Franskmenn og nordmenn feirer 14. juli
Frankrikes nasjonalsdag den 14. juli, til minne om stormen på Bastillen i Paris 1789, ble feiret i hagen i ambassadørboligen forrige fredag. Representanter fra norske myndigheter, presse og sivilsamfunn, i tillegg til diplomatkorpset og representanter fra det franske miljøet i Norge var tilstede.
I sin tale minnet ambassadør Jean-François Dobelle om de mange sterke bånd som knytter Norge og Frankrike sammen.
Dear Norwegian friends,
During the celebration of the national Day, it is customary to congratulate the excellent relations between our two countries. I will not deviate from this rule, and confirm that our bilateral relations are in good shape, as illustrated by the two talks that the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, had in Paris since the beginning of the year, with our President respectively on 27 February and 6 July; as it is also illustrated by the tripling of the Norwegian government subsidy to the French lycée in Oslo, which will welcome 602 students at the start of the academic year; as the 10 French naval vessels’ ports of call in Norwegian ports since 1 January 2018, as illustrated by several good news in the economic field, including the acquisition by Alstom and Thales of two Bane Nor contracts for the modernization of the railway signage in the country, and the conclusion of a major contract by Nexans with Equinor for the supply of umbilical cables between the Troll A platform and natural gas reserves 25 kilometers away, testifying to the excellence of this French company that has been present at all steps of the Norwegian journey in oil and gas. Added to this, is the impressive move of Total in Norway, marked by its merger with Danish Marsk Oil and the optimization of its holdings in the various norwegian oil fields, which account for nearly 10% of the group’s production. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the dynamism found in the section of France’s Foreign Trade Advisors, under the leadership of its new President, Annie Pin. The organization of the Nordic days was, in the general opinion, a faultless one, and I can testify to the excellence of the work done and the commitment of all, a sign of renewed vitality.
More generally, we are pleased and proud to be one of Norway’s key strategic partners.
But I do not want to bother you by repeating every year the same discourse on values, interests or shared analyzes. I would rather dive into history to find several proofs or illustrations of the long-standing friendship between our two peoples and our two cultures.
1. First example, King Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans, who was the last king to reign in France between 1830 and 1848. He stayed several weeks in Norway, in 1795, while he had taken the path of exile, after his father was guillotined under terror a year and a half earlier. Traveling under a pseudonym, accompanied by the Marquis de Montjoie, he went, in particular, to Bodø, Hammerfest and North Cape . As the first Frenchman to venture into this distant country, he kept a great pride of it. Nearly forty years later, in 1838, he dispatched a frigate who conveyed, as a sign of gratitude for the warm welcome he had, a bronze bust, which unfortunately had to be destroyed during the war, 1944. General De Gaulle gave a new bust to Norway, which can still be seen in the the tourist center of Cape North. Several painters, including the Norwegian Peder Balke, captured the journey of the Duke of Orleans to North Cape . In 1846, Balke sold to Louis Philippe about thirty paintings representing the places where he went to. These are now saved in the Louvre Museum.
Let’s add that Louis-Philippe and his companion, who claimed to be Swiss or German, traveled incognito under the names of Müller and Froberg with a servant, Baudoin, and an Icelandic interpreter, Holm. The young tourists stayed at the local pastor’s or a rich merchant whose house was an hostel. They had a passport issued by the King of Denmark and a recommendation letter from the Bishop of Trondheim. But it was at a fisherman’s home in Kirkestappen, nowadays an uninhabited island, they spent their last night before reaching Cape North on August 24, 1795. Their return to Switzerland was through Lapland and Sweden. According to the legend, the future Louis-Philippe would have left in this country many descendants. I cannot resist the pleasure of telling an excerpt from a chronicle of the time:
“Once here came from southern countries, where the trees bear golden apples, a great prince who hid, as in fairy tales, his high rank and his fortune, in the simple outfit of Norwegian wool. First, he was mistaken for a curious student who sought education walking through the country, or for a merchant who wanted to know the state of fishing in Lofoten, especially since he was gentle, honest, and not difficult to serve. But soon, he was recognized as a person of distinction, because he had with him a traveling companion who never spoke to him except by uncovering his head, which slept on the floor, while the prince slept in a bed”.
2. Another anecdote, this time in tragic circumstances, in 1870, 22 years after the fall of Louis-Philippe, during the war that occurred between France and Prussia and led to the fall of Napoleon III, the defeat of the French armies and the siege of Paris. In November 1870, the beleaguered city of Paris counted on a sortie of General Ducrot, as well as on the reinforcement of troops led from Orleans by General d’Aurelle de Paladines. Both offensives had to be coordinated to be successful. For this purpose, the balloon called "City of Orleans" was to convey a packet of dispatches to Orleans, and to the National Defense Commission, entrenched in Tours. One of the only means of communication left to Parisians to cross the Prussian lines was to send airships in the middle of the night. The decisive breakthrough never took place, because General d’Aurelle de Paladines did not receive the order to advance his troops. What happened to our two aeronauts, Paul Rolier and Léon Béziers? While they had flown away, on November 24, 1870, from the Gare du Nord to Tours, the two heroes quickly understood that they were lost. Their relief was great when they reached the mainland, or rather the deep snow of Lifjell, in the heart of Telemark, after a journey of more than 14 hours, during which they travelled, at the risk of their lives, more than 1200 kilometers. This astonishing climb is now part of the annals of air navigation and would have inspired the writer Jules Verne for his "Mysterious Island". It represents the very first crossing by air and over the sea between our two countries, which we perform nowadays more comfortably.
This unusual adventure is the best illustration of the long tradition of hospitality and assistance of Norway and Norwegians. Our two survivors, who were starving, cold, and exhausted, were welcomed most naturally by the locals. Imagine the surprise of Paul Rolier and Leon Beziers, who landed on a wide snowy plateau, were celebrated as heroes at Seljord, Drammen, and then Christiania, where the news of their formidable journey had preceded them. Rolier initiated a solidarity movement in favor of the French war wounded, before being repatriated, with his companion, by the French Consul.
3. I would like to take a third case, that of many men of letters or Norwegian artists who have had deep affinities for France. I cannot, of course, be exhaustive here, and I will certainly omit a lot of names, but I would simply like to illustrate with a few examples:
a) First example, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, illustrious Norwegian novelist and playwright, Nobel Prize winner in literature, who decided to support France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 by writing an article to urge the Scandinavian states to make an alliance with our country. He took his pen to launch a subscription to help the war-wounded and the affected families. For this speech, he was awarded the Legion of Honor. Two decades later, Bjørnson will be, from the beginning of the Dreyfus affair, Alfred Dreyfus’ unconditional defender by repeatedly proclaiming his faith in his innocence. Bjørnson died on April 26, 1910 in Paris, where he used to stay during winter time. On 27 February, Erna Solberg also unveiled a commemorative plaque on the front of the house, at the corner of Rue de Rivoli, where the writer died during his last stay in Paris. First buried in France, Bjørnson will be buried again in Norway, at the Vår Frelsers gravlund cemetery in Oslo.
b) Edvard Munch went no less than four times to France between 1885 and 1900. It was during a stay in Paris in 1889 that he learned by accident, in a Norwegian newspaper, of his father’s death. The same year, he became Leon Bonnat’s pupil. At that time, he painted many paintings in an impressionist and pointillist style, where we find in particular the influence of Pissaro. Subsequently, he owes to French synthetists and symbolists. I must mention the beautiful exhibition Munch-Gauguin held at the Munch Museum in Oslo a few months ago, which highlighted several traits, common to both artists.
c) For its part, the greatest Norwegian sculptor, Gustav Vigeland, attended the Auguste Rodin classes in Paris and will later be inspired by the work of Aristide Maillol.
d) Let’s also mention the painter Christian Skredsvig, who stayed in Paris in the early 1880s, where he spent several years. He is also the only Norwegian artist who won a gold medal at the Paris Salon, thanks to his work "A farm at Venoix", presented at the show in 1881. He was also be inspired by the south of France and Corsica. His work is in line with the great French landscapers of the mid-nineteenth century, including those of the Barbizon School. A very beautiful exhibition, dedicated to the French and Italian influences of the artist is currently to be seen in Eggedal, his birthplace.
e) I cannot ignore the name of Fritz Thaulow, who also lived in France for a long time and was influenced by Jules Bastien-Lepage and the Barbizon school. In summer 2016, the Caen Museum of Fine Arts devoted a superb retrospective to this artist, one of the best Norwegian impressionist painters, famous for his scenes of winter and snow, as well as for his canvases of rivers or bodies of water. Fritz Thaulow was one of the co-founders of the Champs de Mars Salon, and participated in the jury of the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. He met Rodin in 1892, and a lively friendship was born between the two artists who exchanged their works. In September 1892, he went through Montreuil-sur mer, and settled in this small town until 1894. Many of his paintings will be themed on the villages of the Bay of Canche and the port of Etaples. Fritz Thaulow then stayed in Dieppe between 1894 and 1898, but often returned to the Pas-de-Calais. At the beginning of the 20th century, he continued his journey in France to Brittany, then to the Dordogne valley.
f) Edvard Grieg was to give many recitals in France, but as a committed humanist, he canceled his visit to Paris in 1899 to express his indignation after the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus by the Court of Appeal of Rennes. He returned to play in our capital in 1903, whereas he had already played there in 1889, 1890 and 1894.
g) Much closer to us, I would also like to pay tribute to the great Norwegian artist Marianne Heske, who was to draw some of her inspiration from Paris, specifically at the Clignancourt Flea Market, in 1971, where she discovered a cardboard filled with dolls’heads from the 20s, in papier mâché. The doll’s head would become a leitmotif of her work. Marianne Heske was to stay in Paris for four years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts during her study tour in Europe. In 1980, she participated at the Paris Biennial in the Beaubourg Center with the project Gjerdolea, which consisted in exhibiting a hut located at the Tafjord mountain, carrying all the graffiti drawn by the shepherds, then by the hikers who had sheltered there throughout the previous three centuries. Once the event over, Marianne Heske returned this hut to the mountain, completed with the graffiti of visitors to the Pompidou Center. Became a work of art for a few weeks by the will of the artist, the hut returned to its original status and environment.
h) Finally, let’s mention the superb exhibition "Les Parisiens" at the Lillehammer Museum of Fine Arts, which pays tribute to four great Norwegian painters, students of Matisse in Paris between 1908 and 1910: Henrik Sørensen, Jean Heberg, Per Krohg and Axel Revold.
i) And Ibsen? I did not mention him because he never stayed long in France, preferring to live in Rome, Dresden or Munich. But today, he is one of the most played foreign playwrights in France with Shakespeare and Chekhov. In 2014, the French director Stéphane Braunschweig had set up the "Wild Duck" for the opening of the Ibsen festival at the Oslo National Theater, and he will present, in less than two months, in Oslo, again as part of the Ibsen Festival, another masterpiece by Norwegian playwright, “Solness the Builder”.
Since I have talked a lot about history, I cannot resist reminding you that 2018 will see the 200th anniversary of the coronation of Marshal Bernadotte, here named Charles XIV John (Karl Johann), as King of Norway at the Cathedral of Nidaros in September. Several exhibitions at the Royal Palace in Oslo, the Eidsvoll Mansion and the Archbishop’s Museum in Trondheim will commemorate this event.
I will conclude by pointing out that 2018 has been proclaimed the year of Franco-Norwegian educational and scientific cooperation. The highlight will take place in Rouen, on September 24, with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian section of Pierre Corneille High School and the signing of a new framework agreement on cooperation between our two countries in the fields of education, scientific research, innovation, culture, higher education and industry. What a beautiful symbol that this return to the sources, the origins of the Franco-Norwegian relationship that has always been under the sign of peace since the signing of the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Ept in Normandy in 911 by the Viking leader Rolon and King Charles III the Simple! Let’s recall that according to the treaty, Charles III gave in fief to Rolon the diocese of Rouen and territories along the Seine, bases of the future Duchy of Normandy. In return, Rolon pledged to be baptized and to prevent further Viking incursions. He kept his promise, which is not surprising since we all know that trust, based on the respect for the word given, is one of the major features of Norwegian society.
This centenary of the French section of the Lycée de Rouen, is also the feast of all those, here in Norway, who chose France to study there, in high school or university, for a few months or a few years. A trip that marked you, transformed you sometimes. You are thousands to have undertaken it and you are, for us, invaluable friends.
The French institute organized a contest so that you can testify to this experience. There are wonderful contributions you can find on the institute’s website. And we have some of our laureates, one of whom I would like to acknowledge: Ms Beate Cecile Moen. You were in France in 1998, in Orleans (when France became world champion of football for the first time!). Madam, you live today in Sogndal, where you teach, and your dream is to open a French restaurant in this sublime fjord region.
Welcome among us and thank you for being here with us today.
I must finally remember that France will solemnly commemorate on November, 11th the armistice signed between the Allied and Germany which ended the First World War on the Western Front. This commemoration, to which the Norwegian authorities have been invited at the highest level of the State, will honor the millions of victims of this world conflict and will also invite, beyond remembrance, to reflect on the organization of the world today and our collective responsibility to strengthen global peace and governance in the light of the lessons of the First World War and the attempts to build a lasting peace. That is why, on the afternoon of 11 November, the Paris Peace Forum, devoted to the challenges and solutions of global governance, will be inaugurated by the Heads of State and Government invited by France.
Finally, I would like to thank our sponsors, Total, Renault, Bertel-O-Steen-Peugeot, ALD Automotive, Olivenlunden, Sébastien Bruno, Pernod Ricard, A la Carte, Oluf Lorentzen, Sarazac, United Bakeries, and finally the staff of the Embassy and residency that contributed to the success of this event.
Long live the Republic, long live France!
Long live the relationship of esteem and friendship between France and Norway"
14 juillet 2018. Crédits photo: Ambassade de France en Norvège / service de presse et de communication
14 juillet 2018. Crédits photo: Ambassade de France en Norvège / service de presse et de communication