It is almost a ritual in France each September , a new beginning after the August shut-down and the long holidays or as they call it ‘les grandes vacances’. Overnight, life changes. Children go back to school, people return to work and the rhythm of day-to-day life resumes, hence the saying originating from Paris ‘ métro, boulot, dodo’ as in: you take the tube, work then come home to sleep ( dormir in baby’s language) to indicate the boring rhythm of everyday routine. This is la rentrée – with all the optimism and opportunity this time of year brings. Streets become busy again, restaurants and cafés reopen and a new calendar of cultural events starts.
Of course, it exists all over the Western world but it can’t compare with the French phenomenon that is la rentrée. It’s a word one hears throughout August before it hits everyone in September.
The school rentrée in France:
The most obvious one takes place at schools, with most children going back to school on the same day. This event is preceded by weeks of advertising for ‘must-have’ school equipments, plus the inevitable debate in the media about whether the government grants that help poorer families buy all this kit are actually high enough to cover the cost.
In Paris, the political rentrée begins when President Hollande comes back from holiday with a sun tan, and the Socialist Party holds its ‘summer university’, which is a party conference) while the warring factions between and within all the major parties starting knocking lumps out of each other once more.
La rentrée litteraire
Then there is the literary rentrée. This is the time of the year when France’s top writers and translators see their creations filling the bookstore shelves. From novels to works of philosophy, political tracts and history, they burst on the scene once the summer ends. In 2015, for example, no fewer than 589 new novels were published at the rentrée.
Queen of the rentrée littéraire is novelist Amélie Nothomb, who has managed to write one rentrée book a year for the last decade and a half.
Not to be left out, the broadcast media also have their own form of rentrée. Regular listeners to France Inter will know that this is the time of year when its radio jingles get changed, shows move around or disappear and presenters swap programmes.
On TV, the leading TF1 news presenters – their skin glowing – make a return to the evening screens.
One of the few aspects of French life that doesn’t have a rentrée is sport. The previous rugby and football seasons ‘le foot’ never quite seem to have ended before the new ones begin. That at least is reassuringly Anglo-Saxon…
– Une trousse: a pencil- case
– Un stylo; a biro/ a pen
– Un cartable/ un sac d’école
– un cahier: a exercise book
– un livre: a book
– un prof(esseur) : a teacher
– un éleve: a pupil
– La salle ( de classe) : the classroom