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07-15 November 2020

Livres de poche – French for “pocket books”


My mother was born and raised in Madagascar, as my grandparents moved there in the late 1940s after meeting at university where they were both studying languages. My mother and her siblings spoke French at school, Malagasy with their friends and English at home. She moved to Yorkshire aged 15, returning only twice to Madagascar. A few years later my grandparents returned. I remember my mother and my grandpa talking Malagasy to each other and my grandparents house was filled with ornaments from their time abroad, French ‘livres de poche’ from the 1960s and books in Malagasy. In their hallway they had a huge wall hanging with Malagasy words that was made for my grandpa when he left the school he taught at. I have never been to Madagascar but it was present throughout my childhood and remains somewhere I plan to visit one day.


I was surrounded by French at home and had family based in France. I travelled a few times to France as a child and teenager and then studied French and Spanish at university where I spent a few months living in Paris. I studied at the British Institute, an offshoot of UCL, and worked part time as a waitress in a restaurant. I lived in the 10th arrondissement, behind the Gare de Nord in a studio flat I shared with a friend on the sixth floor.


I spent six months studying in northern Spain, in a city called Zaragoza. I studied history of art modules at the university and travelled around, exploring Barcelona and the Basque Country. Recently I returned to visit Zaragoza with my family after twenty years.