-French’ Cadillac ad sparks anger in France. See why.
Features
Buying property in France? Here's 10 things you need to think about
National
What will the future map of France look like? The answer lies within.
Politics
'The 27 French regions aren't the problem, it's the 36,000 towns'
Culture
Ex underage call girl Zahia picked to embody Marie Antoinette
Gallery
Buying a house in France? Ten things you need to think about
Advertisement:
National
France bans work emails after 6pm! Sadly it's not quite true.
Opinion
Reader Rants: Why don't the French do charity? Is it down to taxes?
Society
VIDEO: The Paris zoo is back but this time the animals are in charge
National
This will be the most expensive road in France - Only €1.66bn for 12km!
Society
Only in France? Gourmet pensioners party lands village in hot water
National
What's the worst thing to do when you realise you're on the wrong train?
From showers to kissing: Anglos tell Twitter what's weird about France
National
'A big quake will hit France and there will be casualties' - Scientist warns
Culture
After all the dozens of books is France still worth writing about?
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Opinion
Paris or the suburbs - where would you live?
National
VIDEO: Walk the line - crossing the Seine on a tightrope
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se