Friday, July 24, 2009

The Power of Storytelling

For those of you who understand French, I would urge you to listen to Le Monde's "Ma première nuit en France" series. The title means "My first night in France" and on each recording, one person is telling his or her own first night in France. Whether they came to France to settle or just to visit, they all have something to say, and they are all worth listening to.

Abdellah tells about his "rêve de pauvre" (dream of the poor) to become a writer, a filmmaker, "all these activities which are not serious things when you are poor", he says, "they don't feed you". Jenny, a British teacher coming from Greece, arrives at 24 and finds herself sheltered on her first-almost-homeless-night by a colleague she just meets. Mikaël comes from the USA and explains how he voiced "Messieurs Dames je vous aime" in the middle of a café, the only sentence he could say in French at the time. His story gets funnier when he tells about how he and his friend released exotic birds from cages on his landlord's balcony at 4am. Angelika tells about her experience as a 16 year old tourist seeing Paris for the first time with her boyfriend -and whose parents have arranged them to stay in separate bedrooms at a small hotel in the romantic city. She has been drawing her vision of Paris from the literature of Simone de Beauvoir and Victor Hugo, and spent her first night wondering about the all night screaming cat she thought was a tortured baby. Margani arrives to France from Somalia to study. He tells how anxious he was to fail "because I didn't know any French". The street where he lived in Mogadishu was so full of life he thought Paris would be even livelier, but on his first night he saw the city empty and thought "Morgani, you are dead!", then he tells how he slept on top of the bed with his clothes on because he didn't realise he could get inside the bed and sleep comfortably wrapped in the blanket.

There is something so powerful in telling stories. Even the simplest, most anecdotal ones, when told with sincerity, can deeply touch. So far you can listen online to the stories of Abdellah, Jenny, Mikaël, Angelika and Margani. Each of them funny, poignant, passionate, they all, in their own way, tell the story of a discovery.

More stories will be told throughout the summer on Le Monde's "Ma première nuit en France" series.