The Return of the Native

     Greetings, everyone! Here I am, back at last from my week in England, where, if you recall, I went to read a paper at a conference in London, and then to do a spot of research at the King’s College archives in Cambridge.

     The conference went very well. Thanks to a dress rehearsal the night before, when the friend I was staying with obligingly “lent me her ears”, I was able to read my paper far more calmly than I would have expected. And it was very heartening to have so many colleagues come up to me afterwards and tell me how much they had enjoyed it!

     Despite my nervousness, I found it very stimulating to be part of a group of academics all reflecting on a common theme. Several of the papers I heard were truly fascinating and I came away with lots of new ideas – and a sizeable list of books to read! The suggestion that I should read Foucault (something I’ve been trying to avoid for the past ten years) I greeted with a small sigh of resignation. But on a more agreeable note, two very different papers on Elizabeth Bowen convinced me to give that lady a second chance. Rachel’s rave review of The Heat of the Day on Book Snob had already gone a long way towards banishing any prejudices I harboured after my one attempt to read The Hotel two years ago, and these two papers clinched the deal: The Heat of the Day is officially down on my To Be Read list.

     With specific regard to ruins, three reference books kept cropping up and seem to me worth looking into: The Pleasure of Ruins, by Rose Macaulay (1953); In Ruins: A Journey Through History, Art, and Literature, by Christopher Woodward (2001); and Reading the Ruins: Modernism, Bombsites and British Culture, by Leo Meller (2011).

     Lastly, I even made a new friend, a New Yorker called Lauren Elkin, who turned out to be a friend of a friend of mine from Paris! Lauren has been living in Paris for several years and completed her Ph.D. at Paris 7 University. Like me, she works on modernist writers (her paper on Elizabeth Bowen’s houses was one of those I enjoyed the most). She is also a writer and her first novel, Dorsoduro, will be published by Editions Héloïse d’Ormesson in January/February 2012. She blogs at

     In comparison (and however sacrilegious it may be to say so!) Cambridge seemed a trifle dull. The city centre was even more beautiful than when I first saw it last February, wreathed in November mist, through which the muted reds and burnt ochres of the trees glowed wetly. There were even a few late-blooming pale pink roses against the outer walls of King’s College, and the air was full of the lovely smell of leaf mould. But last time I was there, I was staying with a friend and my evenings were full of bright chatter and laughter. This time, after my day’s work in the archives was done, I had nothing to look forward to but a solitary sandwich in my hotel room and a long evening of boredom. I was very glad to go back to Paris and see my brothers again!

© Florence Berlioz 2011


About Miss Darcy's Library

I love books - buying books, reading books, discussing books, and generally admiring them from all angles (except the e-book). I also love tea, roses, and my dogs, and seldom pass up an opportunity to slip them into the conversation.
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5 Responses to The Return of the Native

  1. Roisin says:

    Ooooh well done for London Florence! I know Lauren too, she’s lovely!
    See you soon for a tea/knitting session!
    Roisin x

  2. Thanks Roisin 🙂
    One would be delighted to have tea and knit whenever you and Cécile are free! I even brought some knitting patterns back from the south-west this weekend…
    xxx Flo.

  3. Anbolyn says:

    It sounds like everything was marvelous – congratulations! I have such a hard time with Elizabeth Bowen, but I have a feeling she is one of those authors who will be completely rewarding if only I persevere!

    • I know what you mean – I prefer a novel with a gripping story and characters to which you can become attached, and Bowen is just too intellectual to allow that. But the excerpts I heard quoted during the conference were so beautifully written that I simply have to see if the rest of the book is as good!

  4. Pingback: The Liebster Award | Miss Darcy's Library

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