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By Agnès Desarthe

« Apprendre à lire a été, pour moi, une des choses les plus faciles et les plus difficiles. Cela s’est passé très vite, en quelques semaines ; mais aussi très lentement, sur plusieurs décennies. 
Déchiffrer une suite de lettres, los angeles traduire en sons fut un jeu, comprendre à quoi cela servait fut une traversée souvent âpre, et, jusqu’à l’écriture de ce livre, profondément énigmatique. »

Comment apprend-on à lire ? remark notre désir de lecture peut-il être entravé ? remark l’écriture peut-elle rendre meilleur lecteur ? Cheminant à travers ses souvenirs, Agnès Desarthe mène une enquête passionnante, puisant au coeur d’un mystery : celui de n’avoir pas aimé lire pendant longtemps.

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I expected a small job like painting two rooms might take a normal painter about a week. Except the landlord hired a French painter. One of the most important things I would tell anyone moving to France is not to expect anyone to be particularly concerned about finding the most expedient path to the end result. If you don’t believe me, join the queue of Parisians waiting for their baguettes at the boulangerie and you’ll see what I mean. You’ve never heard so many elaborate discussions over which baguette is better: pas trop cuite or bien cuite (pale and soft versus well-baked and crunchy), traditionnelle or ordinaire, demie or entière … Listen as you wait in line at the volailler: Is that poularde in the case going to make a more flavorful bouillon than the poulet fermier in the window?

For some reason, to the French, it always seems like a total surprise when the time comes to pay up. ” is something I’m often asked by people who think I spend my days hopping from chocolate shop to patisserie. ” Or “On Monday, I tried to return something that was broken. ” I’ve learned to give myself p-l-e-n-t-y of time to run errands, and I realized the rule, rather then the exception, is that either the place will be closed when I get there (albeit with a polite excusez-nous taped to the door) or it will have every item, such as each and every kind of herb tea imaginable, except for the most common one of all—like chamomile.

To all of you who said that I should write a book about Paris—here it is! INTRODUCTION I distinctly remember the exact moment when I became Parisian. It wasn’t the moment when I found myself seriously considering buying dress socks with goofy cartoon characters on them. Nor was it the time I went to my bank with €135 in hand to make a payment for €134, and thought it completely normal when the teller told me that the bank didn’t have any change that day. And I’m sure it wasn’t when I ran into the fifty-something receptionist from my doctor’s office sunbathing topless by the Seine, à la française, and I didn’t avert my eyes (much as I wanted to).

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