France on the Brink

Jonathan Fenby, Author Arcade Publishing $27.95 (452p) ISBN 978-1-55970-488-5
There are more facts and stories in Fenby's primer on what ails France than there are bubbles in a magnum of champagne. Fenby, a British journalist who reported from France for 30 years, methodically and relentlessly undermines France's notion of itself. Most of the critiques are not novel (we know that not nearly as many French people belonged to the Resistance as claim they did), but they have never been collected in one place with such remarkable detail and insight. Fenby's most biting criticism is reserved for the rampant corruption in former president Mitterrand's socialist regime, which publicly eschewed the lure of money while privately putting cash in the pockets of its loyal followers. Fenby is especially trenchant when writing about France's blindness to the dark side of its soul that permits the racist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen to consistently garner between 10% and 20% of the vote in regional elections. Even Fenby's guardedly optimistic conclusion reads like forced cheer: that the ""cohabitation""--the term used by the French to describe a regime in which the prime minister and the president belong to different parties--of France's current government could force France's warring factions to cooperate in the salvation of their country. Fenby's fear is that France--in its nostalgia for its cultural glory, in its obsolete insistence on heavy-handed government regulation, in its Gaullist exceptionalism--is ill-prepared to take its place in a unified Europe. Observant and knowledgeable, Fenby tops off his sober tour de France by revealing that, today, more fois gras is made in Eastern Europe than in the Dordogne region that made it famous. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1999
Release date: 07/01/1999
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-1-61145-154-2
Paperback - 454 pages - 978-1-55970-524-0
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-62872-406-6
Ebook - 616 pages - 978-1-62872-074-7
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