The mob (led by Edmond O’Brien as Gringoire) is totally into naming Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) the King of Fools until dour Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke) intervenes in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1939.
Michel Houellebecq, the enfant terrible of French literature, was awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest civilian distinction, in the New Year honours list on Tuesday.
A forthcoming novel by the celebrated but controversial author predicts the doom of western civilisation. Seratonin, due out on Friday, focuses on the festering rage in provincial France that has exploded into the “yellow vest” protests.
Like his previous books, it is set to become an instant bestseller and is already being hailed as the biggest literary event of 2019. It is also likely to enrage those who object to the views that have made Houellebecq, 62, an iconic figure for the nationalist, eurosceptic Right.
The title of the novel, to appear in English in the autumn, refers to the main ingredient of an anti-depressant that causes its anti-hero, Florent-Claude Labrouste, to suffer impotence and nausea. Like most of Houellebecq’s protagonists, he is a thinly disguised version of the author himself.
At 46, fed up with his Japanese girlfriend and his job, Labrouste returns to his native Normandy, where he meets suicidal farmers, prevented from making ends meet by EU dairy quotas. Out of despair and fury, they take to the streets and stop traffic in “yellow vest” style.
Houellebecq’s bleak view of France and Europe is much in evidence. “No one in the West will ever be happy again,” he writes. “This is how a civilisation dies, without danger or drama and with very little carnage.” [ . . . ]
Continue at THE TELEGRAPH: France honours its most provocative author
Napoleon’s most famous (and probably apocryphal) quote weaves together war and food: “An army marches on its stomach.” In a few short words, we are led to consider the immense logistics that make war possible, and the humanity of the people who wage it. It’s a fitting quote to introduce A Bite-Sized History of France, a new and impressive book that intertwines stories of gastronomy, culture, war, and revolution.
Each amuse bouche-sized chapter of “A Bite-Sized History of France” tackles a different theme, ranging from the relationship between the revolutionary government and potatoes to the connection between the thoughts of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and a search for “authentic” French food. The book delves back to the origins of seemingly eternal fixtures of French food culture (chocolate, raw oysters, sweet pastries) and teases out the meaning of their arrival. And it dives into serious historical events ranging from revolutions to sectarian massacres with real conviction, recapping many of the most significant political and military developments in France’s long history as it goes.
Throughout the book, the authors return to certain themes that tie together its many far-flung topics and tastes. Chief among these are the theme of inequality – an examination of how the rich and the poor pursue pleasure and sustenance is at the heart of “A Bite-Sized History of France” and that frame provides a window into economics, inequality, and revolution. Perhaps mostly strikingly, the authors tell the story of a famous Christmas Day feast for wealthy Parisian during the 1870 siege by Prussian troops. Food had seemingly run out, but for those with means, the zoo would serve as a kind of exotic butcher shop:
“[The meal] began with a stuffed donkey’s head, an inelegant successor to the usual porcine centerpieces of prewar banquets. The soup course included elephant consommé. This was followed by kangaroo stew, rack of bear in pepper sauce, and roasted camel à l’anglaise (a cheeky reference to what the French saw as the plainness of English cuisine.) The main course included le chat flanqué de rats (cat flanked by rats) and cuissot de loup, sauce chevreuil(wolf in deer sauce), a wry inversion of the natural order.” Continue reading “‘A Bite-Sized History of France’ delightfully combines French history with gastronomy”
Alain Fontaine leans on the bar at his central Paris bistro, Le Mesturet, dodging trays as waiters weave around him to deliver lunchtime service. “A bistro isn’t just some place for a quick bite to eat,” he says, turning to avoid a glass of red wine colliding with his white chef’s coat. “It’s the home of the Parisian art de vivre—that’s what we’re losing if these places die out: our way of life.
”A distinctive kind of bar-cum-eatery, the bistro offers more substantial meals than a café, but in a more relaxed setting than a restaurant. In some parts of town, they seem to be everywhere, the small zinc-topped tables of their terraces spilling onto street corners. But they’re rapidly disappearing. From 2014 to 2018, nearly a quarter of Paris bistros—at least 300 of them—closed, according to France’s National Statistics Office.
That’s why Fontaine, 60, who worked in bistros all his life before opening Le Mesturet in 2003, is leading about 30 fellow owners in a campaign this year. They want UNESCO, the U.N.’s culture agency, to give bistros and terraces “intangible cultural heritage” status. In September, they will hand their proposal to France’s Minister for Culture, who will then decide whether or not to recommend it to UNESCO. The status would raise awareness and give owners an opportunity for promotion, as well as a way to justify future planning protection from the city council. They might also be able to access some funds: every two years UNESCO hands out cash from a shared pot to put toward practices or events with the classification [ . . . ]
Continue at TIME: Why Bistro Owners in Paris are Demanding UNESCO Status | Time