Why L’Albatros by Charles Baudelaire is special to me (guest post)

monday inspirationsWelcome back for another post from the Monday Inspirations series. Today’s post is by Solveig Werner. You can check out previous posts here.


When I first arrived in France, 12 years ago, I had very limited knowledge of the French language. Luckily, I was in a school that provided intensive French lessons, meaning that my classmates and I had a total of 11 hours of French per week. We were quickly introduced to the many facets of the French language and culture. Conjugation tables and grammar rules were very important, but we were also initiated to great works of French literature. With the help of authors and poets amongst them Maupassant, Emil Zola, Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine, we gradually learnt to understand and master the French language.

Every week, one hour was dedicated to the reciting, reading and interpreting of poetry. as well as discovering the life of the poet, or the circumstances surrounding the creation of the poem. None of us were well versed in French, which lead our teacher to focus on things such as pronunciation and the meaning of the words, before moving on to the deeper meaning of the poem. We studied many different poems and encountered many different poets, but none marked me as much as L’Albatros by Charles Baudelaire. By the time I finished high school, I had studied it three times in class and one time with my grandmother.  L'Albatros - Charles Baudelaire

My grandmother was always keen to push me to excel, and was genuinely interested in knowing what I learnt in school. As I had enjoyed L’Albatros a lot, I showed it to her. She was intrigued, and together we translated the poem into German, so that we could understand it even better. We wanted to understand every word, every metaphor, every deeper meaning. Were there things that I had not yet seen in school? What did the poem tell me? Together we unearthed elements that I had not encountered with my teachers. With the help of this poem, my grandmother taught me a very valuable lesson: how to read between the lines. From then on when I was reading a poem, a short story or a book, I was always keeping my eyes open for the hidden truths and messages.

For my 18th birthday, exactly one month after the death of my grandmother, my grandfather gave Les fleurs du mal - Solveig's Copyme a very special book. It was Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, the second poem inside this collection is L’Albatros. At the age of 19, in August of 1957, my grandmother purchased this book on a trip to Paris. She bought it from a bouquiniste on the Quais de Paris. It is probably not worth much, some of the pages are very badly cut and others are not cut open at all. In the book I found a photograph of my grandmother sitting in a Parisian café, radiant with the beauty of her youth.

Today every time I think of Charles Baudelaire, or of L’Albatros, I think of my grandmother. It also reminds me of how with poetry I learnt to appreciate and understand French, and lose my (heavy American) accent. In a certain way, when you are a foreigner in a new country, you too can be misunderstood and uncomfortable, just like the Albatross and the poet in Baudelaire’s poem.


Solveig Werner is a blogger who loves to write short stories and pieces of flash fiction. Her dream is to publish a collection of short stories and a novel. Currently she lives in Paris with her fiancé and daughter, and works as a freelance German teacher.
You can find her on her blog and Twitter.

25 thoughts on “Why L’Albatros by Charles Baudelaire is special to me (guest post)

  1. What a wonderful gift from your grandmother

    Also, I found it encouraging to learn you lost your “heavy accent” when speaking French. That’s something I’m working on as well, although some words will always elude me (e.g. citrouille).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! It is.
      I did not actively work on loosing the accent, it just happened. Now I have been told that I say “oui” like the people in the east of France )guess it’s the German influence. Generally people know that I am not French because there is some sort of accent but it’s definitely not American…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this story for so many reasons, Solveig. First, you are a great story-teller. And secondly, my grandma brought me up and perhaps I can’t recall many tender moments like this, but she was a major influence on my life and I love her dearly. So any reference to grandparents melts my heart, particularly when it’s told so beautifully. Great start to your guest blogging 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Gulara. You are so encouraging, I tend to tell stories all the time, so doing it through blogging and writing might be a great way to share, because not everyone has time to listen.
      I remember my grandmother fondly, and miss her a lot as we had a deep relationship.
      I recall reading about your grandmother, and she must have been important to you. I think that if you will one day be a grandmother, you will be very loving and amazing for them. But for now, enjoy motherhood!
      I hope that I’ll continue doing guest posts here and there. This post actually gave me a whole new level of self confidence!

      Liked by 2 people

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