French President Macron gifts Modi Proust’s novels, replica of Charlemagne chessmen

08:04 PM Jul 14, 2023 | PTI |

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron has gifted Prime Minister Narendra Modi a framed facsimile of a 1916 photograph of a Parisian presenting flowers to a Sikh officer and a replica of the Charlemagne chessmen, dating back to the 11th Century, officials said here.


Macron also gifted Modi a series of novels – A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) – by Marcel Proust published between 1913 and 1927 and considered the most important works of French literature of the early 20th century.

The photograph dating back to 1916 was clicked on the Champs-Elysees during the military parade on July 14 by a photo reporter from the Meurisse news agency. The original is located at the National Library of France.

The photo depicts a passer-by giving flowers to a Sikh viceroy’s commissioned officer (VCO) from the Indian Expeditionary Force (IEF) deployed in France.

At the time this snapshot was taken, the Battle of the Somme, in which the IEF were fighting, had already begun.


In World War I, some 1.3 million Indians volunteered to fight for Britain, including 8,77,000 combatants. Over 70,000 of them lost their lives, including about 9,000 in France and Belgium.

Most of these combatants were from “warrior peoples” in the north of the Indian subcontinent, like the Sikh soldiers marching on the Champs-Elysees.

This photo pays tribute to the Indian soldiers who fought in Europe alongside France in 1914-1918, in the context of several Indian battalions partaking in the parade on 14 July 2023.

It also evokes India and France’s long-standing shared battle to defend universal values.

Officials said Chaturanga, the common ancestor of European and Chinese chess, appeared in India from the seventh century CE.

The “Charlemagne” chessmen get their name from the legend that they were given as a gift to the Frankish Emperor by the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid.

In actuality, they were made at the end of the 11th century, probably in Southern Italy, given the equipment used by the characters and the presence of elephants as bishops.

The original chessmen are stored at the Cabinet des Medailles at the National Library of France and were formerly at the Treasury of the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

This reproduction, gifted to the Prime Minister, is made of bronze-filled PLA comprising the 16 pieces available to the player at the start of a game of chess – king, queen, two bishops, two knights, two rooks and eight pawns.

The chessmen were made by the French start-up Cosmyx 3D, which specialises in the 3D printing of art and technical objects, and which took part in the Fabriqué en France (Made in France) exhibition this year.

“This unique item represents both the long history of trade between India and Europe, with the elephant piece recalling the Indian origins of the game of chess, and the expertise of French companies in terms of innovation and new technologies,” officials said.

Macron also gifted Modi Le temps retrouve (Time Regained), the seventh and final volume of Proust’s acclaimed series of novels A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).

This volume IV of A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time) from the Bibliothèque de la Pleiade includes the final two volumes of the original work, Albertine disparue (The Fugitive) and Le temps retrouve (Time Regained), a number of drafts and outlines by the author and much academic commentary. It was published in 1989.

Macron also gifted Modi the English edition, Everyman’s Library, which also includes the final two volumes of A la recherche du temps perdu.

The translation is by C K Scott Moncrieff (1889-1930), a contemporary of Proust and the original translator of Proust into English, as revised by Terence Kilmartin (1922-1991).

This version is considered to be one of the best English translations of Proust.

The Bibliotheque de la Pleiade collection represents academic excellence and the most outstanding contributions of French authors to world culture. As Prime Minister Modi does not speak French, this edition comes with an English translation.


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