It may not be unusual for daughters to think of their fathers as knights (as in shining white armor), but in contemporary times how many of us have fathers who really are Knights? My dad — yes, I’m talking about the world renowned guitarist Jim Hall — has been given an award of great distinction by the French Minister of Culture and Communication. He is now a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters), a decoration given to eminent artists and writers who have contributed significantly to furthering the arts in France and throughout the world. It is one of the highest honors the French government can bestow upon a civilian
Word arrived by mail, a letter in French from the Minister and a corresponding letter in English (though not a literal translation) from a Cultural Counselor in the Ambassade de France aux Etats-Unis. Also in the envelope was some background information that I supplemented with a little web searching. Chevaliers are entitled to wear the insignia of the Order, a medal suspended from a colored ribbon of white stripes against a green background, on their left chest. According to a wiki entry:
The badge of the Order is an eight-armed, green-enameled ‘asterisk’ in silver; the obverse central disc has the letters ‘A’ and ‘L’ on a white enameled background surrounded by a golden ring bearing the words “RÃ©publique FranÃ§aise.” The reverse central disc features the head of Marianne on a golden background, surrounded by a golden ring bearing the words “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.”
You’d think I’d be able to find a good picture of it on the Internet, but this is the best I could find, for now. Alternatively, a more discreet lapel pin might be worn in lieu of the medal. My dad is not the strutting sort, so I can’t quite envision him sporting such a medal, but that decision doesn’t have to be made yet as the medal itself has not yet been conferred. That is likely to happen in January.
He joins a fine cadre of artists, of course. Among his jazz compatriots so honored in the past are Lee Konitz, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. Other honorees in recent years include Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, and Beverly Sills.
(Okay, someone is bound to want to answer the rhetorical question I posed in the opening. Such an enterprising person will point out just how many people are knighted by the Queen of England each year, not to mention other governments with similar honors, but please don’t burst my bubble while I’m enjoying the moment imagining I am among the few whose father is a real Knight.)