Tuesday, September 06, 2005

"Look, Lance, the French don't like winners"

Samuel Abt has an interesting article about Lance Armstrong in the International Herald Tribune.

Quite different from an article in Le Figaro, which turns out to be a diatribe against the the United States and its oafish inhabitants. Here's the kicker: the "anti-American tripe" (merci à Michael Dundon) comes from an American journalist based in Paris.

I know Ted Stanger. I met him after the former Newsweek correspondent wrote a very funny book called Sacrés Français, and a bunch of like-minded expats and Frenchmen celebrated its publication together.

Many months later, I met a fellow admirer of his again (the same who had invited him to the dinner party on the Seine péniche) and when his name was mentioned, her eyes turned sad. With disappointment in her voice, she said that he had sold out. Indeed, his editor had "made" him write Sacrés Américains.

Offhand, you might think, where's the problem, it's simply writing a funny book about one nation followed by another book about another (about the rival) nation. That's not taking into consideration the differences in tone: while the first book was filled with light-hearted and sympathetic observations of a (single) foreign observer, the second basically revisited the (community-wide) judgmental scorn and self-serving prejudices applied to clueless Americans by the far superior French, taking that scorn (and the accompanying prejudices) for granted.

Although I can't say for sure, of course, I can imagine the author as well as the editor(s) having been subjected to a barrage of pressure from friends, colleagues, co-workers, and family members. That pressure amounting to what? To deciding that in the final analysis, France (or Europe) and its system come out on top (as more lucid, more generous, more tolerant, etc, etc, etc…)

I have seen this happen again and again, among expats I hardly know as among loved ones, and at times, truth to tell, it is not a little disheartening.

John Vinocur mentioned a famous example in the International Herald Tribune.

Faced with the constant barrage of news proving Americans' backwardness in all things worthwhile, along with constant pressure from their French friends, co-workers, and acquaintances (snorts, snickers, guffaws, tch-tchs, nose curls, head shakes, and dirty looks accompanied by "mais certainement vous pouvez admettre que Bush a commis des erreurs/a raconté des mensonges", "pourquoi vous êtes en France si vous pensez ainsi?"), foreigners and other American friends (whether consciously or otherwise) cave in, not wanting to face the heat and not wanting to rock the boat…

Incidentally, the journalist, whose Sacrés Français: le roman is to be published this week, has been mentioned on this blog before, with Douglas wondering, did you know that at points he was even more anti-American than the average Le Monde Web reader?

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