Friday, November 20, 2009

My Lecture

For readers in the Boston area, a reminder that I will be lecturing on "The Future of French Culture" on Monday, 4:15-6, at the Harvard Center for European Studies, 27 Kirkland St., Cambridge, in the Lower Level Conference Room. The discussant will be Michèle Lamont. The lecture is open to the public, so please come! In fact, I will be talking mainly about the past, which is the only way I know to say anything about the future without a crystal ball. So if you're interested in French culture in the 20th century and how it has been affected by a variety of factors ranging from political and economic upheaval to educational reform, you might not find it a total waste of your time. (And even if you do, there will be a PowerPoint with pretty pictures to look at.) I will post the text on the Net after the talk.

Nick and Carla on the Simpsons



More here.

Camus au Panthéon?

You will recall that early in his presidency, Sarko went to Algeria and had Camus read to him in the open air as he stared out to sea. Now he wants to have Camus Pantheonized. This will be an "extraordinary symbol," he says. In four respects Camus will be a symbol of the kind Sarko especially likes: he was anti-Communist in the Cold War, he was born in Algeria and tried to remain above the fray in that war, he was un grand résistant (editorialist for the underground Combat), and he was the anti-Sartre. Sarko can get on board with all of these things. And Camus's style is classically pure--or, as this mauvaise langue puts it, "Camus ? Ce philosophe pour classes terminales, avec son style IIIe République et sa morale de Croix-Rouge ?" I am aware of the contempt for Camus in certain French cultural quarters (from the same article: On ne méprise plus Camus, on l'ignore. Et Jean Daniel n'a pas oublié le « ricanement » de Michel Foucault et des grands esprits qu'il avait rassemblés pour fonder « le Nouvel Observateur » en 1964, lorsqu'il citait son ami disparu), but I have never understood it. For an antidote, I suggest reading Tony Judt's The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century. (h/t Kirkmc)

Confusion in Europe

There seems to be some confusion about the new EU president, or president of the European Council, or whatever his title is (that's the first confusion). The second is the pronounciation of his name:

À l'heure des people et de la confusion des genres, M. Van Rompuy (prononcer «rommpeuil») offre un charme plutôt suranné.

Mr. Van Rompuy (pronounced ROM-pow), 62, an economist, has been Belgium’s prime minister for less than a year.


Mr. Rompuy writes haiku. A sample:

“A fly zooms, buzzes; Spins and is lost in the room; He does no one harm.”


Oy, vey. The Times:

Mr. Van Rompuy, who likes bowling duckpins and writing haiku, has earned respect for calming ethnic tensions in Belgium in his 11 months as prime minister. Someone who met him recently described him as intelligent and humorous, but “timid.”


And how do we square this with the description of Rompuy as a ruthless opportunist, which I quoted yesterday from Le Figaro? Does anybody know anything about this guy?