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Discovery has the floor

Publishing some articles in English at the International Festival of Geography (F.I.G.) of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges is natural and somehow normal. After all, the international character of this event is rooted in its very name. Financially supported by the European Union (EU) for many years and nestling just a stone's throw from Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium, the festival is in tune with the present time, when living together goes beyond the borders.

For the 21st time, the F.I.G. is yours and is opened to everyone.

Through the years, the event has become an institution without ever losing its cozy buoyancy. The festival is probably the only geographical expertise event in the world where you can talk geopolitics between a delicious glass of red wine and a yummy piece of local cheese. Is not it, in a way, the best recipe to establish a real bridge between the academics and the general public? Years after years, the appetite of the participants has never been decreasing.

At the F.I.G., there is indeed for every taste. Take for instance the Jardins de lecture (gardens for reading). The concept is simple. A small assembly of visitors gathers around an author and like in a garden, a collective process takes place to grow something. In this special garden, people grow more than plants, they grow ideas.

On Friday morning, the first gardening session was very productive. The Russian author Dmitri Bortnikov was present for the French publication of his multiprized book Le Syndrome de Fritz (Sindrom Fritsa / The Syndrome of Fritz).The criteria for a charming moment were met. The weather conditions were so perfect that the library's director and the audience spontaneously asked to have the event outside. Around a nice white table and a glass of fruit juice or cider, everything was going well. Understand that the author himself was a phenomenon. He was a smooth operator, alternately going from a mysterious embarrassment to a quasi-indecent openness. But, as everybody knows, a good story-taler needs a good story and Bortnikov had one. That fit, tall, seductive man is definite. He did weight 275Lbs (125kg) until his military service. Sometimes crude but always captivating, he also claimed that losing so much weight let him see his intimate parts for the first time. Of course, such a story would be missing something without some impossible romances or deaths, and the author provides us all of that. In the end, nobody could really tell who, between Bortnikov or the participants, had enjoyed it the most. What everybody could tell was that everybody was smiling and somehow a little moved by the experience. The conference was followed by some sales/dedication of the author's book.

What you could also hear from the participants was their understanding. They understood how literature is a key element to understand geography, complex geopolitical or social issues in a certain place. « We could travel through his words... » ;
« I was in Russia today! ».

At the F.I.G., discovery has the floor. In a subtle mix, both intense and digestible, people can truly understand what is currently at stake in our world and not only in theory. Through literature, they understand that territories are made of people and lives. Also, thanks to the Gastronomy Salon, they understand territories better, because, to really know a place, one needs to know the local cuisine.

FIG 2010 Michel Gelly


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