Monday, May 19, 2014

Quebec Exchange Programme Post #1- About Books

Hi, everyone! Most of you know that I am pursuing my Masters in French literature and as part of my studies, I signed up for an exchange programme between my univeristy, Department of Foreing Languages, University of Pune and Cégep de Sherbrooke, Quebec. The exchange was for a period of two weeks, where we left on March 29th and were back here on the 14th of April. While in Sherbrooke, we stayed at our correspondant's place and attended classes with them. Luckily for me, my lovely correspondant studies literature as well so we had a great time bonding over books and I found her classes to be supremely interesting. Some of my blogging buddies asked me to share my experiences there and I was anyway looking forward to making posts on the trip. When we got back, I was way too occupied with assignments, catching up on all the work I had missed and my exams. But now that I have a nice, long holiday, I have decided to revisit those great fifteen days by making specific themed posts. So in this post, I will be concentrating on my bookish experience there. It makes perfect sense since ours is a book blog and I am sure all you book lovers will have a fun time looking at what I have in store for you. 

To begin with, I had already studied Canadian history in my first semester and since we would try to establish a link between the socio-political and literary history of Canada, I was impressed with myself when I came across something that I already knew a little about. In fact, the minute we left for Sherbrooke from Montreal, I read the names of various roads there and found myself relating it to some historical aspect that I was already well aware of. When I went to my correspondant's house and when she showed me around, the first thing I noticed was the well-stacked and stunning bookshelves she had in her room and another one in the room arranged for me. There too, I came across titles I'd already heard about and if it weren't for a tight and tiring schedule, I would have loved to read the books but I would fall asleep almost the minute I hit the bed. Anyway, when it comes to pictures, no one can really stop me, so I took pictures of the two books that caught my attention since they reminded me of all that I had studied and took me back to my classes. I began reading the second book in the picture below but I couldn't continue with it. Nonetheless, it had a really eye-catching dedication, a picture of which is attached, the translation of which- and pardon me if I'm wrong here- goes something like this- To all the women that I love, who occupy my life and my fiction.

Salut Galarneau ! by Jacques Gobout and Les Belles-Soeurs by Michel Tremblay
Dedication of Les Belles-Soeurs by Michelle Tremblay
When I began talking to my correspondant, I remember her asking me if there was anything specific that I'd like to do once I got to Sherbrooke and without even thinking, I told her that I wanted to make a trip to the bookstore. Being the kind host that she is, she made sure that we visited, not one, not two but three  incredible bookstores and I visited a few additional ones as well. While I was really interested in taking a look at all the phsical copies of books that don't come in India till a few weeks after their release, the main purpose of the trip was a cultural exchange and obviously, with culture comes language, so I inclined more towards French literature which was simply astounding. Like any lover of the written world, I wish I could've spend days and days at a single bookstore checking out all the books they had at my own pace, but we had plenty of other things to do and see as well. 

The first bookstore we went to was in a small and absolutely gorgeous town called Magog. This small trip was planned by my host family for the first Sunday that I was there. The book-store reminded me of all those cosy book shops that I see in movies. I found meself getting lost in this tiny world where each book probably had a whole new world in it to discover and revel in. This is also where my purchases officially began and I bought two books- Les Grands Ecrivains Francais De Rabelais à Camus (Les Mini Larousse) and Poudre de Kumkum by Larry Tremblay. I have already read the latter since it's a very small book and it fit perfectly into what we studied this past semester, where we looked at and analysed what has been written on India by outsiders. In fact, I even purchased it keeping in mind my professor who said it would be a nice read and that I found something truly interesting (yay me!). The book is currently with my friend and I thank her for taking the picture for me so you could all see it. 

Les Grands Ecrivains Francais De Rabelais à Camus
Poudre de Kumkum by Larry Tremblay
Since we first got an excpert from Albert Camus' L'Etranger in our entrance exam and then again in another exam, I had been teased enough and I was looking forward to reading and analysing the book in the second semester in our 20th Century Literature classes. All I'll say now is that Camus has found an ardent admirer in me and his L'etranger, a new fan. I have read the US English edition of the book and my review of the same can be read here. I was simply stunned when I got a copy of L'Etranger for a great price (many thanks to my correspondant) and La Chute, which I bought in the Cégep bookstore. The former was at this really cool bookstore called Archambault. To mark my most epic purchase (L'Etranger), I even asked my correspondant to click my picture in front of the store. How stunning are these copies! 

L'Etranger and La Chute by Albert Camus
Outside Archambault
My friends and I once went out for our last-minute shopping when we came across an absolutely comfortable and warm second-hand book-store where we were welcomed by very kind and welcoming man, who sold Jean-Paul Sartre's L'existentialisme est un humanisme to me for literally a throwway price. This was my cheapest book purchase there and as if the kind gestures wasn't enough, the man had two CDs which he was willing to gift to two people from our group of students who'd come from so far away to his shop. Well, luck was, for a change, in my favour that day and I ended up winning one of the CDs that's filled with some great Quebec music. I hardly remember the last time I purchased a CD since we now live in a time where music comes to us by a simple click. This CD was such a refreshing change and brought back many memories of times when we'd wait for a music album to come out so we could buy it's CD. Ah, nostalgia! Below are pictures of Sartre's book, the CD and the cute little book-store called Au tourne-livre

L'Existentialisme est un humanisme by Jean-Paul Sartre
La Boutine Souriante en spectacle
Au tourne-livre
I absolutely adore how these books have added to my already full shelf. Folio editions are so adorable, they barely weigh anything and just looking at them makes me happy, although I better start reading now! 

L'Etranger and La Chute by Albert Camus and L'Existentialisme est un humanisme by Jean-Paul Sartre
This marks an end to my book shopping but it, by no means, marks an end to my journey, keeping in mind the theme of this post. The great guys at Cégep had organised a really pleasant walking tour for us which gave us an opportunity to see the intricate and gorgeous murals painted on the city walls near to Cégep. If I begin talking about all the murals, it will take me another post altogether to describe them, so instead, to go with the theme of this post, I'll focus on only one- and for me, the most interesting- mural. Yes, you got it right! The one with books on it. And oh my God! It was beautiful. There is no joy as deep as the one you feel when your friends see books and shout your name. I know this becasue I experienced it when we came across this beauty. Isn't it marvellous? 
The bookshelf mural
The bookshelf mural
While on the same tour, we even visited the local library which was so huge so amazing, I wish I lived there! The inside for a book lover is what Disney is for a happy-ever-after and fairy-tale lover- it's paradise. In the third picture, you can see me with the very sweet Madame Liette Bergeron who teaches at Cégep and is herself a lover and reader of books and what better place for us book lovers than around books? 

Bibliothèque municipale
Inside the library
With Madame Liette 
Whilst we're talking about books, I simply cannot forget to put up a picture of the one book that has travelled with me across continents and that I had been working on practically this entire semester. Well, I was pretty impressed with my score on the paper so I really have no complaints. But this definitely counts as epic and a story I'll keep going back to forever. Book- Orientalism by Edward W. Said 

Reading Orientalism by Edward Said in the school corridors
Now, to mark the end of my trip, my lovely host family (who know me so well) gifted me- no prizes for guessing- a book! It was such an amazing  gesture on their part as this wonderful book (seen below) talks about Quebec. Also, it was really thoughtful of them to have picked a book that has both English and French descriptions as with the help of the former, my family will get a glimpse into Quebec and the latter will help me improve and practise the language. 

Quebec La Belle Province
That brings us to the end of the first in a series of posts I have planned. None of them are scheduled as yet. I'll probably just put them down as and when the mood strikes. I have posts in mind in which I'd like to talk about food, language, travelling alone for the first time, etc. If you have any suggestions or if there's anything in particular that you'd like to know, drop me a line so I can start thinking along those lines and prepare a post accordingly. Ideally, I would have loved to write these posts in French, but for all our other readers, I thought it best to stick to English so no one misses out on anything. Till then, I hope you enjoyed reading this post just as much as I enjoyed putting it up. It was really good for me since I got to revisit the fabulous experience that I had and I hope you had fun getting a glimpse into it. Thank you for stopping by and see you around! 


  1. Nice revisit, Sarika..! Truly, you've not just described, but taken the readers through the journey yourself!


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