Here I want to congratulate 7 students from 1 L1 and L2 who entered a difficult competition organised by Paper Planes Publishers. Students could write on their own or in pairs and had to write a short-story, a poem or a non-fiction essay. They worked on their texts from November to March, sometimes starting all over again when they were not satisfied. They heard my tips, edited their texts, sometimes even during their holidays. This was a huge work and they deserve your applause. I will publish their works throughout the summer.
Here is the first short-story:
The wind was blowing on the quiet city of Riga. Snowflakes gently danced down from the dark night sky, Christmas lights shone from everywhere as the delightful smell of gingerbread perfumed the air.
Escaping from outside’s aching cold, I entered a small inn where a blazing fire was burning in the hearth.
I made my way to the bar, ordered a coffee then looked around: apart from three men playing cards by the fire, the waitress and an old man sitting at the other end of the bar, the café was empty.
It was when I started sipping my drink that I overheard the conversation…
“He was barely fourteen.” the landlady told the old man.
It was none of my business, but I came out to blurt: “Who?”
“Oskar, the boy from the orphanage.” The man answered, looking blindly at his glass.
I nodded and turned back to my coffee. For sure it was none of my business; I didn’t know that Oskar boy anyways.
“He died of a broken heart, I think. Such a pity.” The landlady kept on while wiping the counter.
“I assume you mean a heart attack?” I interrupted her one more time.
She looked at me as if I had said the most unimaginable thing on earth and grinned back down to her work.
However, the old man started:
“It happened a few days ago. On Christmas Eve…”
There was no sound in the orphanage that evening, the children were all sleeping safely and soundly dreaming about the upcoming day, apart from one boy, Oskar.
He was sitting on the cold floor by the window, looking at the tremendous snowfield that stretched endlessly before his eyes; his square five-bedded room was empty. He was holding an old crumpled piece of paper in his hand, on which stood the only words that made his stranger’s past: Lūdzu, piedodiet man. Please forgive me.
Who had even given him this? Who had once been able to care enough to write it?
Stuck in the Absurd, and in between four yellow walls.
Maybe his mother had written it, he liked to think; it would make sense if it was her, but he couldn’t even remember her face. Now she was… they were all gone?
“Have you ever had that feeling of loving someone, who doesn’t love you back?”
The man asked me, breaking his narrative.
I looked at him and felt a smile in a corner of my lips: “I guess everyone once did. It’s no big deal.”
“Well Oskar had lived on with that feeling, though quite unsure of whom he actually loved.” He continued, ignoring my answer.
That night, he ran away from the establishment. He ran to Riga, crossing those fields of snow. He rushed through the capital’s streets in the winter night, with only his old shoes and poor coat on his back to keep him warm. He had time to wander in the whole city; he had time to see everything. Some said that though he looked quite lost, he seemed happy.
But how could they know?
With snow in his boots and red cold-sored cheeks, he stopped on a freezing bench to look at the star-sprinkled sky; and never stood up again.
The next day he was found lying still and cold there, his fist tightened around the small piece of paper.
The man marked a pause.
“Froze to death in my opinion.” I smirked.
The landlady looked, horrified, her jaw dropping, but the old man… he slowly stood up. I might have gone too far. I had definitely gone too far.
“Is it your reaction?” he asked
It came as a blow, my cheeks turning red and burning hot.
“Well then, after all it’s your opinion. May you or may you not live on with it.” He added before walking away and disappearing in the dark street.
However, as strange as it may seem, I decided to make my way to the orphanage the next day.
An old lady, worn out by time welcomed me. She was not, in any way, the dreadful, unpleasant orphanage woman we hear about in stories, I thought as she guided me to Oskar’s room. If I hadn’t been told, I would never have thought that children were actually living in this place: silent and drowsy, the rooms were only equipped with a few beds and a table, a sad place.
His own private space was in a corner in one of these rooms, near the window. How had he possibly been able to spend such a long time there, with loneliness devouring his heart?
“He didn’t speak much, but his look meant everything. He had big black velvet eyes, a bit like yours, sir.”
I nodded, a sudden wave of discomfort traversing my whole body, so I turned around to chase the feeling away and asked:
“No family? Relatives?”
“There are stories we are asked to keep untold...” she replied, glancing back at me.
Of course I wasn’t satisfied with her answer, but I was only a stranger to that story after all.
I was about to leave the room when the old lady stopped me.
“Ten years ago, a young woman brought him. The child’s father had left her and she had no money”
My heart throbbed, I shivered.
Her last words managed to knock me down:
“Her name was Anja Z…”
My legs felt so weak t I had to sit down. The lady grabbed my arm and helped me to a chair.
I started shaking, my head miserably aching.
“Are you alright, sir?”
“Anja.” I whispered.
Fourteen years ago.
“Yes, but she passed away right after.”
I held my head into my hands, my eyes squeezed shut. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“You knew her?” she asked.
I collapsed on my chair, my eyes blindly looking out by the window, remembering.
“I will never let you down”.
But I had.
And I had broken two hearts.
What do you usually do on Friday afternoons? Well, you should read the posters you go past, there's always something extraordinary happening in Chagall High School.
Last week it was "Projet Barthou 2015" opening! From my car everything looked absolutely normal. But a few steps later...
I discovered a wonderful exhibition entirely designed, staged and guided by the pupils of the 1ère STD2A and Barthou Primary School. I'm pleased I could enjoy a guided tour of the amazing display, the result of the enthusiastic team work between these two classes. Thank you too to Ms Gautherot, Brion, Desse and Pierson from Marc Chagall High School as well as to Ms Guyot and Ms Teixeira from Barthou primary School.
Whether in high or primary school, pupils focused on English words commonly used in French. It led to define these words and use them as a starting point to the creation of a character, whose steps you could follow with pictures, sounds, tastes and words following a cosy and mysterious itinerary.
Damien kindly agreed to explain all the process to you:
(Sorry for the bad quality of the sound, but it proves the place was crowded with visitors !)
I had never thought anglicisms, which I'm not particularly keen on, could lead to such a blast of artistic inspiration. I followed one of Mr Cool's creators, who accepted to explain the creative process and give his impressions. Thank you Damien, the tour was absolutely fantastic. Here is what I've managed to capture thanks to my phone. It's nothing like what I actually experienced there, but it'll give you an idea though.
Congratulations to all of you for the fabulous work and for making our school so lively and open to art and creativity. I can't wait until March 14th to see more of your amazing displays.
PS: please come back and read this post after March 9th, as it may have been edited and improved with some more recordings.
On Friday night, February 13, a representation of the opera “King Arthur” created in 1691 by Henry Purcell, was held by the BarokOpera Amsterdam. It is a "semi-opera", a specific kind of opera developed by British composers in the late seventeenth century. The action was led by the actors’ play and commented by music.
I was very curious to find out what that semi-opera was holding in store for me. An accurate depiction of the original story of King Arthur? (And what I mean is not a completely historical reconstruction): one could expect anything.
So, five artists are on stage, often together, and tell us the misadventures that cross Arthur, Christian and Breton to find Emmeline, the machinations of King Oswald, Pagan and Saxon. Their rivalry extends between Merlin the magician and the magician Osmond, who use their magic to help each king. The play keeps the original texts and the music is valued by being played with baroque instruments.
What struck me first was...The actors!
I was very impressed and found their performance tremendous. Moreover, their voices are powerful and catchy. Furthermore they mix quite well. The actors provide them five different roles and even go as far as changing roles in the play. Then, a garment or a hat allows us to distinguish them. Indeed, the costumes are a bit minimalist but we can see this as an assumed simplicity that truly takes advantage of the staging and their acting. They are very much emphasized and it is pleasant!
In addition, the decor is pretty sleek. Indeed, the musicians are placed on the side garden of the scene; some chairs are assembled side Court for the actors and the necessary accessories to representation from a safe in the middle of the scene.
Frederique Chauvet, musical director, wrote: "We selected fine fragments of the original play King Arthur whose modernity has often been forgotten”. The play is synthesized to give an undeniable dynamism. Thereby, it presents itself as a modern representation; with heroic passages, yes, but mostly bold and full of humors, Shakespearian, absolutely surprising!”
It is a refreshing play that seduces us with a typical English humor and an original theatrical style, the "transparent acting". As explained by the director, Sybrand van der Werf, "the actor or singer performs his character while remaining visible himself as an individual." It creates grotesque situations, burlesque and extremely funny.
To sum up in one word, it was great!
A student from 1 S Euro.
A few weeks ago Ms Marolla, from the FRAC (Regional Contemporary Art Fund) came and presented a video art work to a European class in Chagall High School.
N.I.H.R. By Alice Anderson
Some students have written about this special moment. You'll see that although they don't all agree, they all have something to say. This video left no one indifferent:
Yesterday we saw a video presented by someone from the FRAC. I don't generally like that kind of video, but this one was very interesting. What I understood is that this video is the story of a woman that wanted to see a film, but she had to do many things if she wanted to see it. She had to pass through many similar places. This video was very stressful because the main character was speaking to a woman that was the same woman everywhere she was going. We could only see their faces, moreover we saw the same places and the music was very oppressive. At the end we saw that the woman hadn't seen the film. I felt very frustrated.
I think this video is art, because art has to give emotions like fear and this video gave us emotions.
Yesterday we had a special English lesson. Indeed a woman from the FRAC came and talked to us about where she works. She explained to us that the FRAC's mission was to find and keep masterpieces to spread them to people. The FRAC is in every region of France, so art is accessible to everyone. Ms Marolla goes to schools or universities to bring some to people who aren't particularly interested in art. Her mission is to raise artistic awareness among people of all generations, especially about contemporary art. I learnt a little about art in Reims because of her explanation about different festivals and events.
After that she showed us a video. It was Ms Sirot who had chosen it. The video was called NIHR. I felt bad about this video. I knew it was a work of art, but I found it very strange. I was glad to discover a little mor about art, but this video... I didn't like it. I think some people understand it more than others and I tried to do the same, but the video's atmosphere was really creepy. But I thank Ms Marolla for coming because art is very interesting and we don't have enough opportunities to learn about it.
Yesterday a woman from the FRAC came to tell us about her job and the museum where she works. Then she showed us a video which is a work of art from this museum.
The video was made in 2002 by Alice Anderson. It shows a girl who wants to watch a film in the NIHR, in London. After a lot of papers and cards to fill in the girl could watch the film by Leigh and another girl (always the same) asked her to follow her and she finishes outside without her personal belongings. It was repetitive, and really stressful because of the music.
This intervention was really interesting and this museum is a good thing because we can have access to works of art.
More texts ? click here.
And if you want to know more about the artist, you can watch this video:
The students of a school in Indiana, USA, who's the partner of a high school in Strasbourg, react to this week's tragic events:
All over the world people have been shocked by what happened yesterday in the Office of Charlie Hebdo and last night they showed their solidarity in one way or another.
Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Indian artist Sudarsan Pattnaik, Puri, India
Outside the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium
Pariser Platz, Berlin, Germany
Union Square, New York, USA
Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom
All the photos were published by The Independent online.
Today at school all the students and teachers gathered in the schoolyard and observed a one-minute silence.
On the main entrance door students have put a sign "Je suis Charlie"