With French presidential elections coming up, it is a good moment to reflect on where the country is going. Olivier Guez thinks it is going to the dogs. He writes
Transfuge, a Parisian literary magazine, offered a harsh assessment this month: French literature, obsessed with the past, is entering the 21st century walking backward. Indeed, the French don’t like the 21st century, and would gladly give it back. Their desire has its roots in a confluence of failures (the defeat in 1940 and the loss of their colonial empire) and the rejection, by other European nations, of building a Europe à la française — France on a bigger scale. France has become a middling power, with a mass culture and a society of consumption like everyone else. Gaullism and Communism kept up the illusion that a great history, a great destiny were still France’s to be had. It didn’t pan out that way. So as the world heeds France less, the French long to shut themselves off from it, to turn toward olden days and protect themselves.
Is Olivier being a bit too harsh?
My own take - sure, France has issues these days. The biggest one is called Germany. France gave away the crown jewels to build a Franco-German alliance that would lead Europe. The alliance has forced France and most of the rest of the European Union into a German style monetary union. This is great for Germany but not the rest of us. And we all will continue look bad until this is undone.
FOLLOW - Indeed, France is not the epicenter of European malaise. Things are much worse in Portugal. Check out Frank Bruni’s article to get a sense of the lost hope. Very sad. And I guess things are worse still in Greece and maybe in a few other places. There is a nagging sense that the future has been squandered.