KARACHI: The French and Swiss consul generals were standing together in the middle of the Alliance Francaise library having a conversation while guests walked in and browsed through several art and children’s books laid out on tables in front of them.
On Friday, the Alliance Francaise (AF) opened its door to the French and individuals who speak French to celebrate International Francophonie Day, which is observed every year on March 20 within the International Organisation of La Francophonie’s member states.
According to Fraçois Dall’Orso, the consul general of France, AF had organised a two-day festival to mark International Francophonie Day with a film screening, the launch of a translation of Bina Shah’s book, A Season for Martyrs, in French along with games and other activities. “This is a good place to have the event,” he said, adding that it was being carried out in cooperation with the consulate of Switzerland in Karachi.
The idea behind the event, according to Swiss consul general Emil Wyss, was to keep the French-speaking community together. “French is an important language and also the official language of the United Nations,” he said.
Mr Dall’Orso welcomed everyone to the event and said since it was about International Francophonie Day he would talk a little in French. He then asked the Swiss consul general to come and say a few words.
AF’s head of studies Eric Touze thanked everyone and said they hoped to continue holding such events. He explained that the Francophonie was a term created by a 19th century French geographer for people who spoke French or belonged to the colonial empire. He added they were celebrating the day because it was about promoting not just the French language but also peace, conflict resolution, human rights, women’s rights and education.
He then asked Nadya Chishty-Mujahid from the Institute of Business Administration to introduce writer and author Bina Shah and the French translation of her book, A Season for Martyrs.
During her talk, Ms Shah said this was an unexpected chapter in her career and felt very good about it. She added that it was wonderful the book got translated in French — a language she spoke fluently. “If you had actually told me I would have a book published in France I would not have been able to believe it,” said the author who started learning French when she was 12. “It is a dream come true.” She thanks the AF that she said had allowed her to keep up with her French.
Afterwards, the guests were asked to head towards the cafeteria for crepes and then headed upstairs to the conference room for a quiz and screening of the French film ‘La Petite Chamber’.
On Saturday, the AF has planned a pick-up game where guests will have to guess as many literary works in French from their first sentences. It will be followed by a quiz on French music and screening of a French film, ‘L’Avenir de la memoire’ by Diane Baratier.
Originally published in Dawn, March 19th, 2016*