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Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French Paperback – Apr 1 2003
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
While living here I constantly find myself comparing France to the US. France does a lot of things right, such as universal healthcare, 7+ weeks of vacation per year (this year was higher than normal with 38 days). But there is a cost: Taxes are high, there is a 19.6% VAT tax. Gas is 3 times the price in the US. There are very little part time jobs. Most jobs are in Paris and the housing is insanely expensive (a 100 year old 1 bedroom apartment costs as much as a brand new 1400 sq foot home in Arizona). If you read this book you'll understand a little more of these tradeoffs. I wish the book had focused more on this angle as I think this is one of the most interesting.
I also highly recommend "French: Friend or Foe". it deals more with the social aspects of living in France.
I am judging it as one of those 6O million.
There hadn't been anything as good since since Jonathan Fenby's "France on the Brink" .
The American television show, Candid Camera, used to have a song with the words "it's good to look at yourself as other people do". It is indeed. One condition must be met: it mustn't be a fawning collection of exaggerated praise, nor must it be one more vulgar "French-bashing" exercise. But the authors have steered a steady course, pointing out some of our defects , certainly, but also giving praise when it's (in their view ) due. I cannot fault their impartiality , or their reasearch. And the book is very readable and entertaining.
Barlow and Nadeau are Canadians: she is an English speaker, he is "francophone". A good recipe for a balanced approach.
The book is packed with information, and anecdotes. Yes, if you want to know who the French are,and how we "tick", the book will give you a pretty good idea.
The authors are very good in pointing out the differences between France and the US, and the reasons for these differences, for instance in detailing the role of the State and the way it's perceived by the French.
Also in stressing the importance of the legacy of WW2 and the war in Algeria.
I would recommend that anyone contemplating a trip to my country read the book and take it with them.
Un livre excellent.
In a lively style punctuated with anecdote, authors Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau trace how the society and politics of France have evolved over the centuries. The result? We start to understand there is a distinct French character and that the current showdown between France and the English-speaking world is not resistance for its own sake, but the result of the real, historic differences that exist.
This book is for anyone who has ever lived in France, visited or tried to do business with the French. It will illuminate some of the mysteries and answer questions you didn't know to ask.
Authors Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow sought to discover the source of these contrasts and to learn why the French were so different. Living for three years in France, they worked almost as ethnologists, delving into all aspects of French political, cultural, and economic life, uncovering many things from an outsider's perspective. Writing about the French civil service, economy, media, education, charities, unions, social welfare system, courts, politics, foreign policy, history, and language, they provide a thorough and very readable primer on all things French.
One thing they point out is that the French as a people love power. They have a great disdain for compromise - both in politics and even in personal conversations - instead preferring winners and losers, embracing particularly in politics what the authors termed "jusqu'au-boustisme" (until-the-bitter-end-ism), of the tendency in politics to pursue winning even to destructive ends.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you are interested in better understanding France and French this book is absolutely amazing reading. Read morePublished on March 8 2014 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
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