Michele Reverbel Europe’s Leading Scribe Spearheads France’s War on Illiteracy

Michele Reverbel
Europe’s Leading Scribe
Spearheads France’s War on Illiteracy

Michele Reverbel is France’s leading public writer. The modern day scribe enjoys the exalted official status of
Chevalier of Arts and Letters. French society acknowledges that there are many who are illiterate and therefore something must be done about it. The “war against illiteracy” as it is known is officially designated in France as one of the “great national causes.”Michele Reverbel In the photograph Madame Reverbel meets National Press Club president Peter Isaac. In the background is social commentator Philippe Pitault.

Public writers are encouraged to set up their stalls in supermarkets, market places, lofts, factories, prisons, hospitals and fairs in order to practise their craft. Madame Reverbel is the author of a number of books on the subject including You Speak – I Write. Here she reveals that illiteracy is much more widespread than is popularly supposed. Well represented in this category she notes are members of the professional classes.

Under tradition, remuneration for public writers is entirely voluntary and there is no set scale. France’s public writers trace the origin of their craft to ancient Egypt and its scribes. In the mediaeval era they enjoyed a prestige comparable to that of lawyers in more recent times.

Public writers enjoyed immense popularity during the Renaissance when they benefited from the loosening of the monastic grip on scribe services.

It was not to last. The sponsors of the French Revolution saw public writers and their influence as a threat to their cause and the revolutionaries sought to eliminate the craft. Napoleon similarly saw the craft as subversive and thus a threat.
By modern times the craft had all but disappeared. But in 1980 when illiteracy first began to be openly talked about, a handful of public writers were allowed to form their own Academy.

In 2009 the public writer movement enjoyed a major boost when France’s notoriously centralised government shifted policy and started to distribute certain social services. The public writer craft was identified as being part of the voluntary movement capable of taking over publicly funded specialist services, in this case assisting adults who could not write. It was now that public writers federated themselves into a national organisation.

Though public writers exist throughout Europe and especially the Mediterranean region, it is in France that they enjoy their most clear cut role and recognition. Which makes Madame Reverbel Europe’s top scribe.