C’est délicieux, n’est-ce pas ? Bose and his love for French

Satyendra Nath Bose’s career in theoretical physics is defined by the trip he took to meet Albert Einstein. He sailed for Europe in 1924. He could have gone to Berlin directly but he went to Paris first and stayed there for a while. He knew French quite well, as many of his friends and students recount. In Paris, he attended Paul Langevin’s lectures at the College de France, but otherwise did not work too hard at physics and worked at Maurice de Broglie’s Lab. Here is Partha Ghose’s memoir:

“He loved French literature. Dr. Adhikari, a former Director of the Indian Statistical Institute recounted to me how once he ran into my mastermoshai (a Bengali word for a teacher) sitting alone at a road-side cafe in Paris, a beret on his silky white mane, a carafe of red wine and a pile of books on the table, reading a French novel. On recognizing Dr. Adhikari, he immediately started to explain how he longed for the latest French novels and how every time he was in France he would buy them and devour them.

I recall one occasion when I called on him at his residence shortly after lunch. He was reclining in his bed, bare bodied with a maroon lungi tied to his waist. He was chewing pan (betel leaf) and reading a book. He was in great mood. He wanted to read out a few pages to me. He made me sit near him and started to read. It was all about the reactions of a cat which was sitting below a banquet table and watching all the delicious food that was being served and consumed. He stopped after a while, smiled, and said to me while putting down the book, delightfully written, isn’t it! I concurred and quietly picked up the book to see what its title was and who the author was. I was amazed – it was in French, and yet he had read it out to me in unfaltering English for nearly five minutes! He was in an expansive mood, and even claimed that his French pronunciation was quite good.”

Partha Ghose, “S. N. Bose: The Man [Talk presented at a seminar on Albert Einstein, Dhaka, 30 May, 2005; Proc. Bangladesh Academy of Sciences]”
Ref: Wali, K. (2009). Satyendra Nath Bose — His Life and Times. WORLD SCIENTIFIC.

Photo Courtesy: S N Bose Archives. [https://newweb.bose.res.in/Prof.S.N.Bose-Archive/]

« Il aimait la littérature française. Le Dr Adhikari, ancien directeur de l’Institut indien des statistiques, m’a raconté comment il est tombé une fois sur mon mastermoshai (un mot bengali pour un enseignant) assis seul dans un café au bord de la route à Paris, un béret sur sa crinière blanche soyeuse, une carafe de rouge du vin et une pile de livres sur la table, lisant un roman français. Reconnaissant le Dr Adhikari, il a immédiatement commencé à expliquer à quel point il aspirait aux derniers romans français et comment chaque fois qu’il était en France, il les achetait et les dévorait.

Je me souviens d’une occasion où je l’ai appelé chez lui peu après le déjeuner. Il était allongé dans son lit, le corps nu avec un lungi marron attaché à sa taille. Il mâchait du pan (feuille de bétel) et lisait un livre. Il était de bonne humeur. Il voulait me lire quelques pages. Il m’a fait asseoir à côté de lui et a commencé à lire. Ce sont les réactions d’un chat assis sous une table de banquet et regardant toute la délicieuse nourriture qui était servie et consommée. Il s’est arrêté au bout d’un moment, a souri, et m’a dit en posant le livre, délicieusement écrit, n’est-ce pas ! J’approuvai et pris tranquillement le livre pour voir quel était son titre et qui en était l’auteur. J’étais stupéfait – c’était en français, et pourtant il me l’avait lu dans un anglais impeccable pendant près de cinq minutes ! Il était d’humeur expansive et a même affirmé que sa prononciation française était assez bonne.

Partha Ghose, “S. N. Bose: The Man [Talk presented at a seminar on Albert Einstein, Dhaka, 30 May, 2005; Proc. Bangladesh Academy of Sciences]”
Ref: Wali, K. (2009). Satyendra Nath Bose — His Life and Times. WORLD SCIENTIFIC.

Photo Courtesy: S N Bose Archives. [https://newweb.bose.res.in/Prof.S.N.Bose-Archive/]

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