As the co-founder of Hermanus FynArts and steadfast adviser and supporter of this unique festival, award-winning novelist, travel writer, poet, journalist, playwright and broadcaster, Christopher Hope has become a familiar face in our town during FynArts, which takes place this year from 7 – 17 June.

Friends of FynArts were treated to an exclusive bonus event last week when Christopher presented a talk at the Windsor Hotel entitled French Leave. This entertaining and enlightening personal account of French passions and peculiarities is based on his experiences as a foreigner in France, where he has lived in a medieval village in the Languedoc for 25 years, feeling “both at home and displaced at the same time”. Even after all these years, said Christopher, he still has trouble understanding the strangeness of the French temperament and the nuances of the French language, not to mention the nation’s idiosyncratic attitude to politics, sex and religion.

His endearing descriptions of the village of Caunes-Minervois (a “small, backward and distant village” in the eyes of sophisticated Parisians) and life in this “small island in a very big lake of vineyards” is captured in Signs of the Heart – Love and Death in Languedoc, published in 2000. Even though he used fictional names for the village and the characters he wrote about, Christopher said, when the book was translated into French, half the village was furious to find themselves in the book and the other half was furious because they weren’t.

Although the Spanish and Italians are sunnier and less problematic than the French, at the end of the day Christopher said he still finds the French a most fascinatingly interesting people and he wholeheartedly agrees with the saying that “God lives in France”.

Christopher will be back at FynArts again this year, hosting a two-day workshop on Travel Writing, a book reading from his latest novel, The Café de Move-on Blues and a discussion with Marilyn Martin about her new book Between Dreams and Reality, a history of SA’s pre-eminent art museum, The National Gallery, spanning the years 1871 – 2017.

Early Bird ticket sales are now open to the public until 15 March and the programme booklet is available from the Hermanus Tourism office in Mitchell Street, Hermanus Library, the FynArts Gallery in The Courtyard off Harbour Road, and selected galleries, restaurants and other businesses in Hermanus. The full programme can also be viewed on the website and bookings can be made via www.hermanusfynarts.co.za or www.webtickets.co.za. Alternatively, book your tickets at the tourism office (tel: 028 312 2629) or any Pick n Pay branch nationwide. For enquiries or to become a Friend of FynArts, contact FynArts administrative coordinator Chantel Louskitt on 060 957 5371.

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