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For decades, people have wondered if alien life walks among us here on Earth, blending in but secretly guided by different principals and impulses. Thanks to Canadian-born authors and partners Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, we have the answer. Strange life forms are prowling the planet and, like the Coneheads of the Saturday Night Live skits of old, they're from France. As the pair reveal in their mightily researched book 60 Million Frenchman Can't Be Wrong, these curious creatures are at once fascinating and utterly mysterious. They eat bloated duck liver and smelly cheese but routinely outlive North Americans. They don't give to charity, have no local government, argue vehemently with their spouses, ignore dog poo on the streets, and drive without concern for pedestrians. Yet they also enjoy the most comprehensive health care and educational systems in the world, dismiss those who can't relate a story with rhetorical flourish, and think it's fine that politicians hold sway over judges. And have extra-marital affairs. In short, alien--yet kinda cool. Armed with a two-year fellowship from the U.S.-based Institute of Current World Affairs, Nadeau along with Barlow set off to explore why the French seem to be resisting globalization. Shortly into their two-year stay, "Jean-Benoit [changed] his question. Instead of globalization, we decided to study France for what it is, to understand why it works the way it does." What follows is a bottomless exploration of French history, customs, politics, sociology, current affairs, and assorted curios that past visitors to the country will wish they knew before setting out (such as, never ask a French person what they do for a living over casual conversation and always say hello when entering a shop). "What the French really excel at is protesting," they write in one of dozens of illuminating passages. "Protests, marches and demonstrations are an essential element of the French social fabric." That may not seem so different than other democracies, except in France, the citizens expect armoured police to monitor acts of civil disobedience and are disappointed if leagues of men wielding batons and shields neglect to show. And while Nadeau and Barlow never really flesh out their book's subtitle, "Why We Love France but Not the French"--we get the former but there's little direct discourse on the latter--they succeed in pulling back an enduring societal veil with riveting snapshots taken from the trenches. You almost wish they could be dispatched worldwide, cracking similar codes like why the Swiss are notoriously aloof and why Germans have a black sense of humour. --Kim Hughes
In 1999, Canadian journalists Nadeau and Barlow moved to Paris for a two-year fellowship to study France's culture and economy in an effort to understand why the French resist globalization. They began by examining this puzzle: How does a country with "high taxes, a bloated civil service, a huge national debt, an over-regulated economy, over-the-top red tape, double-digit unemployment, and low incentives for entrepreneurs" also boast the world's highest productivity index and rank as the third-largest exporter and fourth-biggest economic power? By delving into France's cultural and political history, the authors show how it all works. Chapters are devoted to the French obsessions about World War II and the war in Algeria and how these events still shape attitudes and policies. Other chapters explore the French insistence on precision in language, their sense of private space, and the effects of immigration. In an era of irrational reactions to all things French, here is an eminently rational answer to the question, "Why are the French like that?" Beth Leistensnider
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If you are interested in better understanding France and French this book is absolutely amazing reading. Read morePublished 19 months ago by oryssia
I really enjoyed this book. It's well-researched and jam packed with both historical and contemporary context for how french culture has evolved and is maintained in modern... Read morePublished on June 25 2013 by T. Johnson
whom hoped for a lite french.francophobic book-they will deeply disappointed, this book is simply political, comparing the north american/quebec political structure with the french... Read morePublished on Aug. 9 2012 by frenchy
I purchased this book in preparation for a upcoming trip to France but found it very negative. I stopped reading it about half way through. Read morePublished on Dec 11 2010 by Boreal Jeff
I was disappointed by this book. It is predicated on the assumption that the USA is 'right' and that France, au contraire, is 'wrong'. Read morePublished on June 27 2004 by John Carr
There is much that's thoughtful and amusing here. The authors are Canadians, perfectly at home in French, and are therefore well equipped to elucidate the differences between... Read morePublished on May 5 2004
or for any Frenchman living in the US and who understands his own country and countrymen less and less. Read morePublished on April 20 2004 by Alexander J. Rhea
I really shouldn't comment on a book that I have yet to read! However, I would like to express my disagreement with the reviewer who stated below that "Things North Americans... Read morePublished on April 16 2004 by Antoine Cousin