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Le Mont Blanc n'est pas en France
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#292

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2 min

Mont Blanc is not in France, by Olivier Marchon

Through a rich catalogue of geographical oddities, Olivier Marchon offers an original reflection on the history of our societies. Its playful lighting reveals the political issues hidden behind the drawing of borders.

© DR
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The taste of the absurd

After studying physics, Olivier Marchon changed his path to directing corporate films and documentaries. In works such as Six garçons dans le vent (Six Boys in the Wind, 2007), his pronounced taste for unlikely adventures was already obvious.

 

It is fully asserted through writing and works designed as collections of anecdotes whose absurdity often reveals more complex issues, such as our relationship with time in Le 30 février et autres curiosities de la mesure du temps (The 30th February and Other Curiosities of the Measure of Time, 2017) or the farcical paradoxes of the inhabitants of France in his Atlas de la France incroyable (Atlas of Incredible France, 2014).

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Geography, politics and humour

What do Mont Blanc, the ghost island of Bermeja in the Gulf of Mexico and Suite 212 at Claridge's Hotel in London have in common? Each of these places recounts in its own way the sometimes tumultuous relations between nations. By revealing the existence of strange micro-states, such as the principality of Arbézie, a hotel on the French-Swiss border where the Évian accords were drawn up, Le Mont Blanc is not in France revisits contemporary history.

 

The thirty erudite and intriguing stories in this book also show how geography, even in its most anecdotal form, concentrates major political issues. The drawing of a border a century ago can thus awaken strong tensions in today's world.

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Inventive inventories

By his own admission, Olivier Marchon is passionate about numbers, words and history. No wonder, then, that his work as a writer systematically mixes these different dimensions. In 2008, he produced his first work, Les carottes sont jetées (The Carrots Are Thrown Away), a catalogue of mixed expressions in which the French language cheerfully trips up on itself.

 

In Mont Blanc is not in France, the imagination is often captured from the surprising contrast between chosen, tiny places (a hotel room, a field of a few square metres in India) and the immense geopolitical dimension they carry. Since then, he has accumulated inventories, like those of Jacques Prévert, where the great story meets paths with the small.

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Beyond borders

By its very nature, Mont Blanc is not in France is aimed at readers in all countries. The United States, Belgium, the United Kingdom: each story told illustrates a famous conflict, a world historical fact and often brings the reader back to what's going on the news today. Tensions between Mexico and the United States, for example, are already at the heart of the conflict over the island of Bermeja.

 

The book has been translated in Italy, a country that disputes ownership of the famous Alpine peak with the French. It's an anecdote that doesn't lack piquancy, either.

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The Institut français and the book

Mont Blanc is not in France, by Olivier Marchon, has been translated into Spanish with the support of the Institut français in 2019. 

 

Through its publication support programmes, the Institut français participates in the dissemination of French language humanities worldwide. Learn more about the publication assistance programmes