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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

French "Dummies" Author Phillipe Benhamou in Paris 2/25/17


My friend and compatriot in France who collaborated, translated, and greatly expanded that country's version of Freemasons For Dummies (Franc-maçonnerie Pour Les Nuls), Bro. Phillipe Benhamou, is a friendly, funny, and brilliant man who I am in the conflicting position of not being able to sit in the same lodge with under our rules of recognition. He is a longtime member of the Grand Loge de France, which is regular, but unrecognized by the majority of the outside Masonic world. Such is the state of Freemasonry and its own brand of internal and international politics. 

(They are the second largest grand lodge in France, after the irregular Grand Orient de France. GLNF, the one we all are in amity with, is third.) 

Phillipe's job when he wrote the French edition went far beyond a simple translation of what I originally wrote (which has been done in Germany). My version primarily concentrated on Freemasonry as it functions in the U.S., and to a lesser extent, in the British Isles. But the French Masonic landscape is hugely complex and very different from us, for a variety of cultural, historic, and political reasons. The result is now three major grand governing bodies of lodges in that country, along with another ten or more minor ones of enough popularity to at least mention. Plus the various appendant bodies attached to all of them. Additionally, at least 20% of the Masons in France are women, and the Order of the Eastern Star is unknown there (female and mixed lodges have been at work in France since about 1740, in case anybody thinks there's anything particularly "new" about it). 

Wiley Publishing's French partner for the Dummies series wanted a book that would appeal to all of the Masons in that country, along with the skeptics and non-Masons. So, the book Phillipe crafted is obviously very different from mine, and he faced an even more daunting task than I did. Unfortunately, it is often passed up by Masons there who would enjoy and benefit from it because they just assume it was written by a non-Mason, or an anti-Mason with a grudge. Most French readers have been surprised to find out he is indeed a member, after all. Interestingly, the publisher there has created a couple of different versions, including an expanded illustrated edition with many color photographs.

While he is occasionally featured on radio and elsewhere, Phillipe doesn't usually traipse the countryside making speeches to any lodge that will feed him the way I have over the years, so a public event with him is pretty rare. 

He will be speaking on Saturday, February 25th, 2017 at 2:00PM in the beautiful temple of the Grande Loge de France in Paris at 8 rue de Puteaux 75017, mere steps from the Rome Metro station. 

His topic will be "Freemasonry: What Good is It?" and I suspect he will be shamelessly hawking books and signing them for those who show up with their own copies. (Phillipe is also a novelist, along with his actual vocation as a scientist in the French space program.) His presentation is a part of the GLdF's Condorcet-Brossolette lecture series for the general public that discusses the role of Masonry in modern society by inviting a variety of speakers from a broad spectrum of viewpoints. The organizers are asking for attendees to register online HERE.

4 comments:

  1. Do you know if Brother Benhamou's book is published in an English translated version? My college French fluency won't cut it. I know many of us that would absolutely love to read it if it exists. Brother Doug Jaquith-Lancaster(PA) Lodge #43

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    1. If you mean is there an English translation of his French variation of my English version, no. The market would be so insanely tiny for it to coexist alongside my original one that Wiley wouldn't ever do such a thing. And they are devilishly protective of their brand, so they wouldn't allow a third party to make some independent edition, given all of their trademarked conventions used in the books. Plus, when you sign a Wiley contract, you agree not to trot out and write another book that even remotely skirts close to what you wrote for them, so that would preclude him or another translator merely transcribing it and just eliminating the headings, sidebars, and icons. It would have to be substantially different, or they will spank. In fact, when I wrote Solomon's Builders for a completely different publisher, I had to run the proposal past Wiley before I could sign the other contract, to prove it was not going to be similar, apart from the overarching subject matter of Freemasonry.

      It's a real shame when you stroll into a French Masonic bookstore (there are several in Paris) when you see how many books there are in that language about the fraternity, its history, symbolism, philosophy, practices, and differences... and you realize that 99% of them are not available in any other language. Unfortunately, there's no money to be made in the Masonic publishing business, and there are even FEWER pennies to be scrounged from translating them. So, until Kindles come with an effective ability to translate internally (wiping out foreign subsidiary rights), those hundreds of books will remain invisible to us.

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    2. The open access journal Ritual, Secrecy & Civil Society
      http://www.ipsonet.org/publications/open-access/ritual-secrecy-and-civil-society

      carries many translations into English of European Masonic work. The international conference on Masonry at the French National Library has simultaneous translation and video taping of presentations.

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  2. The World Conference on Freemasonry site is at
    http://www.ipsonet.org/conferences/ritualconference-main

    The conference this year includes presentations on the discussions about the challenges to the founding date of the English grand lodge, and new material on the role of the Chevalier Ramsay in 18th century masonry.

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