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« Bye, Bye France | Main | Free Reads -- Samuel Brittan »

September 28, 2002

Bye bye France redux


Napoleon to Sartre: What Happened to France?

You might be interested in what Saul Bellow had to say on the decline of the French in "Ravelstein":

...Chick is a great skeptic when it comes to the French. He...thinks their cooking is all they have to show for themselves since the disgrace of...1940 when Hitler danced his victory jig. Chick sees la France pourrie in Sartre, in the loathing of the U.S.A. and worship of Stalinism and in philosophy and linguistic theory...But you have to admit you can't get a meal like this anywhere else.

And this:

[Ravelstein] took a special interest in Great Politics. In that line, of course, France today was bankrupt. Only the manner was left, and they made the most of the manner but they were bluffing, they knew they were talking twaddle. What they were still good at were the arts of intimacy. Eats still rated high--e.g., last night's banquet at Lucas-Carton. In every quartier, the fresh-produce markets, the good bakeries, the charcuterie with its cold cuts. Also the great displays of intimate garments. The shameless love of fine bedding...It was wonderful to be so public about the private, about the living creature and its needs. Slick magazines in New York imitated this but never got it right.

Perhaps the decline of the French was underway long before but only became evident to the American eye in the 1980s. (After all, after World War II Americans thought of France half as an elderly relative after a stroke, and half as a cultural theme park--in neither case expecting anything terribly serious.)



P.S. But I still want know why French women are so instantly recognizable as such. I'm guessing there is something about a distinctly French style of makeup, but I've never been able to quite work it out. Can anybody out there help me?

posted by Friedrich at September 28, 2002


I think it is because in Paris many French mothers take their daughters to make-up schools
where from the age of 7 they learn about, clothes, cosmetcis etc..
As a Brit the Frogs seem an odd lot to me - but I wouldn't write them off entirely just yet -
historically, they have shown themselves capable of acting above expectations,
and I think we would miss them if they disappeared beneath a mushroom cloud.

And in autumn, Paris is still beautiful.


Posted by: john on September 28, 2002 10:16 PM

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