From the Guardian: France, once famous for its joie de vivre, is suffering from existential gloom – and the French have only themselves to blame for their malaise, according to a study to be presented in London next month. Research by a French academic to be delivered to the Royal Economic Society suggests that the country’s citizens are “taught” to be miserable by elements of their own culture. Qu’en pensez-vous?
From the Washington Post: Since taking over in May, Francois Hollande has repeatedly asked the French to regard him as a “normal” president.
Well, maybe. But it would be easier if his first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, were not a live-in girlfriend.
It would also be easier if he had married the woman he lived with for nearly three decades and had four children with before taking up with Trierweiler, a political reporter who wants to carry on as an independent journalist with an office near the president’s. And it would certainly be easier if the two women were not the subject of several books just out that describe in shudder-inducing detail how they elbowed for prominence as Hollande rose to the presidency.
“For a president who wants to be normal, this is not a great record,” said Philippe Allary, a physical therapist who prefers former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
The public airing of Hollande’s family troubles — one reviewer wondered whether to describe them as “vaudeville or tragedy” — has undercut the president’s standing, according to his son; his former companion, Segolene Royal; and independent analysts, because it depicts him as unable to impose his will on two obviously headstrong womenwho cannot stand each other. Read more here.
From the NYT: This year, Qatar Sports Investments, a branch of the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, completed a buyout of Paris Saint-Germain, the French soccer club known as P.S.G., that reportedly valued the club at $130 million. With an additional investment of an estimated $340 million — a number unheard-of in French soccer — the team has recruited more than 15 players from the top ranks of international soccer, including the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose $21 million salary set a record in France.
The team’s budget is up 100 percent from last year, to $392 million, more than twice that of any other club in the league.
P.S.G.’s new slogan seems an apt summation of the Qatari approach to French soccer: “Dream Bigger.”
Outside France, a fire hose of foreign money has in recent years radically altered the financial landscape of European soccer. Free-spending billionaires from Russia and the United Arab Emirates have forced a rethinking of what’s fair. Continuez.
From the NYT: Mazarine Pingeot is the daughter of François Mitterrand and Anne Pingeot, his longtime mistress, and for much of her youth and nearly his entire 14-year presidency she was a state secret.
“When he was absent, he was the president,” said Ms. Pingeot (pronounced pan-JOH), who has her father’s intense dark eyes. “When he was home, he was for me.”
Mr. Mitterrand, who was known as the Sphinx, began his double life long before he was elected president, but the existence of his second family was revealed only near the end of his political career. Less than a year after leaving office in 1995, he died of cancer, an illness he also tried to keep secret. Anne and Mazarine Pingeot attended the state funeral along with Mr. Mitterrand’s wife, Danielle, and the Mitterrands’ two sons. Continuez.
From the New Yorker: Here is something you probably didn’t know about France: its President has the power to abolish homework. In a recent speech at the Sorbonne, François Hollande announced his intention to do this for all primary- and middle-school students. He wants to reform French education in other ways, too: by shortening the school day and diverting more resources to schools in disadvantaged areas. France ranked twenty-fifth in a new evaluation of educational systems by the Economist Intelligence Unit (part of the company that publishes The Economist). To give you an idea how bad that is, the United States, whose citizens are accustomed to being told how poorly educated they are, ranked seventeenth. Continuez.
From the Chronicle: If you really want to attack your opponents these days, you are best off doing so in another language. When the editors of the religious conservative magazine First Things determined in 1997 that the left-wing activism of the U.S. Supreme Court had made the American government illegitimate, they characterized it as a regime, or, should I say, a régime. In choosing a French word, they suggested that the American experiment in self-government had come to an end. We can talk about a political “system” without raising eyebrows. Régime, by contrast, as in ancien régime, connotes a preliberal, European society characterized not only by arbitrary rule but also by a corrupt aristocracy unworthy of holding on to its unearned privileges.
Do foreign words express our politics better than English? Read this.
From the NYT: By proposing to reduce air pollution by banning vehicles made before 1997, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has angered vintage car owners and motorist groups and raised concerns among those who say they cannot afford new cars.
Mr. Delanoë’s proposal is part of a wider push by local authorities to comply with European regulations and establish a low-emission zone around metropolitan Paris, including many suburbs, by 2014. The plan would extend the mayor’s efforts to make the city more pedestrian-friendly by reducing the number of cars. These efforts include introducing the Vélib’ bicycle rental program, establishing the Autolib’ electric-car rental system and cutting vehicle traffic along the banks of the Seine.
But the ban would include many of the most recognizably French cars, including the Citroën 2CV, known as the Deux Chevaux; the Citroën DS, celebrated for its clean, distinctive design; the Renault 4L, a practical Everyman’s car of the 1960s and ’70s; and many classic Peugeots. Continuez.
From the NYT: Flanked by four campaign volunteers and a French television reporter, Corinne Narassiguin, a Socialist candidate in France’s coming parliamentary elections, went canvassing in her would-be district one evening in May.
But the doors she was knocking on were in the West Village.
“Bonjour, madame,” Ms. Narassiguin said over a town house’s intercom.
A volunteer leaned in to ask in French, “Would you like to talk for a few minutes, if you have time?”
The woman didn’t — she was putting her children to bed — but she did plan to vote for Ms. Narassiguin. “Merci beaucoup,” Ms. Narassiguin said, campaign postcards with her photograph in hand. As they went down the stoop, a volunteer shouted to the others, “It’s a vote!”
On June 16, for the first time, French nationals living in the United States and Canada will elect a deputy to represent them in the National Assembly of France. There are 11 such new parliamentary seats for citizens living abroad, in Europe and the rest of the globe. The North American constituency counts 156,683 registered voters — less than a quarter of the size of a United States Congressional district. Continue here.
The tweet of support to Olivier Falorni, a politician in western France, was signed by Valerie Trierweiler and went viral on the Internet and dominated news shows.
It was seen as a dig at Segolene Royal, the mother of Hollande’s four children. Royal, also a former Socialist presidential candidate, is running against Falorni in the Charente-Maritime region in Sunday’s parliamentary elections final round.
The tweet starts: “Have courage, Olivier Falorni.” But it is easily interpreted as a not-so-veiled dig at Royal.
The Socialist Party recently banished Falorni for failing to step aside in favor of Royal, so he is running as a dissident candidate. After last Sunday’s first-round vote, Royal holds a narrow lead over Falorni.
Trierweiler, a journalist and avid tweeter, has made no secret of her determination to retain her independence, or of her discomfort with the image and chores of a first lady. Continue.