There were nine of us living in my first flat in Paris. It was grand on the outside, with a trompe l’oeil and marble staircase in the entrance hall, but grimy and dark inside. Only three of my flatmates had full-time jobs, and they all smoked. All the lights in the hall were broken.I moved there from London nearly four years ago, during the gloomiest days of François Hollande’s presidency, long before the youthful reformer Emmanuel Macron took power this year. Economic growth at the time was weak, unemployment double that of the UK today, and polls showed two-thirds of French people thought the nation was in “decline”.
My flatmates, who I found online, were all 25- to 35-year-olds from the provinces who had come to Paris to find work and, passing their days in our tiny kitchen, were victims of this faded France. Within rigid labour markets many struggled to find jobs, or the right jobs, and were frustrated and angry.They protested in the street, talked incessantly about politics and were always discussing what was to blame for France’s seeming stagnation. Being French, and young, it was never a question of tweaking tax rates — but creating a new world order.“It’s neoliberalism that is ruining us,” said one, lighting his cigarettes from the filaments of our toaster (they all smoked but no one ever had a lighter). “Yes, you are right,” said another. “It’s time for a revolution.”
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Full Story: Paris offers FT journalist la vie in prose