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Macron caps US state visit with New Orleans trip

President Emmanuel Macron on Friday headed to the southern American city of New Orleans, which retains much of its French-infused heritage, as he wraps up a rare three-day state visit to the United States.

Macron caps US state visit with New Orleans trip
US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron walk down the Colonnade at the White House (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

After vowing continued support for Ukraine and seeking to quell a EU-US trade dispute during White House talks with President Joe Biden, Macron was expected to meet with local officials and energy companies in New Orleans and unveil a French language program.

Once a French colonial city, New Orleans was sold to the United States by Napoleon as part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, and Macron has called it “the quintessential francophone land.”

Macron will promote an initiative to broaden access to French language education for American students, with a focus on disadvantaged groups “for whom the French language can be a multiplier of opportunities,” the French leader said.

Addressing members of the French community in Washington on Wednesday, Macron added that he wanted to revamp the image of the French tongue in the United States, “which is sometimes seen as elitist.”

Macron will follow in the footsteps of French President Charles de Gaulle, who visited New Orleans in 1960. As he strolls through the streets of “NOLA,” Macron is likely to stop by the “Vieux Carre,” or “French Quarter”, the bustling historic city center.

“We have a history in New Orleans and important things to say there concerning both our history and what we want to do for the future,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Energy and climate

Besides celebrating French-American ties, Macron will pay tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina which killed more than 1,800 people in and around New Orleans and caused billions of dollars in damage in 2005.

Macron will also meet with businesses “devoted to energy and climate issues,” according to his office, while French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and Louisiana Governor John Edwards will sign an energy deal.

Accompanied by French film director Claude Lelouch and dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, Macron will meet local artists and prominent cultural figures of New Orleans, known as the birthplace of jazz.

The visit will come on the heels of a lavish dinner at the White House, headlined by master jazzman Jon Batiste, who comes from a family of New Orleans musicians.

Macron’s state visit — the first such formal occasion since Biden took office in January 2021 — symbolized how Washington and Paris have buried last year’s bitter spat over the way Australia pulled out of a French submarine deal in favor of acquiring US nuclear subs instead.

The visit featured a full military honor guard for Macron, including service members from the marines, army, air force and even a detachment of soldiers in 18th-century Revolutionary War garb.

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CULTURE

Six French ‘bandes dessinées’ to start with

As France's famed comic book festival in Angoulême rolls on, you might be looking to explore 'bandes dessinées' - we asked the experts for some recommendations if you're a graphic novel novice.

Six French 'bandes dessinées' to start with

Comic books and graphic novels are a cherished tradition in France. When walking into nearly any French bookstore, you are bound to find a section dedicated to them and a quarter of all books sold in France are bandes dessinées.

They’re particularly good for foreigners learning French – as they allow you to follow the story without the pressure of diving into a dense novel.

Bande dessinée: Why do the French love comic books so much?

When researching an article into the popularity of comic books in France, we asked the experts we spoke to for some recommendations to get you started. Here’s what they said;

Les Aventures de Tintin – L’Île noire

You probably already know Tintin and his dog Snowy, so here’s a good place to start reading in French. This comic book series contains 24 albums by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé.

Tintin (pronounced tahn-tahn in French) has served as a foundation for much of the Franco-Belgian bande dessinée tradition, having been published over a period from 1929 to 1976.

The series follows Tintin, a young Belgian reporter, who takes on dangerous cases and travels the world. Les aventures de Tintin has sold at least 200 million copies since its inception, and it has been translated into dozens of languages.

Of the 24 Tintin albums, bande dessinée expert Dr Laurence Grove, recommended starting with “L’Île noire“. He argued that “this is the most important Tintin album”.

The Tintin series has been criticised in recent years following accusations that it portrayed people of colour in paternalistic and racist ways, in addition to publishing stereotypical and defamatory depictions of Jewish people during the pre-war and war period.

Dr Grove did warn that some may choose to avoid the oftentimes outdated comic series in the modern era: “Tintin is problematic, although then Tintin evolves and in the post war period becomes one of the comics to embrace differences and  cultural diversity in a way other comics don’t.” 

Dr. Grove set the “L’Île noir” album apart from other Tintin albums, explaining that in contrast to “when he was colonising wherever he went, in this one he puts on a kilt and goes native. I would say this is where Hergé’s mindset changes”.

The professor of Professor of French and Text/Image Studies at the University of Glasgow said that Tintin is in many ways “the adventure story that is the base for James Bond and Indiana Jones – you can see it through the use of gadgets, planes, trains and automobiles”.

And Snowy the dog? He’s Milou in the French versions.

You can hear The Local’s team talking bande dessinée with the experts in our latest edition of the Talking France podcast. Listen on the link below or download it HERE.

Astérix

Set in 50BC in a village in what is now France, the comic book series of Astérix has marked French generations since it was first published in 1959.

The series focuses on Astérix the Gaul, a warrior who wants to defend his home from invaders. As of 2023, it was the second-best selling comic book in the world, behind the manga One Piece.

Dr Grove recommends that people read Astérix because “you can trace the history of the 20th century and beyond through [it]”.

To the bande dessinée expert – Astérix “acts as a mirror to society from the 1960s and onwards”.

One of the most famous albums is Astérix and Cleopatra, where the hero and his friends seek to help build some important Egyptian monuments – it also became a movie in 1968.

L’Arabe du Futur

This graphic memoir has been referred to by the New York Times as “an essential read”.

It tells the story of French-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf’s childhood growing up in Syria and Libya and later moving to France. The series has been described by many as “darkly funny” and the first volume won the prize for “best graphic novel” at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 2015.

The sixth and final book in the series came out in November 2022, and was given the Grand Prix at the 2023 Festival.

READ MORE: France’s big comic book festival returns after more than a year away

Le meilleur des mondes

This edition of Brave New World – or le meilleur des mondes in French – is a twofold adaptation – explored in comic book format and translated into French, this English-language classic is made new again. Interestingly enough, the book was written while Aldous Huxley was living in France for four months.

Reading a classic novel in comic book form is a great way to test your French skills. Less exhausting than trying to get through a long, complex novel, trying out an adapted bande dessinée could be a fun way to push yourself to read in French.

If you are already familiar with the classic, then do not fear: the graphic novel version is equally fascinating, and with its colourful and futuristic drawings, it will surely offer you something new too. 

Zaï zaï zaï zaï

This comic book by the author Fabcaro is a bit abstract by Dr Grove’s own admission, but he calls it the “up and coming bande dessinée of 2023″. 

The story focuses on a person who goes into a supermarket in France and realises he is missing his carte de fidelité (store credit card) and then has to go on the run because he does not conform to society.

Dr. Grove refers to it as a “zany” comic, with an inventive approach to images that hardly move. 

“This is an artist who has not come up through the current channels,” Grove said. “He did lots of advertising online, and now he has become a household name”. The comic has also been made into a play and a film.

Rubrique-à-brac

The Local also spoke with French bande dessinée expert Dr Matthew Screech – senior lecturer of French language and society at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

He recommends the bande dessinée “Rubrique-à-brac” – which is a collection of disparate stories that, according to Dr Screech, lean into French cultural references and history.

The author, Marcel Gotlib – often known just as Gotlib – is known for having a humouristic tone and for drawing in black and white.

According to Dr Screech, “he draws often on French culture and films, other comic strips, folk tales, French nursery rhymes, and he makes good-natured parodies of them”. 

Dr Screech concluded his recommendation by adding that “French comic strips can reinforce notions of identity by bringing the past into the present, and by connecting to the country’s humour traditions”. 

As a result, this comic series a good way for foreigners to explore other facets of French culture and history they may not have been aware of before.

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