A certain je ne sais quoi

Posted on March 21, 2022

I became acquainted with it quite naturally. I began by uttering monosyllables—onomatopoeia, actually. Then, timidly, I strung together a few words, followed by simple albeit tentative sentences. As time passed and our bond grew, so did my sentences. They became increasingly longer and refined until they evolved into entire and at times endless stories. Entrancing tales. Epic poems. I spoke until I’d expelled all expression.

Charmed by its beauty and eloquence, I longed to get to know it better. I wanted to unlock its eccentricities and paradoxes, as it is both mad and mischievous, saying one thing and implying the opposite. The same word can both give and take away, dispense and dispose.

When it swears, it is at once a coronation, an anointment and a blessing—but also an offense, a desecration and a curse. So mesmerizing is it that I could pen a thesis on its abundant polysemy if only I could call to mind its multitude.

Haughty though it may be, it handsomely opens up to me. And so I read voraciously, greedily. I write with great joy and enthusiasm. I feel privileged, as it is not easily probed. To me and to all who genuinely admire and seek to explore it like a spelunker a cave, it willingly reveals its most obscure cavities. Its most treacherous corners and crevices. Its most cryptic frescoes.

I delve headlong into its rules and exceptions, the captivating complexity of its nuances and subtleties, the exactness of its expressions. It compels me to refine my ideas. To hone my thoughts and then parse them with emphasis and assertiveness the way Laura Fessel wields a sword, the way Surya Bonaly nails a backflip.

It lights my way and primes me for adventure. It is an open book inviting me to draw the confidence I need to converse with others. So much so that I even attempt to embrace its kin, but I trip and stumble, my loquacity stunted. But I don’t let such failed linguistic forays define me. I return to the one that allows me to be who I truly am as I speak it, read it and write it. With it, I am whole. With it, I am the woman I am meant to be.

I love the way it empowers me to express my feelings, emotions and desires with ease. It remains my closest ally in reaching out to others, helping me to adapt my style to make real connection. My partner when I want to dive deep into topics that call for concision and correctness. It is logic and insight.

More than an idiom, a means of communication, it conveys strength and assurance. Magnificence and pride in identity. A secular and contemporary living thing that remains exquisite and unalterable despite perversive attempts to reform it. Brilliant and dignified, it will endure through the ages as it has through its glorious past and as it will through its promising future. Friends, I give you the language of Molière, Condé, Senghor, Khadra and Confiant, of Laferrière, Maillet, Maalouf, Dumas and Nelligan. Friends, I give you la langue française.

Translated by Claudia Rathjen


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Get to know Annie-Josiane Sessou

Annie-Josiane Sessou

Annie-Josiane Sessou passed away in October 2022. She described herself as an author with a scientific background. She drew pride, strength and hope from the diversity and richness of the French language. As a Francophone, she was deeply passionate about her language and used writing not only as an outlet but as an art form to express beauty.


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