Past Big Thinking speaker now "Immortal"

Past Big Thinking speaker now "Immortal"

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jessica Clark, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

On December 12th, everyone here at the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences was very excited to learn that Dany Laferrière had been named to the Académie française. He is the first Canadian to join this illustrious group, whose members are known as the "Immortals."

I was especially thrilled to hear this news. It was my good fortune to have worked with Mr. Laferrière in the lead up to Congress 2013 at the University of Victoria, where he gave a lecture as part of the Federation's Big Thinking series. His lecture was titled Je vis comme j'écris (I write as I live, in English). It was the only Big Thinking lecture I was able to attend, and I am so pleased that I was able to be there.

The room was packed, and there was a palpable buzz as people anticipated Mr. Laferrière's arrival. When he took the stage, shaking many hands and saying hello to just about everyone along the way, he simply overwhelmed the audience with his passion, learning and eloquence. His stories captivated, and his observations about writing and reading resonated with many of his listeners, me included.

Afterward, he stayed – and stayed, and stayed! – to take photos and sign books, usually drawing something special like a flower or a tree alongside his inscription. He was indefatigable! I have been to many book signings, and it is rare to see an author who is so completely at home among his readers, who takes time to talk with each of them, often spending ten minutes or more with them, sharing stories and the titles of favorite books.

I am sure Mr. Laferrière will bring the same indefatigability to his work at the Académie française. And the French language will be better for it.

So on behalf of all of us here at the Federation, congratulations Mr. Laferrière!