Saturday, March 28, 2009

Le phénomène politico-littéraire

I love this story. I first read about it the other week, but my mind keeps returning to it.

The citizens of France (vive la république!) protest their government by reading.

In 2006, Sarkozy expressed his distaste for La Princesse de Clèves, by Madame de Lafayette, a 17th century novel that most students at some point find on their curriculum:

L'autre jour, je m'amusais, on s'amuse comme on peut, à regarder le programme du concours d'attaché d'administration. Un sadique ou un imbécile, choisissez, avait mis dans le programme d'interroger les concurrents sur La Princesse de Clèves. Je ne sais pas si cela vous est souvent arrivé de demander à la guichetière ce qu'elle pensait de La Princesse de Clèves... Imaginez un peu le spectacle !


It's a triple-edged insult, really: at the book itself, at the officials who devised the exam, and at the low-level civil servant hopefuls who would write it.

Recent sales of the book are way up. According to The Telegraph it has "a new role as a symbol of dissent"; there are public readings and many French writers are declaring it a favourite.

Curiosity got the better of me; I finally procured myself a copy:

Set towards the end of the reign of Henry II of France, The Princesse de Clèves (1678) tells of the unspoken, unrequited love between the fair, noble Mme de Clèves, who is married to a loyal and faithful man, and the Duc de Nemours, a handsome man most female courtiers find irresistible. Warned by her mother against admitting her passion, Mme de Clèves hides her feelings from her fellow courtiers, until she finally confesses to her husband an act that brings tragic consequences for all. Described as France's first modern novel, The Princesse de Clèves is an exquisite and profound analysis of the human heart, and a moving depiction of the inseparability of love and anguish.


Scandal! Unrequited love! I think it promises to be a real page turner.

(Meanwhile, Stephen Harper still isn't reading much of anything.)
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