Saturday, February 27, 2010

Criminal Records in Politics

Interesting reading.

With the Peasants

Like le baron de Charlus, who moved with cunning ease among the Parisian salons yet could always strike a direct and unaffected manner with his peasants, Bruno Le Maire, once the right hand man of Dominique de Villepin, today charmed the farmers at the Salon de l'Agriculture--an art he may have learned by tailing Jacques Chirac but has been unable to impart to his current master Nicolas Sarkozy. There has been tension, to put it mildly, between the Elysée and le monde rural, but Le Maire, a Germanist by training and an énarque whose memoir Des hommes d'État is something of a tour de force in its presentation of politics as both a vocation and a crucifixion, has the knack, apparently, of shedding his urbanity convincingly enough to seem at home in the vast simulacrum of agricultural life that passes for "la plus grande ferme de France," to quote Le Figaro.

And à propos, Le Figaro, too, has shed its urbanity, committing the following delightful howler:
"Au grand damne parfois des organisateurs ..."

Yes, one can hear their "damns" from here.

"Virtuose du renvoi d'ascenseur"

I mentioned the other day Julien Gracq's delicious description of a certain Bernard-Henri Lévy: "virtuose du renvoi d'ascenseur, auteur d'un étrange borborygme historico-philosophique, La Barbarie à visage humain." As "un virtuose du renvoi d'ascenseur," he now has a rival, or accomplice: Ségolène Royal. Her paean in Le Monde is not to be missed. The strength of her piece derives from her absolute identification with her subject: like him, she is soi-disant persecuted and oppressed, and like him she was blessed with the favors of that eminently perceptive fisher of men and women, François Mitterrand. This is a piece of Royal rhetoric to treasure. Vladimir Nabokov had a word for this sort of writing: poshlost.

Vladimir Nabokov made it more widely known in his book on Gogol, where he romanized it as "poshlust" (punningly: "posh + lust"). Poshlust, Nabokov explained, "is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive"

"Prolétarisation du premier cycle"

Are professors abandoning the teaching of undergraduates to grad students? Yes, according to Christian Baudelot:

Présent, le sociologue Christian Baudelot (sur la photo) a dénoncé une "tendance gravissime" actuelle: "de plus en plus, le premier cycle est déserté par les enseignants titulaires et les vacataires font le boulot. On assiste ainsi à une prolétarisation du premier cycle, avec en haut des chaires d'excellence réservés aux meilleurs à qui on dit: "on va vous payer pour ne pas enseigner". Comme si cela devenait un sale  boulot". 

Meanwhile, in the same post, a doctoral student describes the difficulties of her daily life in a letter to Valérie Pécresse.

"Les Enfants de la République"

A review of a new book by Yvan Jablonka, which deals with the "education" of children taken in hand by the state: abandoned children, orphans, delinquents, "vagabonds," etc.