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The matching Latin of 'Petit Nicolas' is ‘glaucops’

· 'Pullus Nicolellus' published in Paris ·

"My son is seven years old and anxiously waits for ‘story time’ so that he can read (or rather: have read to him) the adventures of Nicolas”, writes Elisabetta Furcht in an online discussion forum.  She is speaking of a book dear to little children, Le Petit Nicolas , by René Goscinny, a French cartoonist who also brought  to life other famous personalities, such as Astérix and Lucky Luke. I, who am much older, cannot wait to put him in pyjamas in order to read  him this book.  My son says: “but this seems like I wrote it!”.  And we die of laughing at every paragraph.  There is all the magic of childhood and the miracle of a writer who succeeds in viewing the world with the eyes of a child and the humour and acerbic pen of a great writer. Necessary reading for young and old alike!"

Since last November it has also been heartily recommended to budding Latinists and to readers a little older who look back with nostalgia at the hexameters they scanned at school, thanks to the translation by Marie-France Saignes (who changed her name into a self-ironic “Maria Gallica Cruenta”) and by Elizabeth Antébi (alias  “Sanctaedes Dusselpaganica Lustralunda”) of eight unpublished stories. Pullus Nicolellus in Latin (Paris, Imav éditions, 2012, 103 pages,  € 15)  would probably have made Goscinny very happy, and maybe even St Augustine. The comparison is not out of place, as it might seem, given that the Bishop of Hippo himself remembered with pleasure the natural method with which he learned the language of Caesar and Tacitus, sine ullu metu atque cruciatu, inter etiam blandimenta nutricum et ioca arridentium et laetitias alludentium ( Confessiones , i, xiv, 23, a passage cited by Luigi Miraglia in the article Come (non) si insegna il latino [How (not) to teach Latin] in "Micromega", no. 5 of 1996), "almost as a game, among those who blandished it and joked and laughed with him"; but he has harsh words for those who taught him Greek in an odious and constraining way, "sprinkling with bile" the joy of reading. “ Glaucops est ”! Nicolas would say to his friends, the Latin form of "that's neat!", a word that literally means “owl” but in slang means the same as the Spanish guapo and the English nice . Contemporary readers must also have loved it, given that the target of selling 6.000 copies of the first print-run was very soon exceeded and the second edition is already out.  Excerpts from the book – which contains in addition to other episodes: In ludum redituri, Invicti!, De cibotheca, O dulces et floridae memoriae! Aurei Domus, De Veniis, Glaucops cuniculus (the cool rabbit), even a lexicon, a reasonable bibliography and a Jocus , a final quiz: ("Who talks about the magician Zaratus? Harry Potter? Apuleius? Pliny?”) — will be performed, strictly in Latin, during the eighth annual European Latin and Greek Festival which will be held in Lyons from 21 to 24 March  2013  (on  the  web:, organized by the Association Fortuna Juvat, to which Marie-France Saignes and Elizabeth Antébi belong (the imagination is in power, for good this time, for it is rooted in the memory! we read on the site).  Truly fortune favours the daring, even in publishing.




St. Peter’s Square

June 18, 2019