Tuesday, January 31, 2023



Monday, January 30, 2023

M2 January exam translation. Suggested translation


Suggested translation

Exam M2 translation January 2023

 My mother had begun as a typist  in a local healthcare insurance office and had moved up the ranks. She was a personal assistant and head of staff, in a hospital run by the National Health Service.

 “But we might be leaving Chateauroux.”

“Where would you go?”

“We might go to live in the Champagne region.”

 The move to the East had three reasons behind it. Firstly, she had applied for a job at the health insurance service in Reims. One of her friends had lent her a flat in Toul. And lastly, the new law on kinship had been passed, and it allowed fathers, with their spouse’s agreement, to recognize a child born out of wedlock, later in their lives.

 “Your mother tells me you are doing well at school.”

“Yes, I am, but I don’t like maths. I prefer foreign languages and French.”

“ Maths is a logical way of expressing things, really, you should be interested in that. What languages do they teach you at school?” 

“Only English for now. In year 9, I will start on German and Latin. What about you? What exactly do you do at the European Council? Do you translate what people say?”

“That’s what the interpreters do: they translate as people are speaking; usually they are in a  booth. I’m in charge of the translation department. Do you know what Indo-European languages are ?”

He explained this. 

I felt overwhelmed by the flow of information. I began to doubt that I was gifted in languages, and began to look at myself and my ambitions with irony.

“Are your children bilingual?”

Le voyage dans l’Est, Christine Angot, 2021

Send me an email john. mullen at univ hyphen rouen dot fr if you have questions.


L3 orals videos

 An entertaining fifteen minute introduction to the Reformation:


A lecture giving a left-wing view of Thomas Paine


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Thème agrégation, the last few weeks

On the 1st February we will be working on the passage by Sarrazin. This is the last in the booklet I gave you, so here are three more in order (although it may be that we only have two classes left ). Each of them is an extract from some book which won some prize in 2022.

Brigitte Giraud

Maud Viotty

Giulano da Empoli

Friday, January 27, 2023

Thème agrégation : suggested translation, passage from Lafon


We would be gone for four days. We were going to stay in Gentilly, in the suburbs; we were not sure which side but in the suburbs anyway, with some sort of friends of our parents’. It was the beginning of March, a time when the light eats away at the two ends of the day; you can see it and smell it, but it is a time when you cannot rely completely on the weather; you cannot be sure there will not be a huge snowfall, sudden and uncompromising, which ends up blockading you in , with your tickets and your stuff and the bags you packed with military precision the previous night, perfectly aligned in the corridor. You can end up blocked just on the day you were supposed to get out and escape that end of the world we call the farm. It is not a place you pass by or pass through, it is a place you go to, climbing up a steep winding path which is armoured with ice between November and February, that is, when it is not carpeted with sticky snow or decorated with shaky snowdrifts. You push yourself down there: the path is like an intestine, as you move between the round hazelnut trees , the ash trees and other trees that noone ever names, because  there is little time for naming things and why would one? Who for? Who would want to know?

We were going to take the train at Neussarges, a straight through train, no changes till we get to Paris. Changing trains would have been difficult, excessive, or it might have been dangerous; the three of us would not have known where we should go in Clermont Ferrand station, which we were not familiar with; and we would have had to go through a subway, and up and down stairs to find the right platform, while dragging our suitcases and being careful not to lose anything. In particular there was Father’s big blue bag with the presents for our friends, with two kinds of cheese (Cantal and Saint Nectaire) and home-made terrine de porc, black pudding, roast pork, and sausages -enough to feed five people for at least four days. Father would rather have driven , because he knows it’s easy as far as Clermont, he has already done it. Then you just set off, following the signposts, Paris is always on the signposts.

Thème agrégation. Suggested translation, passage from Jauffret


The sun is not allowed in my flat. I open the shutters only at night, when it has long since set. Even deep in the heart of winter it is blinding, outlining people and things with razor-blade sharpness. I prefer the light of the moon when it is not yet full, that of lamps or nightlights.


I live off the income from the rents from this building, of which all six floors floors belong to me and where I live in only about a thousand square feet.


'I have only ever worked to increase my psychological well-being.'


I have been married thirty years. I refused to have children to avoid self-propagation and for fear of the noise. My wife likes light and bustle—I encourage her to go out, get

sunstroke in the Parc Monceau, listen to the motorbikes roar[ing] off when the lights go green, and walk all across the city as part of that crowd whose outlines are too sharply defined.


When she comes back, she describes the latest advertising posters to me, and tells me about a song she heard out of an open car window, a street being dug up by a pneumatic drill, a woman wearing nothing under her dress soaked by a July rainstorm, a stocky, yellowish, shortlegged

exotic dog walked on a lead by a behatted lady whose face-lift could not hide the fact that she had been in her sixties for ages.


'I also saw a man whose head looked like an asparagus tip.'


My wife makes an effective artificial limb, an articulated mechanical arm reaching out for the information I need so as to maintain daily contact with the outside world.


We do, however, dine out once a week in a brasserie. We always sit at the same table, tucked away in a far corner of the dining room, from where I can discreetly observe the patrons and dissect them as if I were a coroner who laid out living beings on his slab in exchange for financial gain or a box of Havana cigars.


My hearing is keen enough to make out what they are saying, and my brain  alert enough to keep up with several conversations going on at one time. I can slip into their lives as if into a glove; from under their  roars of laughter I can unearth the tragedies that have littered their existence, and from the way they raise a glass to their lips or cut up their meat, with a delicate white hand or a heavy hand covered in scars, I can detect the frustrations that will always prevent them from basking like me in perfect happiness.


Agrégation interne

Anyway, all my best wishes for those of you who are taking the writtens for the agrégation interne in a few days' time.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Podcast MP3 John Locke L3 orals

 You will find here the MP3 recording of our first class, concerning John Locke, religious toleration, the Reformation etc.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

L3 orals John Locke

 There were a couple of words in  an extract we looked at today which I did not explain.

Arminianism was a particular current in protestantism, around a group of people who disagreed with Calvin on certain key points about how to obtain salvation.

The Arminian's main points are here:


They demonstrate how detailed the doctrinal disagreements can get!

As for Calvinism, the first part of this article will help



 Thème 9h L306

Monday, January 23, 2023



Speeches documentaries etc

 I am just about to start up my L3 class based on a series of polemical documents and speeches throughout the ages. It includes some pretty amazing people - Tom Paine, Emmeline Pankhurst, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King etc, as well as some people who left their mark on history in a less radical manner - Margaret Thatcher and Andrew Carnegie for example.

While preparing I came across this really fine lecture by one of the best left-wing orators of the last fifty years. This is Paul Foot, talking about Tom Paine and his books.


Saturday, January 21, 2023

Agrégation interne compréhension

 Vous avez reçu deux convocations de trop! Les cours du 1er février et du 15 février, à chaque fois des cours de deux heures, ne concernent pas l'agrégation interne, mais le CAPES interne. J'a contacté le rectorat pour faire corriger.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Thème agrégation

 Mercredi on travaillera sur le texte de Jauffret

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Revue française de civilisation britannique- puritanisme

 L'équipe de la Revue française de civilisation britannique (dont moi-même) est fier d'annoncer la publication d'un nouveau numéro sur le puritanisme. La table de matières est ici.

XXVII-3 | 2022
Émergence et transformations du puritanisme en Angleterre (1559-1642)

Emergence and Transformations of Puritanism in England (1559-1642)
Edited by Anne Dunan-Page and Sandrine Parageau

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Multiculturalism in the UK today

 Latest news


Sunday, January 15, 2023


 Je ne suis pas loin de la retraite, mais je serai en grève jeudi 19, pour défendre le droit d’autres de ne pas travailler encore plus longtemps.

Tirage au sort seconde chance et tout cela

 Pour certains de mes cours, si vous n'avez pas eu la moyenne en deux matières, l'examen seconde chance prend la forme d'un sujet tiré au sort. C'est à dire, par exemple, pour la matière "culture populaire", si vous n'avez pas eu la moyenne, et vous n'avez pas la moyenne non plus en "études postcoloniales", vous pouvez rattraper en passant un examen dans une seule des deux matières, tirée au hasard le jour même de l'examen. La note que vous recevrez s'appliquera aux deux matières.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Agrégation interne compréhension orale thème oral

 Finalement, nous allons faire tous ces cours en présentiel. Je les ai ajoutés à l'empoi du temps : 

Cliquer pour accéder à edtsemestre2.pdf

Wednesday, January 11, 2023


 Transaltion class today 9 am room L306

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Saturday, January 07, 2023

M2 mini dossiers

 Just a reminder - make sure you use spellcheck software etc. The work should contain zero mistakes.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Concours blanc thème agrégation/ advanced translation mock exam

 Here is my suggested translation, with notes. The passage from the exam can be found at the end of the translation. This post will only stay on the blog for two weeks.

Mock exam December 2022[1]

I was born on the 28th of April 1882, in Tortisambert, a really pretty[2] little village in the Calvados region,[3] whose[4] church tower  can be seen[5] on the left as you leave Livarot heading for Troarn.

My parents ran[6] a grocer’s shop which  made them five thousand francs’ profit,[7] year in year out.[8]

I was part of a large family.[9] My mother had had[10] two children from a previous marriage. Then she had[11] a son and four daughters with my father. My father had his mother there,[12] and my mother had her father there - so they were even, if I dare say that- and otherwise there was also a deaf mute uncle who lived with us.


There were[13] twelve of us[14] around the table.[15]

Then, overnight, a plate[16] of mushrooms left me alone[17] in the world.

I was left alone.[18] Because I had stolen eightpence[19] from[20] the till to buy myself some marbles, and my father had cried out[21] in fury[22]:

“Since you’ve been stealing,[23] you are not having[24]  any mushrooms.”

It was the deaf mute who had picked[25] the deadly funghi[26] ; and that evening there were eleven corpses in the house.

Anyone who[27] has never seen eleven corpses at once cannot  visualize how many that is: they were everywhere.[28]

         Am I to speak[29] of my grief?

       Let us rather tell the truth. I was just twelve years old, and all will concur[30] that this was too much tragedy for my age. Indeed, I was completely overwhelmed by this catastrophe; not having enough experience to realize how horrific it was, I felt somehow[31] unworthy.

         One[32] can grieve[33] for one’s mother or one’s father or one’s brother - but how would one grieve for eleven people? You no longer know if you are coming or going with your tears. I dare not say I was spoilt for choice, yet that was a fair description of the situation.

Dr Lavignac who was called in in the afternoon, worked[34] continually for hours applying his sage treatments, which, alas, had no effect. My family faded away inexorably.

Our parish priest,[35] who was taking lunch that day with the Marquess de Beauvoir, cycled in around four. He had his work cut out for him!

        By[36] five in the evening, the entire village was at our house. Old Rousseau, who had been paralyzed for twenty years had had himself carried in[37], and the blind man of the village kept saying, while pushing others out of his way, “Let me see, let me see!”

         –Laissez-moi voir ! Laissez-moi voir !


Sacha Guitry, Mémoires d’un Tricheur, 1935.[38]



[1] Apologies for the slightly gruesome passage.

[2] Someone tried « quaint » but that is an unjustified overtranslation, suggesting « folklorique » or « typique ». « A quite beautiful little village » is fine, since in this case « quite » would have its meaning of « fully » or « completely » and not its other meaning of « fairly ». « Quite a beautiful little village » on the other hand, is a mistake.

[3] In Calvados is OK. « In the Calvados area «  sounds clumsy – I think an area is too small, whereas Calvados is 5 535 square kilometres, or 2 137 square miles. Calvados is of course a département rather than a région in French. « In the Calvados département » is fine.

[4] If you did not find «whose », highly urgent meeting with grammar book required. One or two students tried « from where » or « from which », but that would only make sense if there was only one church tower imaginable in this story. Far more likely is that each village has a clocktower, and the one belonging to Tortisambert can be seen when you leave Livarot. « The church tower of which » is a little clumsy, but okay.

[5] Somebody used a structure wih « make out », which was excellent.

[6] No need to emphasize that this period is over by using « used to ». Since we are not particularly interested in the process of their running the shop (nous ne regardons pas particulièrement cette action au cours de son  déroulement), a BE +ING is a mistake. This is a background action, and the preterite is best. « Run » is better than « had ».

[7] Not « benefit ». A benefit is either not money at all (one of the benefits of living in a large town is that medical services are close at hand), or it is money that you receive from the state for social reasons (sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, housing benefit, maternity benefit, supplementary benefit, child benefit, redundancy benefit, disability benefit, death benefit…)

[8] “More or less » is not bad. « Roughly » is too informal.

[9] « Our family was a big one » is good.

[10] You must translate exactly, so keep this pluperfect.

[11] Someone tried « gave birth to » but that is something a woman does alone, not « with » anyone.

[12] I have expanded to make it clear that the lady involved was not only alive, but was living with them. These sentences are meant to expland on the idea that the family living in the same place was large.

[13] I think it is better not to say « used to be ». « used to be » emphasizes the fact that it will all soon be over, and thus takes away from the surprise in the next sentence.

[14] Not « we were twelve ». « There were N of us » is the classic form for counting people. If you phone a restaurant to make a reservation they will ask you « How many of you are there ? » and the expression exists in all the different tenses. A : I remember my thirteenth pet dog ! B : How many of them have there been ?!

[15] I do not think this has any hidden or implicit meaning.  « There were twelve of us to feed » would suggest poverty, which we do not see mentioned. Note that the twelve are the narrator, his four sisters, his two step-siblings, his mother, his father, his paternal grandmother, his maternal grandfather and his deaf uncle. These facts led me to expand a little earlier sentences, to clarify that all these people were living in the same house.

[16] « Plate » is better than « dish » which would suggest it might be the recipe for a meal. « A mushroom dish » is not correct, because that would be a cooked meal including mushrooms and many more ingredients. « A plateful of mushrooms » is fine. A « mushroom plate » is not correct – this would be a plate made for mushrooms, whether or not it was empty of full of mushrooms.

[17] « All by myself » is somewhat less literary, and so not quite as good, but perfectly acceptable. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN9CjAfo5n0

[18] It is a good idea to add a verb. Note that one does not say « I became alone ».

[19] Eight sous is fine.

[20] Definitely not « in », despite what we say in French0

[21] « Yelled » is too informal.

[22] Or « my father, furious, had shouted at me …» or « my father, ourtaged »,  or « my father, in a fit of anger »

[23] I accepted « since you are a thief », though it focusses a little differently.  The aspect « have been doing » helps to focus on the consequences. « you have stolen eight pennies/ you have been stealing » . Since you have stolen » is clumsy and/or sounds extremely formal (« And the Lord God saw them and said ‘You have broken my commandment’ »)

[24] This is a modal use of the BE + Ing form, very common when forbidding things to children. « You are not eating chocolate just before your dinner ». « There will be no mushrooms for you »

[25] Not “picked up » which would tend to mean « fetched from the shop », whereas these are wild mushrooms.

[26] From a strict scientific point of view, mushrooms are neither vegetables  nor plants. However, in everyday English I think either approximation is acceptable.

[27] Using « Who » alone (*  « Who has never ») is a serious error. A structure with « if you have never » is considerably more informal than the original.

[28] I accepted « all over the place » though it is a little informal.

[29] This structure gives the required solemnity ; « Shall I speak of my grief » is good (in this context it would sound formal, not the simple ‘Shall I come tomorrow ? ‘ request for approval. Someone tried « *Shall I mention my grief ? » - this is not the appropriate verb. A questions beginning « will I » is a mistake here. It is either dialect (notably Irish) or asks a different question, not involving the will of the person. If you are asking about the role you will be playing in a theatre play you have not yet read, you might ask « will I fall in love at the end ? » - it is an objective question which does not involve your own decisionmaking. This is not appropriate here.

[30] Note the formal style. « Anyone will agree » is fine. It is a mistake to say « should », because this sentence merely explains what the situation is – the number of people who will agree (all people). The sentence does not suggest that there is a duty to agree, and it does not advise people to agree, it simply notes that agreement will be present.

[31] « So to say » is fine.

[32] The somewhat literary style means that « one » is the best option.

[33] « One can cry for the loss of one’s mother » is fine. I think it is best to be precise. « Cry for your mother » does not necessarily imply her demise. Strictly speaking it is posisbe to say « one can cry for the loss of his mother », but its sounds very old-fashioned.

[34] This action is presented as over and finished, and is in the preterite in French, so tere is really no reason to be tempted by the use of BE + ING. I recommend that at the end of your exam, you spend a little time just looking at the verbs, and asking yourself for each one why you chose that particular form. Incorrect verb forms lose a lot of marks.

[35] Or the village priest. The « our » is my attempt to translate the familiarity of « M le curé ». You can do nothing with « Mr. » here.

[36] Or « from ». « Dès » is not always easy to translate. « By » gives the idea that although many arrived earlier, the entire village was there when the clock struck five. It may also suggest that five o clock was an early hour to have everyone present, since they would no doubt have been working during the day.

[37] Note that « had been carried in » is an under-translation


[38] Moral of story : buy marbles, instead of eating wild mushrooms.

Here is the original passage

Je suis né le 28 avril 1882, à Tortisambert, petit village bien joli du Calvados, dont on aperçoit le clocher à main gauche quand on va vers Troarn en quittant Livarot.

Mes parents tenaient un commerce d’épicerie qui leur laissait, bon an, mal an, cinq mille francs de bénéfice.

Notre famille était nombreuse. D’un premier lit, ma mère avait eu deux enfants. Elle eut avec mon père, un fils et quatre filles. Mon père avait sa mère, ma mère avait son père —ils étaient quittes, si j’ose dire — et nous avions, en outre, un oncle sourd-muet.

Nous étions douze à table.

Du jour au lendemain, un plat de champignons me laissa seul au monde.

Seul, car j’avais volé huit sous dans le tiroir-caisse pour m’acheter des billes — et mon père en courroux s’était écrié :

– Puisque tu as volé, tu seras privé de champignons !

Ces végétaux mortels, c’était le sourd-muet qui les avait cueillis — et ce soir-là, il y avait onze cadavres à la maison.

Qui n’a pas vu onze cadavres à la fois ne peut se faire une idée du nombre que cela fait.

         Il y en avait partout.

         Parlerai-je de mon chagrin ?

         Disons plutôt la vérité. Je n’avais que douze ans, et l’on conviendra que c’était un malheur excessif pour mon âge. Oui, j’étais véritablement dépassé par cette catastrophe — et n’ayant pas assez d’expérience pour en apprécier l’horreur, je m’en sentais, pour ainsi dire, indigne.

         On peut pleurer sa mère ou son père, ou son frère — mais comment voulez-vous pleurer onze personnes ! On ne sait plus où donner de la peine. Je n’ose pas parler de l’embarras du choix — et c’est un peu pourtant cela qui se passait.

         Le docteur Lavignac, appelé dans le courant de l’après-midi, ne cessa de prodiguer, pendant des heures et des heures, ses soins éclairés, mais, hélas ! inutiles. Ma famille s’éteignait inexorablement.

         M. le curé, qui déjeunait ce jour-là chez le marquis de Beauvoir, est arrivé à bicyclette vers quatre heures. On allait avoir bien besoin de lui !

         Dès cinq heures du soir, tout le village était chez nous. Le père Rousseau, paralysé depuis vingt ans, s’était fait porter jusque-là — et l’aveugle répétait en poussant les autres :

Laissez-moi voir ! Laissez-moi voir !


Sacha Guitry, Mémoires d’un Tricheur, 1935.