Friday, December 28, 2007

Défense de fumer

Ce n'est pas une révolte, Sire, c'est une révolution. On. January 1, it will no longer be legal to smoke in France "dans les lieux de convivialité." Americans will have to revise their favorite French stereotype: the café inhabited by vaguely louche philosophers with their beret-coiffed heads shrouded by clouds of Gauloise smoke languidly coiling its way toward the empyrean (Aristophanes updated, if you will). Buralistes worry that they won't be able to handle the fistfights expected to break out between the pro- and anti-tabac factions. The fact that Italy has managed this transition without major incident apparently offers little reassurance to the fiercely contentious French.

Of course this revolution, like most revolutions, would not have been possible in law had it not already occurred in mores. The younger generation, whether brainwashed, as some say, by American propaganda concerning the ravages of secondhand smoke or persuaded by Alan Brandt's The Cigarette Century that tobacco companies are not their friends, no longer denounces the idea of banning smoking as "fascist." The next L'Être et le Néant will probably be written on a laptop in Starbuck's rather than in a Cartesian-ruled carnet in a smoke-filled Deux Magots (I sacrifice here to the myth, while fully aware of the reality--poetic license, I assure you). Ainsi va le monde. Personally, I won't miss the smoke, and I expect that café culture will survive, even if the old men in the back of the café-bar-tabac in the forlorn rural bourg must chew Nicorette as they contemplate their next discard in the perpetual game of belote.

Incidentally, buraliste is an interesting word. Its etymology reveals that its root is bureau, but its kin are journaliste, criminaliste, and naturaliste rather than bureaucrate. The buraliste merely occupies his office (dispensing tobacco en l'occurrence) rather than ruling from it. Perhaps that makes me un bloggiste rather than un bloggeur.

3 comments:

sushi105 said...

i won't the smoke AT ALL, also merci pour the buraliste explanation.

i love looking at all those feisty cafetiers & buralistes saying they are going to defy the law & the 150E amendes they will have to pay (i hope).

Polly said...

I saw a piece on the news last month: in one bourg dans les provinces, the clever owner of a cafe-bar-tabac is turning her establishment into a private club for symbolic yearly dues. Since 65% of her regular customers are smokers, she couldn't afford to lose the revenue. The guys interviewed smoking at the zinc were happy with the plan.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Prof. Tilly should change his title to "The Contention and Clever French"