Thursday, November 12, 2009

Naive politician, stupider than usual

Normally, here in France, I live in a warm aura of admiration of the overall intelligence, culture, worldliness, common sense and (last but not least) altruism of elected citizens. The truth of the matter is that French voters have invented and installed an amazing array of bullshit detectors, which means that a political candidate has to be very smart to get through them. Well, I have the impression that a certain politician named Eric Rouault has just got through them.

Here's the story, which lies right in the middle of the time-honored realms of French culture and literature, not to mention politics.

Marie NDiaye [don't ask me how you pronounce that surname] is a brilliant 42-year-old French lady of letters who grew up in Paris (like my children, of the same generation as Marie). Well, she has just been awarded the prestigious Goncourt literary prize for her latest novel.

Background information. In a July interview, Marie NDiaye aired her personal views about the nation of Nicolas Sarkozy. "I find that France monstrous." After evoking the fact that she, her writer husband and their children have preferred to reside in Berlin, Marie explains: "We left just after the [presidential] elections, mainly because of Sarkozy. I'm aware that this might appear to be snobbish. For me, the atmosphere of police surveillance and vulgarity is detestable. As for Besson and Hortefeux and all these individuals, they're monstrous." And Marie added subtle explanations that might be expected from a great writer, culminating in a political quote signed Marguerite Duras: "The right wing is death."

Enter our brave politician Eric Raoult... who's not exactly about to be awarded any kind of literary prize. In fact, he seems to be about as dumb as cows that used to have their rumps caressed, at agricultural fairs, by Jacques Chirac. Raoult doesn't give milk, but he was overcome by an urge to moo madly about Marie because of her supposedly offensive words concerning Sarko. He sent a crazy letter to the minister of culture, Frédéric Mitterrand (who surely had more than enough in his work basket), suggesting that individuals who win the Goncourt Prize for French literature should be obliged by law to respect the president and the republic.

Eric Raoult should wake up to reality. Censorship went out of fashion long ago in the French Republic. And there's no way in the world that censorship might be revived in the exemplary context of liberty of a prize-winning novelist.

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