The idea of Boutch A Boutch

Our story starts with a joke, two families, two legacies, two frenemies; the Ravanels and the Devouassoux. One sunny day in the village of Argentière the unthinkable occurs: a Ravanel and a Devouassoux just happen to be walking along the same pavement heading toward each other’s direction, heading straight for awkwardness. One trembles with fear, “What if we have to say hello?” the other is paralysed, “What if we have to talk?” Struck with a teenage sense of apprehension, Ravanel admires the flowers hanging from the Savoy bar; Devouassoux tries to decipher the Chardonnet through the mist. An angel, a hermit from Vallorcine walks by and knocks right into them with his glacial imprudence, our frenemies find themselves on the frozen cobbles. Getting up from their dazed state they stare at each other, mesmerized, they just pulled a Boutch à Boutch.

This joke was the first explanation us little people had of a Boutch, a word used in the Chamoniard patois to desicribe someone who has so little to say or not the courage to express themselves with, we usually let them be, keeping our guard up as if they were our very own Chamoniard Yeti, Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman, whatever the trendy way to say it is nowadays. Even today we find ourselves confronted with foreign Boutches, yes you know who you are!

This story is ours, it’s our own myth but it’s also our reality. That’s us, 14 000 souls stuck in this valley adorned by steep, spiky hills, where we are all obliged to cross paths day after day on sinuous roads leading to nowhere. To the east, the hostile Swiss border, to the west the threatening Egratz peak, stretching from north to south are crossable (well almost) mountains. This story is also our biggest joke, like we said, the word Boutch is from the old Chamoniard dialect, but is now used with a likable irony, no hard feelings involved, a big step for us mountain folk. A Boutch is the guy (or gal’) who says little or nothing, if only to say no, and no again, the one who will only say yes to another (free) drink, one whose nature is as tough as their surroundings. More Boutch, that’s what we need. But no to what? To stay silent for which purpose? And who can we expose our hard shell to? Everyone? Just to the idiots? But, the idiots which ones? That group next to us? The ones sat at the bar across the street? Those from the village down the road? Those who don’t get how the system works? Those from distant lands? Those who sound a little different? Or the idiots, the really idiotic ones?

On the contrary my friends, the strange theory behind boutchism is why we named this gathering “Boutch à Boutch”. The idea is to take action with words; through a gathering, discussions, and consultations between neighbours of the valley. The meeting will serve to initiate a public debate and make it possible to formulate propositions, projects and innovative ideas, in line with our vision of the exceptional surroundings we wish to live and grow old in. In short, this will be a preliminary draft of a democratic movement in the Chamonix valley, and maybe the start of a reflection on the future we all desire for our home. 

We will be waiting for you, every fall for you to recount your tales, talk to us, measure up our forces and weaknesses and decide whether or not we can take our dreams a step further. Here’s a question from which a million others pour out, can we help ourselves to help US improve our own lifestyle in the valley?

Last note: this gathering will not serve as a standing ground for lewd thoughts or behaviour, we will not tolerate any heinous, xenophobic, racist nor homophobic rants. This gathering is also non-political and is not in any sense a means of promoting a candidate for the local elections. Our relationship with the association “Ensemble Vivons Chamonix” presided by Minna Riihimaki is clear, it is a circumstantial collaboration between citizens who wish to give the administrative and logistical means to others in order to hear their voices, generally judged as inaudible in public debates. We would like to salute the progressive approach of this association as well as the trust it accords us. The organisers of the BAB were given a free rein for the event, concerning its programme, guests and discussions. We enjoy this sort of constructive initiative and wish to carry on this new tradition in the Chamonix valley. We hope for a gathering of all ages, from Vallorcine to Servoz and beyond the borders, of different ideas and utopias, points of view, and beliefs, without which we would live in a sad and boring world. We are a pragmatic lot, enslaved to the general interest of others and genuinely fed up with egotistical controversies.

Penn Shrader, translation.