Des sens authentiques

8. Mai 2016 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

The sign on the roadside up to Corte makes me think: 

STRADA DI I SENSI. Route des sens authentiques. Vous entrez dans le territoire du CENTRU DI CORSICA. 

A mix of Corsican and French. The claim – that what you’re entering is an authentic sensual experience – is in French, though. Does it mean that only non-Corsican speakers can savour the genuine? And – hold on – are the senses authentic, not what they perceive?

When the borderline to the next region is crossed, say to the CORSU LIVANTINE – will the senses remain authentic? What they see (as I did) might be a roadside shed selling oranges and tangerines (actually not now, but the placard is still there) with a façade made up of plastic imitation of colourful genuine stone walls. Never mind, there are still enough buildings with real stone walls, only they are crumbling or have grown over with ivy. Suddenly, a word that everyone and their uncle (and his psychiatrist, who will help to make him turn into someone really authentic) is using is becoming suspicious. If a whole territory or what you can see of it through tinted car windows is authentic, then what is not? The billboard is clearly directed at tourists from the continent. The locals might be less convinced, what with endemic unemployment and a very brief and hectic money-making season.  

Whatever the unfathomable end to my thought process, I’m still on the lookout for traces of the Corsican language. I arrive huffing and puffing at Corte, the stronghold of the island’s tradition. The museum is closed at six (May is still low season), but the Corsican menu at €16 is good and wholesome, bilingually praised. At lunch, I overheard a couple discussing holiday plans. He spoke with a strong accent, rolling his R’s, and when he briefly answered a phone call or talked to the cook, he used what I took to be Corsican. His partner, who would have preferred to spend the holidays „on the continent“, e.g. in Marseille, clearly didn’t understand the language. He insisted on the beach, at most in Sardinia, but she whined she would be constantly under his control and could do nothing. I wondered what she would have wanted to do in the Midi.


The next morning, I stopped at a place where I had spotted a small milling crowd of men and women dressed in dark colours. From a car or through a motorcycle helmet vizor you would not have seen this bit of authenticity, half hidden as it was behind a row of trees. A boule tournament was just taking off, an important encounter of Corsica’s best teams, the winner would go to the continent to hash it out in the national finals.

I was astonished at the accuracy with which the men were hitting the metal spheres – the best one was a young African man with an ultra-dark complexion. And they were only practising. I approached one of the referees and asked about why every one of the „authentic-looking“ men and women were speaking French (those weren’t my exact words, of course). The muttered reply, that only some families still spoke Corsican, didn’t much surprise me, nor did his long face when I mentioned the younger generation. Another language on the wane, but it’s warm comfort that each and every restaurant or grocer’s bears a Corsican name, starting with the article ‚u’.

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