This page records an event in October 2000 which saw Angélique readers from five continents converge on Paris to meet each other and their favourite author. Pictures are by Graham Carter, Lisa Kentala and Doris Nußbaumer.
By Graham Carter
If anybody was in any doubt about the enduring popularity of the Angélique books, the diversity of their readers or the loyalty of Anne Golon’s followers, then the event that was to become known as ‘Paris 2000′ certainly put the record straight.
Originally intended as an informal gathering of readers from the Angélique mailing list, mostly from Europe, it was quickly evident that interest in it was worldwide.
In the end, more than 20 people from a dozen countries attended – with no less than five continents represented – transforming the two or three days which began on Friday, October 13 into a truly international event.
Pilgrimage is not too strong a word to use to describe the motivation behind many of those who were there, and even adding up the tens of thousands of miles that, collectively, they had journeyed to be there hardly begins to tell the story.
As the group gathered at the rendezvous point under the statue of Henry IV on the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, the first point to be underlined was that there is no typical image of an Angélique reader, despite the books’ infamous mis-categorization as cheap romance.
Angélique readers come in all shapes and sizes, speaking myriad languages and dialects, encompassing a vast variety of backgrounds and cultures, and including male readers who are every bit as enthusiastic about their favourite writer as their female counterparts.
Indeed, the two who had travelled furthest to be there are both men – Steve Hall, the vice-president of Friends of Angélique, who only two weeks before was watching the Olympic Games in his home city of Sydney; and Seiji Toyota, from Osaka in Japan.
For Steve, a 49-year-old marketing executive in the publishing industry, it was his fourth trip to Paris to meet Anne and a golden opportunity to come face-to-face with others who share his love of the books.
“This really is a thrill for me,” said Steve, “even though I have been to Paris before and met both Anne and her daughter, Nadia, several times. I know what it means to them both to see how strong support for them is, right across the world. I have a feeling that this is going to be only the first of a series of international events in honour of Anne Golon and her marvellous heroine.”
Seiji, on the other hand, was making his first trip to Europe, undaunted by his sparse England and non-existent French, and proud to represent a vast legion of Angélique followers in Japan. The 35-year-old technical author came armed with a selection of new Japanese books, from straight translations of Anne’s original work to stylised adaptations in cartoon form, yet unmistakably based on the Angélique stories.
“There are many many fans of Angélique in Japan – perhaps many millions,” he said, “and we hope to have a meeting of our own, next year. But I had to be here today. It’s wonderful.”
Seiji explained that Angélique is a household name in Japan, where readers form a massive cross-section of people, and many of his friends are also avid readers of the stories.
The trip to Paris was no less an achievement for American mother of two Lisa Kentala, who flew in from Chicago (see Lisa’s account of the trip, below). The 45-year-old dealer in children’s books explained: “This is the first time I have flown alone, the first time I have stayed in a hotel on my own, and my first ever trip outside the United States. I don’t speak a word of French, but I just had to come because I wanted to meet other Angélique readers and, of course, it is a thrill to be able to meet Anne Golon. My husband thinks I’ve gone crazy, but I wouldn’t do this for any other reason.”
Also from the United States and visiting Europe for the first time was Jennifer Campion, a 28-year-old from Maryland who was introduced to the Angélique books by her parents, who have both read the whole series. She said: “This is just wonderful. When I heard on the Internet that this was taking place, I booked right away. It’s such a thrill to have the chance to meet Anne Golon herself.”
Jennifer told other visitors how the books had influenced her choice of career, with Angélique’s adventures fostering an interest in foreign lands. She is now a customs broker in Baltimore and is already planning her next trip to Europe.
Web designer Lydia Baben, from Austria, turned out to be the group’s African representative because she is originally from South Africa, although she now lives in Vienna. “I tried to trace Anne on my previous visit to Paris because it has always been my ambition to meet her since I started reading the books at the age of 12,” she explained. “But nobody in France even knew if she was still alive. Yet there are so many people out there who still love the books.”
Lydia, who had taken the opportunity to buy copies of all the Angélique films during her visit, had the advantage of being able to speak French while in Paris – and that is thanks to the books, because it was the inability to obtain copies of three of the books in English that had encouraged her to learn French. For Claudia Machado the event was a personal triumph because she had helped to organise it. This 24-year-old project manager for Portugal Telecom in Lisbon has also been reading the stories since she was 12.
Also 24, but from the opposite side of the continent, came Kveta Dousova, a graduate in librianship and IT management, from Prague, in the Czech Republic, where Angélique is extremely well known. “I have watched the Angélique movies on television since I was five,” said Kveta. “They are shown every year. I even chose the soundtrack to the films as the music at my wedding and, of course, all the guests recognised it at once.”
Visiting Paris for the second time – but for the first time in over three decades – was Fleya de Ugalde, a 42-year-old duty officer with the Basque TV station, ETB. She had flown from Bilbao especially to be part of the event.
Doris Nußbaumer, 26, who lives in Vienna, was also making a long overdue return to Paris. This student of German literature, psychology and comparative literature, who also teaches creative writing, had not been to the French captial since her schooldays, but could not resist the opportunity to meet her favourite writer and see some of the places that feature in the books.
Another return visitor to the city was Sarah Quin, who is 30-years-old and works for a publisher of scientific journals in Bristol, England. She first discovered Angélique at the age of 13 and has enjoyed re-reading them since, both in English and French. “You can learn so much from them,” she said. “The depth of historical detail is so great that they are almost social documents.”
Also flying in from England was Marysia Wariwoda, sister of Friends of Angélique treasurer Anna Ludlow, who lives at Nottingham (see Marysia’s account of the trip, below). She said: “I am very privileged to be one of the translators of the later books. This is a very exciting project. I have met Mme Golon before and it is a great honour.”
The group’s main guide for a walking tour of Paris locations which feature in the Angélique stories, was Mariann Mäder. Her gift for a string of languages, an impressive understanding of French history and an astonishing knowledge of Paris itself belied the fact that she is actually Swiss and works as an administrator for Berne Radio. She, too, is a long-time fan of the Angélique series, having been introduced to the stories by her aunt.
Mariann showed the party, among other significant locations, the site where the Tower of Nesle once stood; the Place de Grève, where Joffrey was burned at the stake; the Places des Vosges, which is virtually unchanged since Angélique’s time; the Louvre, Tuilleries and the old Paris district of the Marais, before the tour was concluded at Notre Dame.
They took lunch at a restaurant in rue Beautreillis, where Joffrey’s Parisian house was situated; and followed in Angélique’s footsteps by taking dinner at the Taverne des Trois Maillets, in the Latin Quarter. Here they met up with yet more Angélique fans as the party continued to grow. Paris residents Brigitte Collet, Elaine Hanna and Anna Naganowicz were joined by Sylviane Demoulin, who had arrived from Brussels at short notice, having learned of the trip only days before.
Brigitte Collet is most famous among Angélique readers for her excellent Monteloup website, while Elaine Hanna is an American who learned French in order to be able to read the Angélique books that are yet to be translated into English – and now works in Paris.
Anna Naganowicz, who is known as ‘Paris Anna’ on the mailing list, is originally from England and has been a fan of the books for many years.
Brigitte, Elaine and Anna are all working directly with Anne Golon on translations of Angélique books into English, along with Marysia Wariwoda.
All those who had joined the pilgrimage now didn’t have long to wait for the highlight, as on Saturday, October 14, they made their way to Versailles, on the western outskirts of the city, for a tour of the world famous palace and an audience with Anne Golon.
First they met up with a distinguished addition to the group, Prof Gennady Ulman and his wife, Irina. Gennady, Russian who now lives in New York, is a professor of world literature and linguistics with a special interest in French adventure literature.
He was very excited to be meeting Anne, and gave a moving speech as the group finally got to meet their real-life heroine.
Gennady said he specialised in linguistics and literature and said he knew what constituted a great book. He was privileged to meet Anne, he said, whom he compared to Balzac and Dumas, and said she was a giant of her age.
He said the Angélique books deserved to be recognised as great psychological literature of the 20th century, and that they were one of the very few books to revolve around and address the conflict between the north and south of France, beginning with the Albegesian crusades in the 13th century and continuing to this day.
Providing arguably the perfect backdrop to it all was the famous palace. Not only is it one of the key settings of the Angélique books, but it is also close to where Anne Golon now lives.
Perhaps just as appropriate for Paris 2000 is that Versailles was also the birthplace, 80 years ago, of the League of Nations, a forerunner to today’s United Nations.
Some would say that Anne Golon had created a League of Nations of her own by uniting so many people from different nations – not just those who were able to be there this time, but otehrs who couldn’t make it this time but will come in the future.
Although they sometimes may struggle to communicate in their various languages, it was clear to all that they share a common language – their love for Anne Golon and her remarkable creation. It is a love that speaks volumes.
By Lisa Kentala
Imagine this. You miss a full night’s sleep, after which you proceed to walk endlessly for three days, sometimes going for long periods of time without food and amenities. You eat on the run when you get the chance, you are lost several times, the language and money are unfamiliar. Sound like fun?
However, now imagine this. In addition to all of the above, you get to visit a place you’ve always dreamed of visiting, you get to meet the one living person on earth you have wanted to meet for over 20 years, and you get to spend time with a wonderful group of likeminded people from all over the world.
That was my trip to Paris.
Two images will stay with me forever. The first view of Anne Golon at Versailles. Sarah, Steve and I were approaching the statue in the huge square and just as Steve said, “Does anybody look familiar?” I saw the most amazing woman – dignified, waiting for us – Angélique herself really. What a wonderful moment.
The other amazing moment took place in the office. All of us were seated around a table while Gennady – a literature professor from New York via Russia gave the most moving, incredible tribute to Anne Golon. I definitely heard sniffles that weren’t mine – so I know I wasn’t the only one moved to tears. Other impressions: three or four languages being spoken at once in our group – sometimes by the same person (Mariann); being so thankful for Marian and Sylviane with their important fluency in English and French – I was able to ask Anne Golon a question and convey my happiness to her.
I also felt like we were getting sort of an insider’s view of Paris because Anna and Elaine live in Paris and Steve was familiar with the area. It made me feel so less ‘lost’ than I would have without them. I remember a sight of a tour bus filled with video-camera shooting tourists – sort of a detached view of Paris – we really were there – walking, being involved, seeing incredible new sights.
I think I used the words wow and amazing so many times, that I must retire them from my vocabulary forever. But I enjoyed meeting book obsessed people like myself. I know Sarah is probably as dismayed as I am that we didn’t have time to browse the used-booksellers’ wares along the Seine – and I feel like going back immediately to do so.
I almost wish I had taken notes. I saw so many new sights that I’m sure I’ve forgotten things already. But the important thing is this: I saw Paris through the eyes of Angélique.
The last night in my hotel room it felt stuffy, so I opened the windows for the first and last time. I looked down and thought “This is Paris – I’m really here!” After that I started to look thru the booklet that Brigitte so kindly put together for all of us – and guess what page I landed on! That’s right – the page where Angélique opens the windows of a stuffy Paris room and stares in wonder at the Seine! I must go back and travel through all of France. Like Sylviane I want to visit all the other Angélique places. How about Canada next year?
By Marysia Wariwoda
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what price a tapestry? Life’s rich tapestry? Since I am no artist, I use words to paint pictures and embroidery to express my feelings in colour, so here goes…
Friday the 13th of October dawned. What rich colours would I weave into my tapestry today? I wondered. There was a definite air of expectancy. Something wonderful was about to happen. Was I ready?
The taxi drove me along the Rive Gauche, Notre Dame came into view. I was stunned by its beauty. The last time I had seen the cathedral it was covered in scaffolding. All other times the black patina of the ages marred its obvious magnificence.
Today the great cathedral stood by the Seine in all its pristine glory, positively sparkling, so familiar. The first stitches in my tapestry were set – white and pale blue with a sparkling silver thread weaving through.
Pont Neuf at last. I was here at the meeting place.
I tried to calm my thumping heart to no avail. Sitting in one of the recesses of the bridge was a striking, long-haired young woman. Henri IV on his horse looked imposing. After all he owned the space, not me, yet I walked over to him boldly. There was no one else there yet, or was there?
Oh yes – a presence, a mere hint, a whisper that something tremendous was about to happen. I paced about. The young woman came up, we both beamed and said the magic password simultaneously, breathlessly: Angélique.
We both nodded like excited children, embraced and could not stop asking questions, offering answers. Jennifer was the first Angélique fan to arrive at the meeting place.
In no time at all a crowd had gathered around, everyone spoke the magic password and it sparkled and glittered like a diamond in an otherwise grey and overcast sky.
My next stitches would be bright silver and steel grey. Notre Dame, majestic and imposing in the distance, seemed to bless the assembly. And do you know, none of us were strangers even though we had just met. We all knew each other’s names through the magic of the Internet, and some faces were already familiar to me from earlier meetings.
Steve was one we had met back in my home country, Kveta and I had already exchanged letters and photos. Suddenly names were called out everywhere. It was as if a beautiful fairy-tale rainbow lit up in the sky – Lisa, Lydia, Jennifer, Doris, Mariann, Sarah, Fleya, Seiji, Brigitte, Claudia, Graham, Kveta, Steve… can they guess which colour of the rainbow they are in my tapestry, I wonder?
The sky cleared and the Seine sparkled in the sunshine. We talked, laughed, we sparkled with our myriad rainbow colours. My tapestry positively glowed.
Mariann gave out a welcoming letter, programme and map so thoughtfully prepared by Brigitte and Nadia, and we were off – marshalled along by Mariann, our guide, and Steve, ever watchful, made sure that no-one was left behind.
And Paris began to weave its spell over us. We were being transported back until time lost its very meaning. This was Angélique’s Paris – sometimes magnificent, sometimes horrific, but always Paris, always Angélique. As we journeyed on, our group swelled with the ghosts of the past. They listened, nodded their heads in agreement or shook them in disapproval. What were these people trying to evoke? The past? Conjure up some modern magic?
Just when this happened I can’t tell, but we did conjure up the past and now the stitches in my tapestry took on a dark and menacing hue, but still the silver thread of hope ran through them. We stopped for lunch – a luxury not afforded our ghosts. Friendships were being forged, like irons in a fire – red, black, rich golden yellow stitches, a warm and fuzzy atmosphere surrounded us, shielding us from the outside world and its problems. The tapestry takes on warm autumnal colours, a feeling of contentment permeates.
We are merging into a family. No strangers here. Conversations are many and varied, the Angélique theme weaving through like a golden ribbon, linking us together. It’s nearly time to leave when Nadia turns up with her serene self-possession, takes over now we are in the Place Royale (now re-named the Place des Voges) – and we are being interviewed and videotaped by Nadia.
And as those interviews took place, no-one was exempt. Conversation ebbed and flowed around the square like the waters of the Seine. The colours of my tapestry range from deepest sapphire blue through emerald green to the palest blue of the sky. I felt as if I was riding on the softest of downy clouds, surrounded by a unique mix of camaraderie, laughter, horror and indignation. It is encouraging to know that everyone here had such strong feelings about the injustice done to Anne Golon. The solidarity shown by the Paris 2000 group was positively tangible – a watchtower guarding the precious author from harmful publishers, or was it a barbed wire fence?
The daytime meet ended at Notre Dame. The bells pealed out their joyous song as we took our souvenir photographs. I never tire of walking within this great, timeless cathedral, with its whispers from the past and present, its hint of grey habits, the shuffling feet and simply glorious stained glass windows. Richer than any jewels, brilliant even on the dullest of days.
We met on the Pont Neuf by Henri IV again in the evening. Our group had swelled to encompass the Parisian and Belgian contingent. More laughter, introductions and greeting as we welcomed ‘Paris Anna’, Sylvianne and Elaine into our special circle. And off we went again. Were the streets of Paris ready for us?
Dinner at the Taverne des Trois Maillets was a relaxed affair. We were old friends now. How we talked that evening! How we laughed, enjoying the excellent company and no less excellent food. My tapestry heaves with bonhomie and rich, rich tastes.
As we spilled out into the Paris night our friendly and not so friendly ghosts melted into the shadows. They could not intrude here, but they did, didn’t they? As we sat drinking coffee, tea or beer in the Parisian style, the talk turned inexorably back to Angélique and Anne Golon.
The mood was very different here. Once again I wove dark colours into my tapestry and the thread almost broke when thousands upon thousands of rollerskaters swept past the café – something which has become a regular feature in Paris on Fridays at the midnight hour, aimed to encourage Parisians to use alternative means of transport. What would Angélique have made of this, I wonder?
Reluctantly, we dispersed for the night. I laid my tapestry aside but not before I added my final stitches – green like Angélique’s eyes, green for hope and green for pastures new. And tomorrow, we meet in Versailles…
Saturday, October 14, late afternoon and I was on the train to Versailles. Last December, when I made this same journey, it was dark outside and all I could see were the lights of Paris against an ink-black background. Today, the sun was out and Paris spread out on both sides of the track. As Brigitte, ‘Paris Anna’ and I chatted, my thoughts flew back to that other journey and my first surprise meeting with Anne Golon, the creator of Angélique. But back to today.
As we walked into our meeting place, we found the rest of the Paris 2000 group already seated in a huge circle around the table. It was incredible just how many people could actually sit down in such a tiny space, but there was room for all of us. There was something very cosy and primitive in the feel of the room. It was lofty, but had wonderfully atmospheric dark and shadowy places.
Anne greeted me like an old friend. We hugged and exchanged our latest news. I was truly moved by her enquiry after my father’s health, after his operation which he had only just had, two days previously. How can anybody persecute such a thoroughly kind and selfless genius?
Greetings echoed all around the room, adding to the lovely warm atmosphere already there. I found a small space and sat down and as I did so I allowed myself the luxury of mentally stepping back to observe. Not for long as my attention was caught by a familiar tongue – Russian. Indeed, as I introduced myself to Gennady and Irina, we chatted in a mix of Polish and Russian. Around us, French, German, Spanish and English swirled upwards like the smoke from a campfire into the dark and mysterious rafters, only to drift back and encompass us like an Indian blanket.
Once again I let the sounds and sights take over, heads bent towards each other, a constant flow to the head of the table where Anne sat. I saw faces light up in delight as she spoke to each individual. I saw Anne’s face crinkle in a delighted smile as words of love, encouragement and admiration were spoken to her. She looked as if the cares of the world had been lifted from her shoulders and I was so glad that she could be happy and carefree for a short while. If only we as a group could bring that back to her permanently.
Anne signed book after book as fans brought out their cherished volumes and asked her diffidently for an autograph – but that was not enough for Anne. She talked to everyone and each dedication was entirely personal, very individual. I watched as one fan stepped back, moved to tears by the experience holding the book close to her heart. It had been her grandmother’s favourite volume, handed down to her daughter and now to her grand-daughter.
Reverently she kissed the book and stroked the pen with which Anne had signed it. As we shared this truly beautiful moment I said that she should keep the pen very safe and only use it to write a great masterpiece herself.
As the gifts started to be presented to Anne, Nadia and Régile brought out trays of tiny canapés and sweet biscuits. Now the room was alive with people trying to move without falling over anyone else as the gifts were offered.
Anne opened each one with a delighted cry. Each gift was carefully unwrapped, its significance or symbolism was explained and everyone delighted in Anne’s pleasure. Each person was thanked and Nadia as ever videoed the whole ceremony. Everyone took photographs. Even Nadia was photographed videoing us. The mood was party!
As the light faded, candles were lit, adding to the party atmosphere, dispersing the shadows and giving a warm and golden glow to the room. When it seemed that everyone had presented their gifts, Seiji had the greatest surprise for us all.
He had been asked by the fans in Japan through the wonderful magic of the Internet to bring their gifts of love and admiration to Anne. And this he did. I have never seen a Japanese tea ceremony, but this is how I would describe what we witnessed. It was sensational.
Each gift – and there were several carrier bags full of them – was presented with such grace and reverence that I really was transported to the land of kimonos and orange blossom. And finally, would you believe, Anne did receive a stunning red kimono and parasol which she immediately donned and demanded souvenir photos.
What we were now experiencing was so great. Anne, relaxed and opening up her thoughts and plans to us, promising not to give up, as she said how could she give up when there was such an army of true fans supporting her out in the world?
Yes we had come from every corner of the earth, from so many lands to show our solidarity, to offer our support and above all, our love for the author and creator of Angélique, our own Anne Golon.
Just as we thought the party was coming to an end we were thunderstruck on being given a superb souvenir booklet. I just wish that every fan could have been there with us, but since that was not possible I hope that my few humble words will let you have a glimpse of what we experienced. The road has been long and fraught with danger, but there is light and hope at the end of the tunnel. We have Anne’s assurance that her great work will be completed.
What more could we ask except for everyone’s continued support?
By Sylviane Demoulin
I have been a fan of Anne Golon’s Angélique stories for almost my entire life and the weekend in Paris was – like everybody who was there said – a dream come true.
The weekend, with all those people from everywhere in the world, was really something.
I discovered this website at the end of August but didn’t have the Internet at home and it was very difficult to look at it at work (you know how bosses are). So, when, I finally had some time to look at it, I discovered that a meeting was to take place two days later. I only thought about it for three seconds and rushed to a travel agency to get a train ticket.
I cancelled everything I had planned and for two days and nights, I only thought about Angélique, Anne, the meeting, the fans. The two nights before, I also dreamed about it. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get there on Friday because I had to work, but I took the train in the evening and met everybody at the Trois Maillets. All those people were great, full of a shared love for Angélique. We talked about Angélique of course, but also about ourselves, our countries, our lives. It was a great cultural experience.
On Saturday, one of the most beautiful days of my life, we took the train to Versailles where Anne Golon and Nadia, her daughter, were waiting for us. Anne showed us the gardens of Versailles, telling us about that place or that one, where Angélique did this or that. It was wonderful and my eyes were full of joyful tears. We took pictures and Anne was happy to be with us, which was even more wonderful for us.
After Versailles, we all met for sandwiches, biscuits and beverages. I will forever remember the ambiance that was there, the love which was palpable in the air. Anne, her daughter and the few friends who didn’t let her down were so… well, the words are difficult because the emotion is still so high! All that is happening with the trial is revolting, and they are so brave, so strong, so admirable. I wish we could do more for Anne and her entourage and I hope things will get better for them.
I hope we can all gather next year for another Angélique experience and that all the people who could not join us would be able to come next time. Thanks to all the great people who made all that possible. You are truly amazing.