Sunday, December 30, 2007

Prohibition of smoking

There's no doubt about it: the prohibition of smoking in French cafés and restaurants, as of next Wednesday, is likely to be a gigantic event in the history of French society and the Republic.

It's such a "big" idea (where I dare not imagine all that might be encompassed by my fuzzy adjective) that it might not go off smoothly. There'll surely be some unpleasant surprises. For me, the situation is potentially more frightening than the notorious "year 2000 bug", which turned out to be a fizzer. [If I remember correctly, the term "fizzer" is Australian jargon for a damp firecracker that doesn't explode correctly... but I ask to be corrected if I've made a mistake.) Smoking has always been such an integral part of everyday life in French cafés and restaurants that its global prohibition is a little like a crazy fascist law banning, say, the use of the first-person singular form of verbs, meaning that the celebrated Cogito ergo sum of Descartes would henceforth have to be rendered in everyday parlance as "People think, therefore they are".

Parenthesis. Amusing anecdote, inspired by my comparison, which has nothing to do with the prohibition of smoking. In 1969, a French author, Georges Perec [1936-1982], wrote a 300-page novel, La disparition, without ever using the letter "e". Close the parenthesis.

Let me get back to the forthcoming ban on smoking. I hope that French "authorities" (whoever they are) will make a point of collecting all sorts of statistics, during the coming weeks, about unusual happenings. I'm thinking of freak crimes, inexplicable accidents, domestic disasters of all kinds, etc. I reckon there might be a lot of this kind of stuff in France over the next month or so. Don't try to persuade us that it's a normal resurgence of matters that are smoldering constantly, or that the harsh winter conditions can provoke despair and violence. If a foreign archduke, visiting Nicolas Sarkozy in the president's winter residence, were to be assassinated by a crazed gunman during the next few weeks, it should be relatively easy to track him down. [I'm referring of course to the crazed gunman, not to our wandering Sarkozy or the assassinated archduke.] French detectives would simply have to start searching for a heavy-smoking underworld personage who had the habit of making nasty political allusions to archdukes on the "zinc" [metal-topped café counter] while consuming his matinal espresso and "grilling" [French slang for smoking] his habitual Gauloises.

PS Sometimes, interesting elements of my blog are hidden in exchanges with friends who send in comments. This is the case concerning an interesting comment from Silvio [display] on the subject of Australian sporting prowess.

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