Thursday, November 12, 2009

Le Florentin Bis

François Mitterrand bore the sobriquet "Le Florentin" for his sinuous tactical intelligence. His nephew Frédo, the minister of culture, seems to share the late president's genetic endowment. He dodges bullets as nimbly as François leapt the fence of the Jardins du Luxembourg in the affaire de l'Observatoire. You will recall that Frédo was quick to appoint himself champion of the oppressed artist when Roman Polanski was arrested on a fugitive warrant. This, said FM, was treatment unworthy of a great artist, a noble human being, and a friend.

But the oppressor then was the Swiss prosecutor. In the attack on another artist, Marie NDiaye, whom the minister calls "a great writer," the attacker, Eric Raoult, is, alas, also "a friend" (dixit Frédo lui-même). A case of conscience, clearly. So, with the wisdom of Solomon, the minister of culture has decided to split the difference: this is not a case for him "to arbitrate," he says. In any event, there is plenty of freedom to go around: the artist is free to say what she wants, and friend Raoult is free to say what he wants. No need to decide anything, to reprimand anyone, to state any principle. The defense of artists, which in the Polanski case seemed to constitute, in Mitterrand's mind, the very essence of his ministerial post, is now left to the artist herself. Indeed, she should be honored to be left undefended by her minister, because this allows her to prove her own prowess in the field of political battle.

Chapeau, monsieur le ministre. You have shown yourself to be a nephew worthy of your illustrious uncle.

Cf. Eric Fassin's remarks on the same episode.


Leo said...

While not a Mitterandolâtre, here is my dissenting opinion.

François Mitterand sent the following reply to an opponent who was asking him a question as stupid as Raoult's (sorry, I forgot who it was):

"Monsieur le.......,
j'accuse réception de votre lettre du....
Veuillez garer, Monsieur le....., l'expression de ma très haute considération".

Unknown said...

You remind me of a story that is told, I think, about Sen. Wayne Morse, one of two senators to vote against the Vietnam War. When he received hate mail, he would reply: "Sir, I think you should know that someone is sending crank letters over your signature."

Leo said...


Steven Rendall said...

So nice to see Wayne Morse's name again. For years I had a yard sign for his 1968 re-election campaign nailed over my office door. (He lost the election to Bob Packwood.)