Mapping the World

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Text 1 : A Russian Aborigine

In Alice Springs – a grid of scorching streets where men in long white socks were forever getting in and out of Land Cruisers – I met a Russian who was mapping the sacred sites of the Aboriginals.

His name was Arkady Volchok. He was an Australian citizen. He was thirty-three years old.

His father, Ivan Volchok, was a Cossack from a village near Rostov-on-Don, who, in 1942, was arrested and sent with a trainload of other Ostarbeiter to work in a German factory. One night, somewhere in the Ukraine, he jumped from the cattle-car into a field of sunflowers. Soldiers in grey uniforms hunted him up and down the long lines of sunflowers, but he gave them the slip. Somewhere else, lost between murdering armies, he met a girl from Kiev and married her. Together they drifted to a forgetful Adelaide suburb, where he rigged up a vodka still and fathered three sturdy sons.

The youngest of these was Arkady.

Nothing in Arkady’s temperament predisposed him to live in the hugger-mugger1 of Anglo-Saxon suburbia or take a ­convention­al job. He had a flattish face and a gentle smile, and he moved through the bright Australian spaces with the ease of his footloose forebears.

His hair was thick and straight, the colour of straw. His lips had cracked in the heat. He did not have the drawn-in lips of so many white Australians in the Outback nor did he swallow his words. He rolled his r’s in a very Russian way. Only when you came up close did you realize how big his bones were.

He had married, he told me, and had a daughter of six. Yet, preferring solitude to domestic chaos, he no longer lived with his wife. He had few possessions apart from a harpsichord and a shelf of books.

He was a tireless bushwalker. He thought nothing of setting out, with a water-flask and a few bites of food, for a hundred-mile walk along the Ranges. Then he would come home, out of the heat and light, and draw the curtains, and play the music of Buxtehude and Bach on the harpsichord. Their orderly progressions, he said, conformed to the contours of the central Australian landscape.

Neither of Arkady’s parents had ever read a book in English. He delighted them by winning a first-class honours degree, in history and philosophy, at Adelaide University. He made them sad when he went to work as a school-teacher, on an Aboriginal settlement in Walbiri country to the North of Alice Springs.

He liked the Aboriginals. He liked their grit and tenacity, and their artful ways of dealing with the white man. He had learnt, or half-learnt, a couple of their languages and had come away astonished by their intellectual vigour, their feats of memory and their capacity and will to survive. They were not, he insisted, a dying race — although they did need help, now and then, to get the government and mining companies off their backs.

It was during his time as a school-teacher that Arkady learned of the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks’ or ‘Songlines’ to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Law’.

Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic beings who had wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path — birds, animals, plants, rocks, water-holes — and so singing the world into existence.

Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, 1987.

1. Hugger-mugger: busy life.

Text 2 : An old map

There was a map of Vietnam on the wall of my apartment in Saigon and some nights, coming back late to the city, I’d lie out on my bed and look at it, too tired to do anything more than just get my boots off. That map was a marvel, especially now that it wasn’t real anymore. For one thing, it was very old. It had been left there years before by another tenant, probably a Frenchman, since the map had been made in Paris. The paper had buckled in its frame after years in the wet Saigon heat, laying a kind of veil over the countries it depicted. Vietnam was divided into its older territories of Tonkin, Annam and Cochin China, and to the west past Laos and Cambodge sat Siam, a kingdom. That’s old, I’d tell visitors, that’s a very old map.If dead ground could come back and haunt you the way dead people do, they’d have been able to mark my map CURRENT and burn the ones they’d been using since ‘64, but count on it, nothing like that was going to happen. It was late ‘67 now, even the most detailed maps didn’t reveal much anymore reading them was like trying to read the faces of the Vietnamese, and that was like trying to read the wind. We knew that the uses of most information were flexible, different pieces of ground told different stories to different people. We also knew that for years now there had been no country here but the war.

Michael Herr, Dispatches, 2009.

Compréhension 10 points

Text 1

1 What is the name of the main character the narrator chooses to talk about

2 Find the following information about this character in the whole text.

1. age.

2. nationality.

3. origins.

4. brother(s) and sister(s).

5. children.

6. job.

7. studies.

3 List all the main character’s hobbies (at least three elements expected).

4 Focus on lines 6 to 14. Find the following information concerning the main character’s father.

1. The place where his children were born.

2. The place his wife was from.

3. The place he never reached.

4. The place where he escaped.

5. The place he was from originally.

5 In your opinion, why were the main character’s parents disappointed with his career choice

Text 2

6 Where does the scene take place (specific location, town and country) In which year

7 Are the following statements true or false Justify your answers by quoting the text.

a) The narrator spends his days at home.

b) The narrator is the first occupant of the flat.

8 What is particular about the map on the wall Find at least three elements in the text.

9 For the narrator, what was “like trying to read the wind” (l. 18-19)

Both texts

10 Maps are mentioned in both texts. What do they suggest about the ways the main characters relate to the country they are in Develop your answer in about 80 words.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L.

11 “Nothing in Arkady’s temperament predisposed him to [...] take a conventional job” (text 1: l. 16-18). In your own words, explain what the narrator means.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L au titre de la LVA.

12 What does the narrator mean, at the end of text 2, by saying there is a “war” where there used to be a “country”

Expression 10 points

Tous les candidats traiteront une question au choix en 250 mots. (+/- 10 %)

1 What can exploring new cultures and places teach us

2 You have decided to go and live in an unusual place. Write a letter to a friend, describing your first impressions.

Les candidats de la série L composant au titre de la LVA traiteront également la question suivante en 150 mots. (+/- 10 %)

3 Is it really possible to know a country without knowing its past

Les clés du sujet

Texte 1


Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989) était un romancier britannique surtout connu pour ses récits de voyage. Il passa du temps en Australie afin d’étudier la culture aborigène et d’écrire The Songlines (1987), une de ses œuvres les plus réputées.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

Le narrateur rencontre Arkady Volchok, un intellectuel d’origine russe qui consacre sa vie à parcourir la brousse australienne et à dresser une carte de la région de ses sites les plus sacrés.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

A grid (l. 1) : une grille  scorching (l. 1) : brûlant  a cattle car (l. 9) : un wagon à bestiaux  a sunflower (l. 10) : un tournesol  to give someone the slip (l. 11) : s’évader  to drift (l. 13) : dériver  to rig up (l. 14) : monter artisanalement  sturdy (l. 14) : costaud : footloose (l. 19) : géographiquement libre  forebears (l. 20) : ancêtres  drawn-in (l. 22) : fermé to swallow one’s words (l. 23) : (ici) mal prononcer ses mots  a bushwalker (l. 30) : randonneur  grit (l. 41) : (ici) cran  a feat (l. 44) : un exploit  a water-hole (l. 56) : un point d’eau.

Texte 2


Michael Herr (1940-) est un romancier américain, ancien correspondant de guerre, notamment pendant la guerre du Vietnam. Dispatches raconte son expérience pendant cette guerre.

Pour en savoir plus :

Résumé du texte

Le narrateur décrit son appartement à Saigon, et plus particulièrement une vieille carte accrochée au mur, représentant l’état du pays d’avant guerre. Il explique que la guerre a tout changé et qu’elle a même détruit et remplacé la notion d’un pays.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

A tenant (l. 6) : un locataire  to be buckled (l. 7) : être déformé  a frame (l. 7) : un cadre  to lay a veil over something (l. 8) : voiler  count on it (l. 15) : comptez là-dessus  a piece of ground (l. 20) : un morceau de terre.

Les points de convergence

Les cartes géographiques sont au cœur des deux textes : le dressage d’une carte dans le premier texte et l’étude d’une carte ancienne dans le second. Chaque carte est essentielle à la façon dont les deux hommes voient le pays dans lequel ils se trouvent.

Le sujet d’expression 1

Pistes de recherche

Commencez par lister au brouillon toutes les idées qui vous passent par la tête. Ensuite, classez-les afin de préconstruire deux ou trois paragraphes cohérents. Par exemple : les bienfaits intellectuels, les bienfaits culturels et les bienfaits physiques ou encore, ce qu’on apprend du pays par rapport à ce qu’on apprend de nous-mêmes (le respect, la tolérance, les traditions). Dans l’introduction, reformulez la question afin de mieux organiser vos idées : We could argue that new cultures and places teach us just as much about ourselves as they teach us about them.

Vocabulaire utile

To be open-minded (avoir l’esprit ouvert)  a benefit (un bienfait)  beneficial (bénéfique)  global awareness (la sensibilisation mondiale).

Le sujet d’expression 2

Pistes de recherche

Il faut choisir un endroit hors-pair qui vous donne envie : peut-être une péniche, une montagne, à l’écart de la civilisation ou au cœur d’une ville. Vous pouvez choisir une des îles britanniques ou un pays plus éloigné. Racontez comment ce déménagement a changé votre vie.

Vocabulaire utile

To move (déménager)  to get away from it all (s’évader du quotidien)  I’ve had enough (j’en ai assez)  to make a new life for oneself (refaire sa vie).

Le sujet d’expression 3

Pistes de recherche

Réfléchissez au sens de « connaître » un pays et aux moyens d’y parvenir : recherche, expérience, avis d’autrui. Ensuite, prenez parti, il faut donner votre avis, même s’il est mitigé.

Vocabulaire utile

Reliable (fiable)  to experience something (vivre une expérience)  background information (renseignements généraux)  first-hand experience (expérience directe)  to fit in (s’intégrer).



Text 1

1Arkady Volchok.

21.He is 33 years old.

2. He is Australian.

3. He has Russian blood (by his father) and Ukrainian blood (by his mother).

4. He had two older brothers.

5. He had one daughter of six years old.

6. He works as a school-teacher at one of the Aboriginal reserves.

7. He studied history and philosophy at Adelaide University.

3Arkady is both an intellectual and a musician. He plays the harpsichord and enjoys reading. He is also a keen walker.

41.His children were born in an Adelaide suburb.

2. His wife came from Kiev.

3. He didn’t reach the German factory he was destined for.

4. He escaped from a train in the Ukraine.

5. He was originally from a village near Rostov-on-Don.

5 His parents had great expectations for their son who had already achieved so much by earning a university degree when they couldn’t even read in English. They certainly believed that teaching the aborigines was not a prestigious enough position for him after all he had accomplished.

Text 2

6 The scene takes place in an apartment in Saigon, in Vietnam, in 1967.

7 a) False: “some nights coming back late to the city… too tired to do anything more than just get my boots off” (l. 1-4).

b) False: “It had been left there years before by another tenant” (l. 5-6).

8 The map on the wall was very old and had been damaged by humidity. It shows the country as it was before the war.

9 Both trying to read maps at that time and also trying to read the faces of the Vietnamese people who didn’t give anything away.

Both texts

10 In the first text, maps are considered both as a way of escaping the mundane everyday life and a way of preserving the heritage of a people. They are a positive creation that allows the perpetuation of ancient traditions. In the second text however, maps are a nostalgic representation of the world as it used to be. The map on the wall is a faithful rendition of how things were but a reminder of how much the war has changed things.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L.

11 Arkady wasn’t the kind of person who could take a desk job. He loved his freedom and couldn’t stay at home all the time. His regular walks into the bush are perhaps what he has inherited from his immigrant ancestors.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L au titre de la LVA.

12 The boundaries and the battle to decide to whom the land should belong was uncertain during the war. Regions changed names and origins. The war took away what was certain and accepted as truth and turned it into something more unsettled and unfamiliar.


2 Guidelines

Ewe Farm

Halstead Road


Skaw - ZE2 9EF

United Kingdom

Dear Lynsey,

I’m writing to tell you the most exciting news. I’ve made a life-changing decision and I hope you will be pleased that I’ve finally done something about getting out of this rough town that we both grew up in.

I’ve decided to get away from it all and move to Scotland, more precisely to Skaw on the Shetland Islands! It sounds crazy, doesn’t it But I’d just had enough of this inner city life: of druggies on every street corner, of police sirens waking me every night, of concrete as far as the eye could see. I wanted to change and make a new life surrounded by nature. It wasn’t hard to get here. I took the train to Aberdeen and a ferry from there. I’ve already found work on a sheep farm. It is just so peaceful here. The air is fresh and pure and the differences with Liverpool are just unbelievable!

It is just so wonderful! I feel like I’m in heaven! I don’t regret it for a moment. It is the best decision that I have ever made. Who would have believed a townie like me could become a farming girl! I’ve already learned to ride a horse and also how to shear a sheep and Mrs McDonald (who owns the farm) is teaching me how to make wool and knit! It’s another life! I feel like a new person!

You must come and visit me sometime, I’m sure you’d love it too! Oh, but you won’t like the fact that you can’t get a phone signal!

I miss you, write soon.



3 Guidelines

Knowing a country is a question of perspective as is the notion of ‘the past’. In today’s society we have unlimited access to information but can research replace experience

Researching a country is easy these days, the internet is a mine of information but we must be careful because anyone can post online and this can distort the truth. The same goes for history: historians interpret facts based on political ideologies and social norms. For example, history classes studied in China are nothing like the classes we have in the West.

So if the information available to us is not always reliable, how can we really ‘know’ a country Personally, I think the only real way to know a country is to live there: to experience things first-hand. Of course, having some background information is important and helps us to fit in better than if we were completely ignorant but nothing beats seeing things with your own eyes.

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