Parlez-vous français? Celebrating France and the French. Online exhibition


Special Collections, University of Otago

Date Created

7th September, 2017


‘Tout homme a deux pays, le sien et puis la France’ (‘Every man has two countries - his own and France.’) – Charlemagne, in Henri de Bornier’s La Fille de Roland (1875)

The Republic of France extends from the Mediterranean (Marseilles) to the English Channel (St Brieux) and North Sea (Calais); from the Rhine (near Besançon) to the Atlantic Ocean (Bordeaux). It also takes in areas such as French Guiana and Guadeloupe. ‘France’ today is formed by 18 regions; some 643,801 square kilometres. The country is broken down to 102 départements (like Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Normandy, and Brittany) that are divided into communes, which in 2013, numbered 36,681 (Paris, the country’s capital city, is a commune as well as a département). In 2017, the population of France and its overseas regions was almost 67 million. Diversity reigns within this wide urban and rural spread: social and religious cultures, language, historical development, politics. Indeed, General Charles de Gaulle once said: ‘How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?’

‘Parlez-vous français? Celebrating France & the French’ reflects the country’s variety: French printing; the reign of Louis XIV; works by dramatists Corneille and Dumas; an original Voltaire letter; maps of Paris; food and fashion; science; travel; novels by Rabelais, Hugo, and Camus; and poetry by Baudelaire and Apollinaire. In addition, a suite of engravings of New Zealand birds drawn by French artists. Except for a few items from private collections, all of the materials on display are from Special Collections. Profitez-en!


Special Collections, University of Otago; Central Library, University of Otago; Private Collections

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