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Blooming Mood on the Bookshelf of UNESCO Cities: André Maurois
29.06.2022

Today we will turn to French literature with incredibly sensual notes and the aroma of flowers. Perhaps only the French can talk about love like that! A review article on the short story “Violets on Wednesdays” by Andre Maurois has already been prepared for you by Polina Nikolaeva, press secretary of the directorate of Ulyanovsk-UNESCO City of Literature and a young poet.
Dear friend, for the umpteenth time we are turning to the literary treasures of UNESCO cities! Today, our eyes will rush to the pages of the French classic Andre Maurois. Is “Violets on Wednesdays” a simple but sensual book title or a call to give violets on a specific day of the week? Let's find out!

André Maurois, biography pages

The real name of the French writer, which will be discussed today, is not Andre Maurois at all, but Emile Salomon Wilhelm Erzog. However, Andre Maurois is not a pseudonym for the writer, but the official name chosen by the classic himself. So, let's talk about the family and the birth of this amazing person.
Emile Erzog was born on July 26, 1885 in the small French town of Elbeuf in Normandy to a wealthy Jewish family who converted to Catholicism. Emil's father, Ernest Erzog, and paternal grandfather owned a textile factory in Alsace. Thanks to their efforts, not only the whole family, but also many workers moved to Normandy. As a result, the government awarded the writer's grandfather the Order of the French Legion for saving the national industry. When Emil was about 12 years old, he entered the Rouen Lyceum, where he studied for 4 years. After graduation, the young man got a job at his father's factory. Everything went well until the outbreak of the First World War of 1914-1918.
The future writer went to the front at the age of 29. He served as a military translator and liaison officer. During this period of his biography, he is already engaged in writing. An interesting fact is that the years spent in the war will be reflected in his first novel, The Silent Colonel Bramble.
After the publication of The Silent Colonel Bramble, the writer with the pseudonym Andre Maurois came to world fame. The work was a great success in many countries, including France, Great Britain and the USA. Inspired by the first success, Maurois began writing another novel, The Speeches of Dr. O'Grady, which was published in 1921 and was no less successful.
Soon, Andre begins to cooperate with the publication "Croix-de-fe", and after the death of his father, he decides to sell the factory and engage exclusively in writing. He is collecting material for the first biographical trilogy.
In 1923, Maurois published the book Ariel, or the Life of Shelley, and 4 years later he presented a biographical work on British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
In 1930, another work of the writer was published, which describes a detailed biography of D. G. Byron. This cycle of books was later published under the title "Romantic England".
At the same time, new novels are coming out from the pen of André Maurois, including Bernard Quesnay. The book was about a young soldier who, against his will, was forced to work in a family business. Tracing the autobiographical storyline is not difficult.
In the summer of 1938, the 53-year-old writer was elected to the French Academy. The following year, when World War II broke out, André Maurois again went to the front with the rank of captain.
After Hitler's army occupied France in just a few weeks, the writer left for the United States. In America, Morua taught for a time at the University of Kansas. In 1943, he, along with the fighters of the allied forces, went to North Africa.
There André met his friend and colleague Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who was a first-class military pilot. In 1946 he returned to his homeland and continued to publish new books.
By that time André Maurois had become the author of biographies of Chopin, Franklin and Washington. He also presented collections of short stories, including "Hotel" and "Thanatos". An interesting fact is that it was during that period that he decided to make his pseudonym an official name, as a result of which he had to change all the documents.
In 1947, the "History of France" appears on the bookshelves - the first of a series of books on the history of countries. A few years later Morois publishes a collection of works that fit into 16 volumes.
At the same time, the writer began working on the world-famous "Letters to a Stranger", which were full of deep meaning, humor and practical wisdom. He also continued to publish biographies of famous personalities, including George Sand, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Honore de Balzac, and others.

Violets on Wednesdays - a call or a book title?

“Violets on Wednesdays” is, first of all, a collection of short stories by Andre Maurois, which glorified him during his lifetime. The main advantage of these short stories is their amazing ability to so truthfully and colorfully reflect real life in themselves. The plots of the short stories have not lost their relevance to this day, but today we will devote our attention entirely to only one of them, the title story “Violets on Wednesdays”.
“In the world there will always be romance for those who deserve it” (André Maurois “Violets on Wednesdays”).
The short story "Violets on Wednesdays" is a story about fidelity to one's affections, about the constancy of a person's feelings, and a little more about gratitude for this very feeling.
In its composition, the short story is not linear, but contains another short story. Thus, the everyday story about the everyday life of the aged heroine Jenny and her entourage frames the narrative of the romantic story of violets on Wednesdays.
In this framed novella, we learn about the mysterious life of Andre, a student at the Polytechnic School, who is in love with the young actress Jenny. Andre's feelings to the depths of the soul amaze us with their awe and nobility: all this young man does is give modest bouquets of violets to his beloved every meeting and does not ask for more. It seems that he does not dare to think about more. In Jenny, he sees the ideal of beauty; for him, she is more like a deity than a simple earthly woman. However, with this approach, many would become obsessed and fanatical pursuers, which, thank God, does not apply to our hero. This is not to say that the young actress does not care about these violets. The fan herself does not arouse curiosity, but such is the specificity of her profession ... Like any popular actress, Jenny is forced to remain unapproachable and seem cold, because you can’t pay attention to everyone, and it would be wrong to single out someone.
However, why exactly on Wednesdays did our hero bring a bouquet of violets that excite Jenny's feelings more than expensive bouquets of roses? Wednesday was the only day when Andre had no classes at the school. So he came from week to week, from month to month every Wednesday and invariably handed over his bouquet. It is also noteworthy that violets are not the most common flower for a bouquet, like, for example, roses, and maybe all other flowers. That's why they care more than others. And besides, you can also speak the language of flowers! Did you know that each flower carries its own special meaning? So in the language of flowers, violets literally mean "All my thoughts are of you." Consequently, our poor student regularly spoke about his feelings and he did not need words for this at all.
So the secret messages would have continued, but after graduation, our hero goes to Madagascar in an attempt to find a cure for the feeling of hopelessness of his feelings: “One of two things: either separation will cure me of this hopeless passion, or I will accomplish some feat and then ... ". In Jenny's mind, all the elements of this picture take shape only after a strange visit: her father Andre visits her, who talks about the feelings of his son and passes on his letters, which he wrote to her, but never sent.
Feeling gratitude for the modest constancy and nobility of the young man's feelings, Jenny undertakes for the rest of her life to bring violets on Wednesdays to the grave of an unfamiliar lieutenant, who was once one of her most devoted admirers. Since then, in any weather and no matter what circle she is in, on Wednesday she goes to him with a bouquet of violets.

So we met with another author and another wonderful work from the shelf of UNESCO cities of literature. Share your opinion about the work and ask your questions in the comments, and the directorate of the Ulyanovsk - UNESCO City of Literature program will be happy to answer them.