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  • Podcast: Political swearing, Molière and women, King Behanzin's surrender
    Which Macron vowed to "piss off" the unvaccinated and why? The 17th century female playwrights around Molière, as France marks his 400th anniversary with pomp and circumstance. The African kingdom that made France tremble in the 19th century, until its king surrendered. President Emmanuel Macron shocked France when he used a curse word to describe his Covid strategy to put pressure on the unvaccinated, calling them irresponsible and non-citizens. Research suggests that such a confrontational approach is more likely to push people away from vaccination, so the message could be counter-productive. Unless, that is, he was addressing a different audience. Political scientist Philippe Moreau Chevrolet (@moreauchevrolet) says Macron’s strategy may pay off electorally in the short term, but it comes at a price. (Listen @0') 17th century playwright Molière is a school curriculum staple in France and his plays are performed all around the world. As France marks the 400th anniversary of his birth, people are battling to appropriate his legacy – either nostalgic for a bygone glorious era or trying to establish his contemporary 'Republican' credentials. Moliere's satirical works poked fun at authority, and he denounced violence against women. But actor, director and researcher Aurore Evain (@auroreevain) cautions against calling him a feminist. She speaks about the influence of female actors around Molière and her discovery of 17th century women playwrights who influenced both him and his work. (Listen @16'50'') When France returned the Benin Bronzes in November 2021, it was returning treasure from the Dahomey kingdom, which fell on 15 January 1894 when King Behanzin surrendered to the French army after two wars. Today he is remembered as the monarch who made French tremble, but his kingdom, and the treasures in it, were also a product of the slave trade. (Listen @11'25'') This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani and Erwan Rome. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: Inclusive language, improbable roommates, the Dreyfus affair
    Inclusive writing and gender-neutral language divide France. The merits of homesharing across generations. And the trial that started the Dreyfus affair, kicking off a left-right split that's still felt today. The recent addition of the gender-neutral pronoun 'iel', a contraction of  "il" (he) and "elle" (she), into the Petit Robert's online dictionary became a national drama, fuelling very vocal opposition to inclusive writing. Its opponents present it as a threat not only to the French language, but the country’s core values. French is a gendered language, and the masculine takes precedence, but academics and linguists have been working on how to write in a less gender-biased way. Raphaël Haddad (@raphaelhaddad), author of a guide to inclusive writing and whose company teaches local authorities and corporations how to use it effectively, talks about its development, despite the pushback. And literature “professeuse” Eliane Viennot explains how inclusive language is in fact a French tradition. (Listen @1'45''). The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the downside of living alone – with elderly people on their own and isolated students in small studios especially hard hit during lockdowns. Some housing programmes have brought these two groups of people together through the concept of intergenerational living, matching elderly people with a spare room in their homes with young people looking for accommodation in cities short on affordable student housing. Parisien roommates Jeanne and Brigitte were matched by Pari Solidaire, which has seen a gradual increase in demand for this kind of housing, after a drop last year due to the health crisis. (Listen @18'20''). Jewish army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was sentenced to life in prison on 22 December 1894 for allegedly selling military secrets to Germany. It was the start of a decade-long crisis, which came to be known as the Dreyfus affair. It split France politically and brought deep-seated anti-Semitism to the surface. The results of both still resonate in France today. (Listen @14'05''). This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app.
  • Podcast: Green hydrogen, sperm shortages and France's other revolution
    A visit to the world's first green hydrogen production plant, in western France. Major delays in IVF for all women, months after legalisation. And the Canut revolt of 1831 – the first workers' protests of the industrial revolution. Is hydrogen the energy of the future? Some say the future is now. Lhyfe, a startup in Brittany in western France, has opened what it says is the world's first green hydrogen production plant, extracting the gas from water using electricity generated from local wind turbines. CEO Matthieu Guesné says when he started talking about green hydrogen in 2017, no one paid attention. Today, France is investing billions in the technology. We visit the plant and take a ride in a hydrogen vehicle in Nantes, whose transit authority, Semitan, is experimenting with the technology. (Listen @3'26'') France passed a law this summer allowing single women and lesbian couples to get fertility treatment, previously reserved for heterosexual couples. Single women seeking IVF used to have to go abroad, often to neighbouring Spain or Belgium. There's been a surge in demand since the new law came into effect but the system is unable to keep up. Eloïne Fouilloux, vice-president of support group Les enfants d’arc en ciel, talks about staffing shortages in French fertility clinics and the cultural taboo against sperm and egg donations, which contributes to the problem. (Listen @18'37'') In 1831, after an uprising of Canut silk workers in Lyon, King Louis Philippe cracked down, crushing one of the first workers' protests of the industrial era. (Listen @13'50'') This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app.
  • Podcast: France's first Alzheimer's village, translation wars, Josephine Baker
    An experimental centre near Bordeaux offers Alzheimer's sufferers more freedom and less medication; debate over whether a translator's identity matters following the Amanda Gorman controversy, and France honours Josephine Baker – performer, Resistance hero and civil rights activist – with a place in the Pantheon. The Covid pandemic showed the limits of caring for the elderly within nursing homes, raising concern over how they are treated, especially those with Alzheimer's – a incurable form of dementia, often accompanied by anxiety and depression. During France's first lockdown in the spring of 2020, some patients were confined to their rooms to protect them from infection, adding to their sense of isolation and confusion. The Village Landais Alzheimer in Dax, south of Bordeaux, is experimenting a very different, non-pharmacological approach, providing 120 patients with the chance to carry on living as much of their ordinary daily life as possible within a vast but secure setting.  A visit to the village offers a glimpse of what Alzheimer's care could end up looking like in France, if research concludes it is effective. (Listen @1'20'') Translation is very visible in France: most movies and TV series are dubbed, and large numbers of books are read in translation. The spotlight was recently shone on the work of translators following controversy over who would translate Amanda Gorman – the 22-year-old African-American spoken-word artist who presented her poem The Hill at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2020. The white poet chosen by the Dutch publisher stepped down from the job after questions were raised about why a black artist had not been picked. Literature professor and translator Tiphaine Samoyault talks about why it made sense to choose Marie-Pierre Kakoma, aka Lous and Yakuza, a 24-year-old Belgian-Congolese performer, for the French translation, and why a translator's identity matters. She also talks about the inherent violence in translation, the subject of her most recent book, 'Translation and violence'. (Listen @20'12'') Josephine Baker was the most successful American entertainer working in France in the 1920s and '30s. She was also a Resistance heroine and civil rights activist. On 30 November she will become the sixth woman, and the first black woman, to enter the Pantheon – France's mausoleum of 'great men'. In deciding to honour her, President Emmanuel Macron called Baker a figure of reconcilliation for France. (Listen @15'30'') Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app.
  • Podcast: Returning African art, dying with dignity in France, Brassens at 100
    How France is dragging its feet in returning African art and artefacts housed in its museums. An 77-year-old activist talks about fighting for the right to die when and how she wants. And Georges Brassens, the "French Woodie Guthrie", continues to thrill with his free-spirited songs, full of word play, 100 years after his birth. The France-Africa summit, held regularly since the early 1970s, has long been seen as continuing 'Franceafrique' – the networks of influence France has in its former African colonies. This year's event, held in Montpellier, was different. Instead of African leaders, hundreds young people from across the continent interacted with President Macron. A key subject was the restitution of art and objects looted during the colonial wars. Laura Angela Bagnetto, host of the Africa Calling podcast, talks about France's commitment to returning objects, which many at the summit consider is going too slowly. She speaks with Nigerian cultural historian Oluwatoyin Sogbesan (@digiculture4art), who says all objects, no matter how ordinary, are important for African countries to connect to their history. (Listen @0') The issue of assisted dying, or euthanasia, has long been debated in France. It remains illegal here, despite recent efforts to pass laws to the contrary. Some people who want to end their lives, and have the financial means, go to neighbouring countries like Switzerland or Belgium, where assisted suicide is legal, though highly regulated. Jacqueline Jencquel, 77, a member of the French Association for the right to die with dignity (ADMD), talks about setting a date for her own death, counselling and advising others and why the law in France needs to change. Listen @15'10'') France is marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of singer-poet Georges Brassens, whose free sprit and way with words make him as popular as ever. (Listen @10'10'') This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Google podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.



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