I wish to commend Ms MASSY-BERESFORD on her incisive observations of French cultural and intellectual in a doldrums .
The point is that the malaise in France described in her article is perhaps a microcosm of Europe as there is no one in the world to take over the leadership. An intelligent nation like America is voting for a blond Republican as a reaction to a Black president
And everything he stands for. France is still a power house in EU with Germany today.
It was in the 30’s until 1980’s and beyond that ‘foreigners’ flourished and expressed their ideas and creativity in France. Artists like Picasso, writers like Hemingway , Samuel Beckett (wrote En Attendant Godot in French ), Eugene Ionesco, James Baldwin and singers. Like Josephine Baker, Yves Montand , Serge Reggiani, George Moustaki , Mouloudji, Charles Aznavour found expression in French Culture . In France, you are French if you adopt French language and culture but not by nationality nowadays. Then no one was a météque . A Black Frenchman existed in France long before the term Black Englishman was adopted or fashionable.
English actors like Charlotte Rampling , Kirsten Scott-Thomas and Jane Birkin came to France in the 60’s as the cinema
Of la nouvelle vague was alive and flourishing whilst English cinema was non – existent at that time.
Cultural ideas stops at the border and defines a nation. Intellectual ideas go beyond borders just like Existentialism, Feminism. French language and culture is alive and well and protected by the august French Academy. LE MONDE is still the most respected newspaper in the world and TV station FRANCE.24 has no rival in terms of news and background analysis MSF medecins sans frontieres began as a French concept .
The problem in France is that the President is really today a super Prime Minister unlike Charles De Gaulle, Francois Mitterand, Valerie Giscard D’Estaing. Sarkozy and Hollande are dealing with so-called mundane everyday issues they are not presidential material.
The other problem France is facing today the déracinement and the failed enracinement of the Muslims in French society. Why do Muslims do not feel part of les valeurs de la République and la laicité (secularity) yet their forebear fought for La Belle France in World War 1 with Senegalese, World War 2 with Moroccans and the HARKIS in Algeria . There are Moroccans still living in Vietnam who have not been repatriated since DIEN BIEN PHU in 1955 and long to go home. Muslims feel a stigmatized And what the French call an amalgam of Islam with JIHADISM & SALAFISM. Yet other minorities are not asked to dissociate themselves. From the fringe fanatics.
French intellectuals mentioned in the article like Eric Zemmour , Alain Finkelkraut , Bernard Henri-Levy ,Olivier Todd are still solid inn their observation and assessment of French society. There are other the likes of Jacques Attali the brilliant economist, the late Emmanuel Levinas , Zyad Lam, and others including former politician Michel Rocard especially his view on BREXIT. Leftwing intellectuals do not criticise ISLAMOPHOBIA, ANTISEMITISM is partly because he left is in a crisis. Still no excuse.
The salvation of France lies in la FRANCOPHONIE. France has to encourage and foster closer links with its former French speaking. Colonies including Québec just like l’ALLIANCE FRANCAISE in the 19th and 20th Centuries . France has to show leadership, In la FRANCOPHONIE not to counter Anglicism but on its own merit.
I for one am very proud to have been not only brought up in French culture and French language which made me at the same time a citizen of the world yet it allows me to criticise France too. By the way French Prime Minister Manuel WALLS is visiting New Zealand today, the first PM since Michel ROCARD in 1991.
French and English rivalry is alive and well and French intellectualism and Gallic culture are neither tossed nor sunk.