Chevalier de l'Ordre
On 7 December 2010, Michael O'Dwyer was invested with the honour Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes académiques by the French Ambassador, Emanuelle d'Achon.
The award, which pertains principally to the university sector, is in recognition of his contribution to French literature and literary analysis. Michael's contribution was spelled out in some detail by the Cultural Counsellor in the citation.
He mentioned in particular Michael's lifelong study of Julien Green, on whom he is now an expert. Michael recently spent a 2 year sabbatical in Paris rounding off this study. Michael's contribution to the understanding of other well known French authors, such as Mauriac, Bernanos, Huysmans and Pascal, was also invoked.
In his response, in fluent French, Michael drew on the experience of his main subject, Julien Green, to show that all one needed to make a good speech was a bit of self confidence. He thanked the previous and current Cultural Consellors for their part in the award. He then entertained his audience with an erudite review of the various meanings of the word "chevalier". He concluded in fluent Irish (what else with a mother from Corca Dhuibhne) by thanking all those present for coming, given the inclemency of the weather which resulted in some having to abandon their cars and "let CIE do the driving".
L-R: Back row - Gerry Devaney (husband of Agnes who is sitting in front of him), Paul (son of Seamus), Matt, Conor (son of Agnes), Seamus, Michael (son of Seamus), Seamus (son of Matt), Frank (husband of Colette) Front row - Carmel (wife of Seamus), Colette, Michael, Fr. Brendan, Thérèse, Paul.
In fact, the evening turned into a mini family reunion in the course of which I found I had been working with a first cousin for years without realising who he was.
Biography of the Ambassador
Background on Julien Green
Michael's 2002 article