Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On Dany Laferrière, Language and the Académie Française

Last December Haitian-Canadian (Québécois) writer Dany Laferrière was voted into the august Académie Française, taking the seat of the late Argentinian-born author Hector Bianciotti. He is the first Canadian and the first Haitian to become a member of the nearly 400-year-old institution; he is also the first who is neither French, naturalized French, nor a resident of France. The permanent secretary of the Académie, historian Hélène Carrère d’Encausse even consulted with its patron, President François Hollande, who confirmed that the statutes did not require that members be of French nationality.

“Language,” said Carrère d’Encausse, “is the nationality.”

Laferrière’s friend and fellow author, Franco-Congolese Alain Mabanckou said that his election marks an increasing openness at the Académie Française, the purpose of which is to protect and monitor the French language.

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