Saturday, April 15, 2017


Philippe Milloux
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I first enountered Philippe when he politely asked me to leave the Alliance Française café, La Cocotte, one evening in October 2012.

I had been having a quiet cup of coffee with little else on my mind when I had noticed people scurrying hither and tither under the direction of a smartly dressed gentleman with the air of a stage director.

It was only a few minutes later that I was politely asked to leave. I then found out that all the scurrying was in preparation for a public interview to be held in the café within the hour. The "stage director" turned out to be the actual Director of the Alliance, the interviewer was to be Loïc Guyon, Chairman of ADEFFI, and the interviewee none other than Philippe Djian.

This was a bit of a coup for the Alliance. Philippe Djan is a famous, insightful, and somewhat steamy, writer who apparently pulls no punches. So after allowing myself to be evacuated I immediately signed up at reception to attend the event.

There must have been something inspirational about that night because, come the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015, I decided to offer to do my Martello Towers gig, but in French this time, at the Alliance. I assume Philippe didn't bat an eyelid when he got the proposal, though it was later in the process that I had direct contact with him on the matter.

I must have spent about six months translating and adapting my talk for a francophone audience. The proposed format for the evening chopped and changed as the net was cast far and wide to match me up with a suitable counterpart to deliver a Café Historique.

In the event a compatible partner could not be found and I went solo, but with Niall O'Donoghue bringing along the magnificent model of his wonderfully restored Martello Tower to further thrill the audience during the interval.

It must have been a success because, at the end, Philippe asked me if I had any more of them. Alas not. This was a serious once in a lifetime job.

And then there were the exhibitions. This one was recapping on some French history through various advertising posters. The one above appealed to me particularly for its time anomaly and, anyway, I have a particular interest in typewriters and all things to do with printing.

Philippe declared himself particularly happy to welcome the exhibition, Drawing Freely, which drew on the work of some 50 cartoonists from around the world setting out their approach to free expression in a variety of domains.

His choice of Seamus Dooly, Secretary of the Irish NUJ, to launch the exhibition was inspired. Seamus had been on the #Charlie march in Paris and pulled no punches on what he thought of some of the participants and their activities on their own home fronts.

The photo above shows Philippe with Seamus (centre) and John Horgan, former Press Ombudsman.

The Emerging Photographers exhibition (and competition) was a serious contribution by the Alliance to encouraging young photographer graduates. There were three exhibitors, who happened all to be girls (young women to you), and the standard of their projects was high.

Kathleen Shields, from NUIM, has written a very interesting book on French attitudes to the English language in France. The Irish launch took place in the newly refurbished médiatheque and was picked up by the publishers in their blog.

Theo Dorgan, Jean-Philippe Imbert, Olivier Litvine

And, finally for now, an interview with Olivier Litvine on his recent translation of James Joyce's Chamber Music and the Irish launch of the book. This turned into a lively discussion on the pros and cons of translation and was a great night.

The events above chronicle my involvement with the Alliance Française in Dublin over recent times and I have listed them as an illustration of my encounters with the Director, Philippe Milloux, and his work.

By definition, they are only a small, and not necessarily representative, sample of what the Alliance does. They do, however, give some indication of the scope and quality of Philippe's tenure, which is unfortunately coming to an end this summer.

Philippe's background is in education, he started out as a teacher, but he has spent many years now as Director of various Alliance Française implantations around the world, starting with Pondichéry, in India, where Olivier Litvine, mentioned above, is the current Director.

When he took up his present post, Philippe gave a long interview to Eléonore Nicolas which you can hear here - in fast French.

Unfortunately Philippe can not apply for another stint as Director of the Dublin Alliance. Them's the rules, but I must say also the Alliance's loss.

Wishing Philippe all the best in his next incarnation.

Update 1 July 2017
Philippe's Farewell Message

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