Wednesday, 5 December 2007

John Vinocur's French

"Politicus: As an agent of change, Sarkozy faces a big test" (Page 2, 4/12/07).

I like Vinocur, his writing, his gruff personality, the way he pops into frame in the classic documentary about Ali's 'rumble in the jungle' (so classic its name escapes me) and isn't shy of reminding people of this; I liked the 'lurid rumours' that used to circulate the IHT as to which president of France's wife he had had or was having an affair with.

He certainly knows the French ruling class well, understands how the country functions and his columns are always readable.

I wonder however if Sarkozy isn't going to prove to be a bit of a problem for Vinocur. If Sarko does prove to be 'as much a reformer as Thatcher' as Vinocur reports him as predicting, then this will be something of a train crash for Vinocur's central French narrative - the French are people with a pervavise 'anti-work' ethic aided by a moribund governing elites.

Vinocur's piece is terrific but as always he does forget that it isn't so much that the French are anti-work, but pro-play. Sarko is presented as the man who might slip them from the shackles of an anti-work ethic rather than allow them (Lord knows how) to make play less fun. Being anti-work and pro-play are not two sides of the same coin, and unless Vinocur lets drop his one dimensional presentation of French culture, his ability to cover the Sarko reform story is going to suffer.

It won't however be any less readable.

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