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For its 50 years, the Petit Robert takes colors

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – CORALDINE ZAINA – | Stack of dictionaries “Petit Robert” in a large area of ​​Marseille, August 26, 1999

The venerable “Petit Robert”, sometimes referred to as the “little gray of thought” because of its austere appearance and the total absence of illustrations in its pages, is illuminated by 22 original works by the artist Fabienne Verdier at the On the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

“The color pictures inserted in the body of the dictionary are not illustrations but illuminations in the sense that Rimbaud understood it in his poems,” said the linguist Alain Rey, 88, during an interview with AFP .

There is no question of illustrative illustrative boards like what can be found in the Petit Larousse illustré or Le Robert illustré. The paintings of Fabienne Verdier, 55, are resolutely abstract and make this edition of the fiftieth anniversary a hybrid object, between dictionary (with some 300,000 words and senses dissected) and art book.

“It’s about looking at the French lexicon as if it were a work of art,” Alain Rey insists enthusiastically. “This gives the very flesh of the French language a dynamic reality which, like abstract painting, is founded on the natural movement of things.”

Each painting “reflects the shock of two terms, two ideas-forces, ranging from apparent evidence like + night and black + to the inventive incongruity and a little shocking with for example the couple + labyrinth and freedom + lexicographer.

Each work is deployed as a diptych, triptych or quadriptych. When you fold the painting you can read on the back a short text by Alain Rey. Thus, on the verso of the triptych “Esprit-Évasion”, he writes: “What a wealth in this word, spirit, breath, emanation, angel, demon, thinking principle, intelligence and will, By nature is evasive, made for escape “.

Alain Rey who for 50 years conceived the Petit Robert so that only the words illustrate each other, praises the work of Fabienne Verdier, known especially for his research on Chinese calligraphy or Flemish primitives.

– “Getting Involved” in Champagne –

“Both of us had a common project and a common way of understanding the inner forces of the lexicon on one side and the inner forces of the shapes in gestation,” he said.

“Verdier has a very rigorous idea of ​​the composition”, welcomes Alain Rey, great lover of painting. The original paintings, necessarily presented in small size (24 x 60 cm for the biggest) in the dictionary, will be exhibited from November 3 at the Voltaire Museum in Geneva. These are almost all large formats (120 x 251 cm for the majority of them).

Readers will have a choice of three covers, each with one of the artist’s paintings. The dictionary with the jacket “Voix-Vortex” is for sale (64,50 euros) since August 17th. The dictionaries with the covers “Music-Mutation” and “Sinuosity-Wisdom” will be available from 19 October.

A beautiful book, “Polyphonies”, telling the story of this collaboration between the painter and the lexicographer, co-edited with Albin Michel, will also be published on October 19th.

Until then, Alain Rey publishes on September 7 a book on “the 200 funny words that have changed our lives for 50 years”, a sort of journey through half a century of French history.

Concerning the 50th edition of Petit Robert, the publisher has planned a limited edition of 50,000 copies.

On the lexicon side, Le Petit Robert continues to be almost exhaustive. Among the new words is the herbicide “glyphosate” or “batucada” (set of percussionists playing samba).

Francophone countries such as Canada, Switzerland and Belgium also bring their own original words: “biscom” (gingerbread appreciated in Switzerland), “grichage” (squeaking or sizzling in Canada) or the Belgian “zinneke” (Bastard dog or representative of the Brussels cultural mix).

Regional French is not forgotten with, for example, the verb “s’empierger” (stumbling) coming from Champagne-Ardennes. There are also new phrases of which this “moment of relaxation, collective letting go”, known in the dictionary as “feast of the slip”.

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