Thursday, June 19, 2008

Becoming French

On 18 June in 1940 [my year of birth], Charles de Gaulle broadcast a call from London on BBC radio inviting his compatriots to join his resistance movement in England.

On this morning of 18 June 2008, a letter with a tricolor heading is inviting me to the préfecture in Grenoble on Friday 27 June to receive a decree stating that I've been granted French nationality.

The naturalization ceremony will be taking place in the lovely old building on the Place du Verdun that I walk past whenever I visit the archives in Grenoble to do research on the background of Gamone.

I'm moved to think that I'll be naturalized in the Alpine capital where the great mathematician Joseph Fourier was once the prefect. Grenoble is indeed a moving city, through its history (both ecclesiastic and republican) and its achievements in science and technology. It was also the birthplace of the great novelist Stendhal. Strangely, whenever I set foot in Grenoble, I feel calm and reassured, as if I were entering some kind of protective cocoon. This is no doubt an illusion, but I always feel that, whatever might be happening elsewhere in the universe, the people of Grenoble have surely got their act together, and are mastering their destinies. In any case, to my mind, it's an ideal place in which to become a citizen of France.

The symbol of the modern city is this mass of black steel, located outside the railway station. It's a work by the American sculptor Alexander Calder [1898-1976]. Entitled Three Peaks, this huge sculpture was commissioned for the Winter Olympics of 1968.

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