PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
The PN Review Prize 2017 - Now Open!
ENGLISH PEN: time to join!
English PEN relies on the support of its members and subscribers. read more
Most Read... Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
David Herdin Conversation with John Ashbery
(PN Review 99)
Daniel Kaneon Ted Berrigan
(PN Review 169)
Henry Kingon Geoffrey Hill's Oraclau/Oracles
(PN Review 199)
Dannie Abse'In Highgate Woods' and Other Poems
(PN Review 209)
Sasha DugdaleJoy
(PN Review 227)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue Meet Michael Edwards at the Brasserie Lipp David Herman reads Milosz's life Sumita Chakraborty's five poems Judith Wilson's encounter with Giovanni Pascoli Simon Armitage revives Branwell Bronte

This article is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

a Year Spent at Cahors Michael Alexander

Twenty-two years ago I began my year as English assistant at a secondary school in southern France - the Lycée Gambetta at Cahors in the département of the Lot. I had just finished at university in England and thought, for want of anything better to do, that I'd learn some French. I was to teach something called English Conversation twelve hours a week, in return for which I had bed and board in the Lycée and enough money to live on. The true purpose of such exchanges is to improve the spoken language not of the pupils but of the assistants, who are usually university students with two years of their modern language degree behind them. I had just completed a degree in English and had not done any French for six years, but was accepted for the scheme, perhaps because I applied for the regions of the Lot, Tarn or Dordogne rather than the more popular Paris or Provence. My accent in English was also more orthodox than that of some assistants. At the Orientation Week in Paris, the question: 'What if ye cam frae Glasgow' had to be repeated before it was understood. The only piece of information I can now recall from Orientation Week was contained in the advice, from a smooth officer of the British Council, to keep out of the hands of the doctors since in France medicines were often supplied 'from a southerly direction'.

I was dropped at the Lycée by ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image