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Friday, December 24, 2004

Is there something in the English-language tradition that parallels the great French singer-songwriters? Their longevity is amazing -- it's a genre that never seems to go out of style. Folk music comes pretty close, I suppose; music where the story-telling aspect is as important as the sound. Still, I think Americans are a little unfortunate for having to do without Serge Gainsbourg (on some of whose lyrics I gave a presentation in college) or Georges Brassens:

Mourir pour des idées, l'idée est excellente;
Moi j'ai failli mourir de ne l'avoir pas eu.
...
Allons vers l'autre monde en flânant en chemin.
Car, à forcer l'allure, il arrive qu'on meure
Pour des idées n'ayant plus cours le lendemain.
Or, s'il est une chose amère, désolante,
En rendant l'âme à Dieu c'est bien de constater
Qu'on a fait fausse route, qu'on s'est trompé d'idée.
...
Mourir pour des idées, c'est beau, mais lesquelles?


(To die for ideas -- the idea is excellent;
I myself almost died for not having thought of it.
...
Let us go towards the next world, loitering along the way,
Because, in rushing, it can happen that we die
For ideas that are out of date tomorrow.
And if anything is bitter, distressing,
It is, in giving up our souls to God, to realize
That we took the wrong path, that we chose the wrong idea.
...
To die for ideas is great -- but for which ones?)

© Paula Levy
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