Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The anti-anti-Americans (in France)

Adam Gopnik writes an essay with this title in the New Yorker. He ruminates on the heat, on intermittents du spectacle, on Bernard-Henry Levy, and Andre Glucksmann. Full of many worthy observations, I cite only a few. Example: "Though he [Glucksmann] is staunchly pro-war (and comes as close to being pro-Bush as any Frenchman can, announcing that ’underneath the carapace of the Baptist bigot there is someone who is a nearly Shakespearean figure, a man who has met tragedy and recognized it as such’), he is not really of the right. He is simply pessimistic."

Another: "The real threat to France is not anti-Americanism, which might at least have the dignity of an argument, an idea, and could at least provoke a grownup response, but what the writer Philippe Sollers has called the creeping ’moldiness’ of French life—the will to defiantly turn the country back into an enclosed provincial culture. ’For the first time, French people care about their houses,’ a leading French journalist complains in shock. ’That was always a little England thing—and now you find intelligent Parisians talking all the time about home improvements.’ This narrowing of expectations and horizons is evident already in the French enthusiasm for cartoon versions of French life, as in ’Amélie,’ of a kind the French would once have thought fit only for tourists. It has a name, ’the Venetian alternative’—meaning a readiness to turn one’s back on history and retreat into a perfect simulacrum of the past, not to reject modernity but to pretend it isn’t happening."

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Adam Gopnik is very good with the pen.

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