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“we are we”

By Noémi Lefebvre and Laurent Grappe
Translated By Sophie Lewis

Reflecting on Nationalist Discourse through Film

“we are we” is a short film based on a text by Noémi Lefebvre, created with Laurent Grappe for a series of Lancaster Litfest events on the theme of “Found in Translation: Literary Dispatches from the Peripheries of Europe,” which took place on March 29, 2019. Organized by Delphine Grass (Lancaster University), the AHRC/MEITS-funded event and workshops explored the idea of “peripheries” through the transformative powers of translation. Writers and poets from France, Ukraine, Germany, and the UK were commissioned to write texts on the topic as well as to respond to each other’s texts through the medium of creative translation.

Noémi Lefebvre’s text for the short film “we are we” was inspired by the language used around Brexit in British and French newspapers. Through the trope of European explorers’ tales, it reflects on the fears and anxieties surrounding notions of the periphery and the center in nationalist discourse. The accompanying translation is by Sophie Lewis.


Video: “we are we” by Noémi Lefebvre, created with Laurent Grappe. Translation by Sophie Lewis.


we are we (transcript)

We are part of it


That’s the way it is

—It always has been

But we are not within it

—Absolutely not

We have never been truly within it even when we were

—We were in but without being of it

We were in but only in part

—Sometimes people ask us “But how is it you don’t want to be part of it when you say that you are part of it?”

They wonder how that’s possible so they ask us

—We tell them that we are indeed part of it, but that we don’t want to be within it since we aren’t

Actually it’s quite clear

—We are not on the outside

Even while not being within it

—This way of being, being of it even while not being of it, that’s so us.

It’s so us to be us

—That’s how it is

It always has been

—Do you remember the time we realized we were us?

It was a Friday, I think

—We’d gone on a trip

In a boat

—We prefer going by boat

It reminds us of the sea

—There was a major storm

With enormous waves

—A gale blew up along the coast to SSE

And it was raining a little

—Not to mention the fog

We thought we were lost

—We had to be very frugal with our provisions

We had only one small sandwich each

—We were that close to dying

But we survived

—For we are us after all

After many adventures

—An hour-and-a-half’s crossing

We discovered a land

—It was a new world


—We spotted some people on the coast who stopped to look at us

They weren’t naked, their skin was pale

—They were making gestures and speaking a language

They were foreign beings

—I think they were foreigners

Anyway their clothes were quite ridiculous

—They were covered in tunics made of plant fibers

With phrases printed on the back or the chest

—Their feet were covered in cow’s skins

Or perhaps it was fake cow you can never tell

—They were eating things that they picked out of cleverly decorated boxes

Or out of bags, made from tree pulp, I think

—They were drinking liquids of various colors

From little gourds made out of modified petrol

—They were speaking into rectangles and walking around with wires dangling from their ears

They had rituals, laws, regulated customs, and probably even a government

—They also had agriculture, a complete infrastructure, roads and villages . . .

And fairly well-organized cities.

—They supported the arts and broadcast their knowledge on great signboards displayed in the streets.

It looked as though they belonged to a rather civilized society

—As unbelievable as that may appear

For a brief instant, we had the strange feeling that we were the strangers

—When that was them

We did business with them

—In the language of business

We brought them little things


That we hoped to exchange for other trinkets

—But after a while we felt we might be being taken for a ride

We began to have doubts about the people of that region

—They looked like us

They were human beings

—Just like us

There’s no doubting that

—Of course

But they were different

—Completely different

They were human beings, clearly, but they weren’t like us

—That’s what we said to each other, they’re not like us

Only we can really be like us

Published Apr 26, 2019   Copyright 2019 Noémi Lefebvre and Laurent Grappe

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