I have been learning French phrases using the Memrise application on my tablet. One of the phrases that does not make sense to me, “je pourrais etre americain” is translated as “I think I am an American.” When would I not be sure?
I was laughing about it with a friend and he remarked that it makes sense if you speak French. And at some intuitive level I know what he means.
I just finished a mystery by Georges Simenon, My Friend Maigret, written in French in 1949. It is unusual in that Chief Inspector Maigret is called into solve a case but instead of approaching the case in the tradition of other English-style mysteries by examining the body and the scene of the crime, and so forth. Instead he meanders around the island casually observing people and consuming copious amount of alcohol. Amazingly he manages to figure out who committed the crime relying on his sense of things, without evidence. It was not a very long book so I read it in a day and it gave me a hint of how different the experience will be from other places I been.
It is hard to describe that sensibility that is so French. It is passion, nuance, and sensuous pleasure. Frenchness is a feeling not a thought. This is what makes the Tour de France the premier bike race in the world–the verve, vineyards, sunflowers, and the special pain.