Let’s celebrate 40 years of WICE in 2018! The anniversary celebrations begin with an exclusive opportunity to meet best-selling author Stephen Clarke at special theatrical performance of his book The Merde Factor.
Who among us WICE English-speakers won’t identify with a British expat’s culture shock of living in Paris when he can’t speak French? Join us for some laughs at the Highlander Pub in Paris, on February 12, 2018, with the author of the acclaimed Merde series of novels. After The Merde Factor performance, there will be a Q&A session and book signing with Stephen Clarke.
(The following is a summarized version of Stephen Clarke's text.)
When he self-published A Year in the Merde in 2004, printing up just 200 copies, Stephen Clarke never dreamed it would become a worldwide bestseller, translated into more than 20 languages.
Clarke (heavily) fictionalized his own experiences of settling into real life in Paris, working for a French company, finding a flat, navigating cross-cultural relationships, and learning he was so much less sophisticated than Parisians think they are.
The “Merde” in the title isn’t France itself, of course – it’s the chaos that ensues when the novel’s British hero, Paul West, blunders into French culture and tries to puzzle out what people are saying, and why they’re saying it.
Couple this with colleagues who work harder at organizing their vacation than doing their job, girlfriends who expect him to make perfect vinaigrette, and trying to open an English tea room selling "British cuisine" (for Parisians, a contradiction in terms), and the result is a novel full of “Merde.”
After being picked up by mainstream publishers, A Year in the Merde was shortlisted for British first novel of the year. In the sequel, Merde Actually, Paul enjoys a typical French summer of apéritifs and family rows before returning to Paris and opening his English tea room. The book went to number one in the UK, briefly toppling Harry Potter from the top spot.
What followed was Merde Happens, about a road trip in a Mini across the USA from New York to LA, during which Paul tries to sell the UK as a tourist destination, with his French girlfriend as cynical co-pilot.
Next came Dial M for Merde, a spoof thriller set in the south coast of France, with Paul migrating from Collioure in the west (one of Matisse's favourite haunts), through the haunting weirdness of the Camargue, the idyllic bay of Bandol, to the farcical snobbery of Saint Tropez.
After this, Clarke decided that Paul West had had enough luxury, and sent him back, penniless, to Paris, to live in a chambre de bonne with leaky plumbing, as he tries to get the stablest job on the planet, as a French civil servant. The result was The Merde Factor.
The latest in the series is Merde in Europe (2016), in which Paul West works for a French Member of the European Parliament. He tries to sort out the real issues at stake in the Brexit debate, revealing everything idealistically good, and crazily bad, about the EU. He also examines fake news being published about Brussels by the British press, from the EU wanting to ban bagpipes, to a "scientific study" proving that euro banknotes can make men impotent.
Stephen Clarke’s other books on France:
Talk to the Snail, the Ten Commandments for Understanding the French (2006)
1000 Years of Annoying the French (2010)
Paris Revealed, the Secret Life of a City (2011)
Dirty Bertie, an English King Made in France (2013)
How the French Won Waterloo, Or Think They Did (2015)
For more details see:
Date: February 12, 2018
Time: 19h - 21h
Location: Highlander Pub
8 rue de Nevers
Tickets: €25 for Members and Guests, which includes a glass of wine, beer or a soft drink.
Book your tickets here, for what promises to be a great night out!
For more details about WICE's 40th Anniversary and our other courses and events, check out the new WICE 40 page.
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