Tales of the Rue Broca
Number of pages
***Six stories available in English translation***
***More than 700,000 copies sold in France***
The tales have a fresh and fertile imaginative quality that is truly childlike, but they are mature in style and interpretation, the humorous quality somewhat reminiscent of Twain’s in moments of acerbity.
—The Best in Children’s Books:
The University of Chicago Guide to Children’s Literature
The children who live on rue Broca in Paris meet each week with “Monsieur Pierre.” Monsieur Pierre pretends to be a writer but tells the children the stories of Andersen, Grimm, and Perrault. When he has told all he can remember, he suggests that each week they make up a new story. This, according to Pierre Gripari, is how he came up with the 13 stories that were published in the book called Tales of the Rue Broca, a French childhood classic.
The first story in Tales of The Rue Broca introduces us to the deli owner of rue Broca, Papa Saïd, and his children, Bachir and Nadia. The family appears again in a highly improbable explanation of how the first piggy bank came to be, and with the adventures of Bachir’s doll—who is clairvoyant. One story—beloved by all French schoolchildren—is about the little devil who, to the great disappointment of his parents, wants to be good. There is a story about a haunted apartment and two stories about inanimate objects that fall in love (in one, a pair of shoes, and in another, a potato and a guitar). The children—or Monsieur Pierre—even rewrite ancient history in “The Story of Lustucru,” an immortal hero who, sadly, never received the praise he deserved because nobody could bear to record his ridiculous name for posterity. Another story is of a ghost who has to experience the joy of childbearing to let go of the past, and in the last story true happiness is found with a touch of je-ne-sais-quoi.
Pierre Gripari : Born in 1925 to a French fortuneteller mother and a Greek engineer father, Pierre Gripari was one the most successful writers for children in twentieth-century France and a prolific author. Les Contes de la rue Broca is his first and most-famous collection of fairy tales. While continuing to write in other genres for both children and adults, he published similar collections until the very end of his life: Histoire du Prince Pipo, de Pipo le cheval, et de la Princesse Popi; Contes de la Folie-Mericourt; and Contes d’ailleurs et d’autre part. A selection of stories from Les Contes de la rue Broca translated by Doriane Grutman was published by Bobbs-Merrill in English in 1967. His contemporary fairy tales have been translated into German, Portuguese, Albanian, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Korean, Hungarian, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russia, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.