Je sais que je dois avancer.

Je sais que je dois avancer.

zhuh sake zhuh dwah aa-vah-SAY. Click below to hear this.*

I know I should move on.

That’s what we tell people who are beginning to emerge from a period of mourning: It’s time to move on. But what exactly does that mean, and where should one move on to?

To my mind, the difference between the French avancer and the English move on is the difference between a straight line and a circle. Avancer implies that you have been walking a line, that you have stopped at some point for a time, and now it is time to continue. Keep your face forward, put one foot in front of the other.

But why do we suppose that we must continue to move in the same direction? When we grieve, aren’t we stuck for a time, in a circle like a correspondance on the Paris Métro? At a correspondance, you may change trains and continue your journey, but in any direction you wish.

It may take some time to decide where you want to direct your steps from here. Or you may toss a coin and see where your journey takes you. In either case, you are moving on–but possibly at a side angle from where you were previously headed. Things change, necessarily, when someone leaves your life, when your house collapses under a tornado, or a doctor pronounces the words you were dreading, or when a tiny new person joins your family.

All of which explains why I find the French expression oddly jarring. I would like to think that, at such a moment, I will have the courage to bend the line–maybe just a bit, but to do something different: change a habit, live somewhere new, sit in a different chair. Anything, except remain stuck at the correspondance, unable to move on or even avancer.

[This is another phrase in my series on the French movie La Délicatesse (Delicacy, by its American title). The series begins with this post from April 3, 2012.]

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:



One response to “Je sais que je dois avancer.

  1. Pingback: Il vous a viré? | Spk Frnch

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