Geoffrey Fox

Reflections & Inquiries

Speaking in tongues


My improbable readers may have been surprised to see my post on Houellebecq in French, on a blog where almost everything is in either Spanish or English, the languages I handle best.  In case you’re curious but don’t read French easily, here’s the gist:  I got a big kick out of Michel Houellebecq’s 2015 book that caused such an uproar in France, a fable about a Muslim take-over of the country. It’s a biting, very funny satire about how the society might react to such an improbable event, with (as Houellebecq imagines it) about as much collaboration and hardly more résistance than the last time (1940-44 — Houellebecq makes no explicit allusion to that occupation; for that, you might read Modiano’s Dora Bruder).

But about those tongues. I’m making a serious effort to improve my French language skills, to fulfill an old debt to myself and to a beloved teacher, Mlle. Madeleine Doerfler of Lake Forest High School. French was going to be my first second language, and with Mlle. Doerfler’s help, I worked hard to get it right. But then, after high school and as soon as I graduated from college, I went to work as a community organizer in South America, and had to learn Spanish (which I did, and still use). Writing a short essay such as a book review is good practice. I hope it’s not annoying, but frankly,  je m’en fiche — it’s my blog.