Sunday, April 22, 2012

France Entered the 21st Century Walking Backward

A fascinating essay, from Olivier Guez, at the New York Times, "Voting for Yesterday in France":
France in 2012 is an old nation that increasingly cultivates the temptation to be an island unto itself.

So many examples from these last few years come to mind: magazine covers devoted to President Nicolas Sarkozy almost every week; the Jan. 7 issue of Le Figaro, naming Joan of Arc Woman of the Year. An issue of Le Figaro Magazine devoted to a portrait of the French people declared: “France is noble in essence, the mother of liberty, the rights of man, letters, arts, and sciences.”

Transfuge, a Parisian literary magazine, offered a harsh assessment this month: French literature, obsessed with the past, is entering the 21st century walking backward. Indeed, the French don’t like the 21st century, and would gladly give it back. Their desire has its roots in a confluence of failures (the defeat in 1940 and the loss of their colonial empire) and the rejection, by other European nations, of building a Europe à la française — France on a bigger scale. France has become a middling power, with a mass culture and a society of consumption like everyone else. Gaullism and Communism kept up the illusion that a great history, a great destiny were still France’s to be had. It didn’t pan out that way. So as the world heeds France less, the French long to shut themselves off from it, to turn toward olden days and protect themselves.
More at that top link.

And previously, "French President Nicolas Sarkozy Predicted to Lose Reelection to Socialist Francois Hollande."