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Literary Political Protest, French Style
March 19, 2009 9:06 AM   Subscribe

The sales of a book by Madame de Lafayette, "La Princesse de Clèves", are up in France and there have been public readings of it in theatres and universities. The reason? Sarkozy hates it. As Sarkozy's popularity plummets, the "17th century tale of thwarted love" gets unexpected attention beyond the classroom. Badges inscribed with "I am reading The Princess of Clèves" were the most popular item at the opening of the Paris book fair this week.


Mr Sarkozy, a man often ridiculed in France for preferring fitness to literature, has frequently expressed his disdain for "La Princesse de Cleves" (The Princess of Cleves), a novel by Madame de La Fayette which was published in 1678 and is taught in most French classrooms.
from the Telegraph.

Also, full text of "La Princesse de Clèves" at Gutenberg.
posted by lucia__is__dada (29 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would never allow my political affinities to influence my taste in literature!

heads over to Amazon.fr
posted by LMGM at 9:41 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually tried reading this a year ago (I've had a pretentious little personal project to try to actually read all of the 1000 books you must read before you die, and this was on the list).

Frankly, I found it boring as all hell, so I kind of side with Sarkozy. But as protests go, this is amusing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:46 AM on March 19, 2009


It's just like when Dan Quayle attacked Murphy Brown so all the liberals in the US had to pretend that they enjoyed it!

Why, yes, intellectuals do have very different statuses in French and American popular culture, why do you ask?
posted by yoink at 9:54 AM on March 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I wish Bush had denigrated a book or fifty. Of course, he couldn't do that without first having read them, so.....
posted by orange swan at 10:29 AM on March 19, 2009


I'm still trying to get through "The Pet Goat".
posted by orme at 10:34 AM on March 19, 2009


Thanks, I wouldn't have known about this delightful literary/political protest without the post. The novel is actually pretty good if you're in the mood, but I'm not sure all those people wearing the button are actually reading it.
posted by languagehat at 10:38 AM on March 19, 2009


I remember trying to read this because Nancy Mitford said it was her favorite book, however when it comes to literature it turns out I am more of an Anglophile than I am a Francophile.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:39 AM on March 19, 2009


French protest by reading, Americans protest by eating. Vive la difference!
posted by Mister_A at 10:45 AM on March 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can't believe I'm going to type this but how delightfully French of them!
posted by tommasz at 10:50 AM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I found it overrated. But it is a must read book in French literature. I wouldn't wish it on anyone to have to read for pleasure.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:13 AM on March 19, 2009


September 2008: Sarah Palin asked which newspapers she reads, replies "All of them."
December 2008: Tribune company files for bankruptcy.
January 2009: Minneapolis Star-Tribune files for bankruptcy.
February 2009: Philadelphia Inquirer files for bankruptcy. San Francisco Chronicle announces budget cuts and possible closure.
March 2009: Seattle P-I ceases printed edition.

If only she had said "I mostly just watch Fox News."
posted by burnmp3s at 11:22 AM on March 19, 2009 [13 favorites]


Too bad Bush was apparently an avid reader or the u-SOFA might have also experienced a surge in reading during the Great Error.

Whatever gets you reading, I guess. If it takes Sarkozy hating it to get French kids to read 17th century literature, then rock on, France. In the US, we just wait until Oprah puts it in her book club. Whatever works.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:36 AM on March 19, 2009


Wow. I bet Barack Obama didn't enjoy Silas Marner either (or maybe he didn't have to read it at Punahou the way we had to at good old QRHS.)

For those of you who have not read La princesse de Clèves, it is pretty much on par with Silas Marner for sheer yawnfestitude. And for those of you who have read neither book, don't. They are very boring historical novels that make Really Important Points About Society in extraordinarily tedious language.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2009


It's not that we wouldn't do this if we got the opportunity ... it's just that our rebellious fervor would be sort of undercut by the sudden upsurgence in Cliff Notes editions.
posted by bettafish at 11:54 AM on March 19, 2009


During the Bush Administration, I protested by never even thinking about considering reading any books by Lynne Cheney, which makes me a dangerous radical.
posted by ob at 11:57 AM on March 19, 2009


What? ob, are you aware that Lynne wrote hot frontier lesbian sex books?

Well book, anyway.
posted by Mister_A at 12:05 PM on March 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anything that Sarkozy pompously proclaims that he hates, I admire.
posted by blucevalo at 12:06 PM on March 19, 2009


Whether or not La Princesse de Clèves still speaks to most readers in 2009 (and why should it? when was the last time you read something from the 1670's?), it's a crucial text in the history of the novel, a milestone in the late-17th/early-18th-century shift from gargantuan pastoral/exotic romances (the so-called romans de longue haleine) to something like psychological realism. One literary historian and critic, albeit a very idiosyncratic one, claims that La Princesse is the first major European novel in which the interest of the story lies in the characters' thoughts rather than their actions.

If anyone is looking for a novel to read in retroactive protest against Bush, I recommend Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 12:13 PM on March 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


What? ob, are you aware that Lynne wrote hot frontier lesbian sex books?

I know. Are you scared of my radicalismness now?
posted by ob at 12:17 PM on March 19, 2009


*cowers*
posted by Mister_A at 12:33 PM on March 19, 2009


Je lis Le Président Maudit.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:10 PM on March 19, 2009


For those of you who have not read La princesse de Clèves, it is pretty much on par with Silas Marner for sheer yawnfestitude. And for those of you who have read neither book, don't.

....Actually, I LIKED Silas Marner.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:17 PM on March 19, 2009


I wish Bush had denigrated a book or fifty.

Wait, he reads?
posted by Avelwood at 1:19 PM on March 19, 2009


My aunt used to live in Cleves (now known as Kleve, Germany, right next door to Nijmegen & the Dutch border) so I've been there a few times.

The castle where the princess used to live can be seen on the hill in the background.

posted by UbuRoivas at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2009


Yeah, he reads. Granted, the source IS Karl Rove, so this might not be entirely true.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:07 PM on March 19, 2009


...Sarkozy, whose popularity ratings went from bad to worse after a lengthy prime time television interview two weeks ago that was supposed to enlighten the French public on his economic strategy. A survey released last week by the Ipsos polling group showed Sarkozy's approval rating plunged to 36 per cent after the interview.

Does anyone have a link to a savvy analysis of what was so bad about that interview?
posted by mediareport at 5:43 PM on March 19, 2009


Maybe he said France should try to emulate America's economic policies.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:46 PM on March 19, 2009


I do not like broccoli Lafayette. And I haven't liked broccoli Lafayette since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat read it. And I'm President of the United States French Republic and I'm not going to eat read any more broccoli Lafayette.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:27 AM on March 20, 2009


Thanks for that link, Ubu. I did not know this:
Kleve was spelled with a "c" throughout its history until spelling reforms introduced by the Nazis in the 30s required that the name be spelled with a "k". As of 2008, the CDU announced ambitions to return the name to its original spelling.
Good for them: I like original spellings!
posted by languagehat at 9:38 AM on March 20, 2009


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