chapter  1
18 Pages


The Binational Conundrum

Tomi Ungerer is Alsace's most widely known contemporary cultural figure. To spend three hours or more at a local amateur dramatic society production is to encounter the cultural alterity of Alsace. Duttlenheim is on the westernmost outskirts of Strasbourg, and that spring 2009 evening in the village hall the only hot food available at the buffet was knacks: pork sausage links. In French, it's a clever assonant play on words: Alsace, says Ungerer, has come from being a terre d'invasion to a terre d'evasion, from a land of conquest to a land of the getaway vacation. Tomi Ungerer relates how in school he was told to get rid of that ghastly, epouvantable Alsatian accent if he wanted to appreciate literature. French cultural imperialism has thereby handed, to any Alsatians predisposed toward resentment of Paris, a serviceable stick with which to beat France.