I love it when the Beaujolais Nouveau arrives in France; not only is it a good excuse to forget about the looming winter, but it's also a chance to see something colourful and fun on a wine bottle! Just take a look at that label above, which is definitely not what we normally see on the average bottle of French wine. The labels are usually simple, in one colour. So when Beaujolais Nouveau comes out, I find it so refreshing! (Oh, that's our fridge in the background of the photo, in case you're wondering!)
50 million litres of Beaujolais Nouveau are sold every year, released in a party-like atmosphere on the third Thursday of November. The wine, made from gamay grapes, is distributed only weeks after coming off the vines (little fermentation), which is why it's called nouveau or new. Beaujolais is a region north of Lyon, where I live, so this little drop has a special place in our hearts! By the way, it has to be enjoyed immediately because it doesn't keep well. No problem!
Now, believe it or not, this leads me on nicely to the subject of books. Have you noticed how many of the front covers of French books are plain and sterile looking? Take this very popular, big-selling book, Les Bienveillantes, which is currently being translated into English - it's actually written by a bilingual American, Jonathan Littell, who decided to write it in French. I bet the cover won't look like this when it comes out in the English-speaking world! Fancy, colourful and artistic covers are not deemed necessary in France to get the public to buy them. Translations of foreign books and small paperbacks do have images on the cover, but French books printed by the big publishing houses still go for the "less is more" policy. But for how long?
Just as the Beaujolais Nouveau wine bottles are bucking the trend in terms of colourful, interesting labels, small publishers in France seem to be experimenting more and more with the idea of colour and images on covers. The latest edition of this very successful book by Jean-Dominique Bauby - printed in English as The Diving Bell and The Butterfly - is a good example of how French publishing is changing. There are plenty of other examples of smaller publishers bringing out books with images on the cover, and French people I speak to seem to be in favour. "Allez, splash me with colour!" Also, on the shelves in bookshops, it's now quite common to see books turned outwards to show the covers - before there probably wasn't any point.
So, in keeping with this whole theme of colour and fun, I thought I would buy some bright purple and yellow dye and give Miss Muffin a make-over. Here are her "before" and "after" photos. She is absolutely delighted! Or at least I think that's what she said.