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France at the University of Debrecen

It is also due partly to research conducted on Émile Zola’s life work at the University of Debrecen that our institution has been selected the host for an international conference focusing on the achievements of the French author.

Between June 8th and 10th, about 70 scholars from 17 countries on 3 continents will be participating in the prestigious international event organized by Association Internationale Zola et Naturalisme (AIZEN), which normally concentrates on the accomplishment of Émile Zola. This year, however, in addition to the usual topics discussed regularly, they will also reflect on the works of Octave Mirbeau, French journalist, literary critic, novelist and playwright, on the occasion of the centenary of his death.

“Among Hungarian universities, ours is the “most international” institution, as we have the largest headcount of students from abroad. The disciplines taught here also include a range of international fields from medicine to natural sciences or from music through agricultural sciences to information technology. In addition, Debrecen is also proud of its prestigious traditions of teaching and researching various fields within the humanities, including literary studies, philology, theology, and history. Thus, for the University of Debrecen, it is a matter of pride and prestige for a number of reasons that this high-ranking international scholarly event can be hosted by us in our institution,” said Elek Bartha, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs of the University of Debrecen, in his opening address.

“Receiving the honor of becoming the host for this conference is a significant achievement, as no East-European country has ever been granted this before. Furthermore, it also makes it possible for the Zola and naturalism research team operating at the University of Debrecen to present their findings to an audience composed of internationally acclaimed experts in the field,” said Sándor Kálai, Associate Professor at UD’s Department of Communication and Media Studies, one of the chief organizers of the event.

“I almost feel like I’m back at Sorbonne as a student of the humanities, where my professors first called my attention to Mirbeau’s works way back when. This is exactly why I considered the thematic choice of the conference a great idea, as the achievements of these two great writers can now be subjected to comparative analyses,” said Éric Fournier, Ambassador of France to Hungary.

“It is a pleasure that we can have this conference hosted at a location like the University of Debrecen, as the relations of this institution with its French partners, such as University of Picardie Jules Verne in Amiens, where I used to work as an instructor, are broadly recognized,” said Director of the French Institute at Budapest Hervé Ferrage in his welcoming address delivered at the opening ceremony.

As a guest of honor, the great granddaughter of Émile Zola, Ms. Brigitte Émile-Zola also attended not just the opening ceremony of this international conference but she is also scheduled to give a presentation on June 9th on correspondence received by Zola from Hungary.

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