An American observer comments on French politics.
Yep. The first novel I read in French was L'etranger, on the recommendation of a teacher at the Alliance française in New York, because it doesn't use the passé simple, but rather the passé composé. So I wouldn't criticize it's non-use. (Even if I'm a fan of Proust and have no problem with it now…)
No one ever uses the passé simple in oral French and based on what I've seen from attempts at it in written French, it's for the best (ils s'assèrent, nous allimes, etc.)Also, being an ardent Famous Five Fan, I can tell you that "le club des cinq et les papillons" is one of the many novels not written by Blyton but purely invented by Hachette (there are about 10 more Famous Five books in French than in English....)I've seen the "old" version of the English text and the "modern" version, and it doesn't sanitize anything - terms like "gay" and "jolly" (used interchangeably as in " a gay old time" or "a jolly old time") are replaced with their modern equivalent as they'd be mistaken by today's kids, etc. There's still no cell phone in sight, the kids travel in a pony-led carriage, the family's still got a live-in maid and tenants on their land, etc. To further the pointlessness of any outrage on behalf of the French text, in the "old", "original" French version (let's call it "creative translation" and we're not talking Harry Potter challengers) there are several changes and inconsistencies, not to mention the names are completely made up - George is called Claude, in spite of the George Sand precedent!
There is evidence that in the eighteenth century, it was still used commonly in speech. Viz. the lyrics of the "Carmagnole": "Quand Antoinette vit la tour elle voulut faire demi-tour..."
sauf pour ceux et celles (moi) qui ne l'ont jamais maitrise--
David A.Bell: I read that passé composé was "invented" in the 19th (?) century, when the passé simple conjugations became fixed... As late as the mid-20th century, people used the passé simple even in spoken French, apparently. Right now, even adults can't use it in written form properly, so I can see why they'd take it out of primary school-level novels...
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