All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Monday, 28 December 2009

A Baudelairian capharnaum.

Charles Baudelaire, by Gustave CourbetImage via Wikipedia

I was reading an article castigating the Sarkozy government - well, it's him really, isn't it, the rest are just there for show, like Napoleon's brothers - for nominating another of Carla Bruni's mates for a job at the Culture Ministry.

Not content with nudging the insalubrious Mitterand into office, she is now credited with asking for a job for another somewhat dubious elderly wastrel of an interior decorator called Francois Baudot, who could do with about 5,000 Euros a month and so is being nominated for the grand sounding post of

Inspecteur General de l'Administration des Affaires Culturelles.

His name was put up to the appointments committee and turned down unanimously, it appears, on the strength of a book he wrote about the dissipated days of his youth - not in the Mitterand league, let it be said, but then, what could be outside the pages of Genet?

However, the committee can whistle. The job is in the gift of the President, and like any sensible man faced with the prospect of sharing a cage with a shark, he will do as his wife tells him.
Now, M. Baudot has diplomas, etc...but absolutely no relevent experience to assist him in carrying out the functions of his proposed post. Further, although at lower levels of the greasy pole, M. Mitterand has been culling his functionaries in order to comply with the Presidential policy of not replacing one in two beaurocrats as they come up to retirement, it appears that at the level of IGAC - to give the post its' French initials - two IGACs have been turned into four IGACs.

Still, as an interior designer, perhaps he can advise Mitterand on how to decorate his office and private dining room...perhaps design a new bell for summoning the servants...
Oh, but I was forgetting...M. Baudot has one great qualification. He is godfather to Bruni's son. So that's it, then.

What was interesting to me is why there is so much fuss. He isn't an untouchable, like Mitterand, just dubious and there are plenty more like him around - though why the French have to write books about things that most people would take good care to keep under their hats is something that I have never understood.
All Presidents appoint their friends, the friends of their friends, and particularly the friends of their grandes horizontales. So just why the fuss?

I think it is because the old order is changing, and the old order doesn't like it.
In the past, the enarques - graduates of the Ecole Nationale de l'Administration - ran the show. Privileged enough to gain entrance to the ENA via the specialist crammers, they ran France's intertwined network of state and business, moving from one sphere to another and leaving their mess for the taxpayer to pick up.

Sarkozy is not an enarque.
His friends are from the world of finance and business.
His sons were not even asked to try for the ENA.
He presents a different, unpredictable model.
His candidates are being put into jobs once reserved for enarques.

Now, there is nothing so vicious as a Frenchman thwarted of what he regards as his privileges and I think that there is a trial of strength going on between the new and old order...thus the uncharacteristic daring of the French press in mentioning these little governmental hiccups, geed on by the old warhorses of the right who aren't getting the jobs for their boys.

It was while I was reading the comments in Le Point that I came across a phrase which struck me. The writer, dealing with the Ministry of Culture, was of the view that with Mitterand and Baudot in place, the whole thing could be characterised as a Baudelairian capharnaum. It isn't often that I find a phrase in French striking, but this was a delight.

Baudelaire...the poet for whom aesthetics owed no responsibility to morals or ethics...and a capharnaum....somewhat of a junk pile, a mess, where everything is in wild disorder.
The Ministry of Culture...a mess run by the morally irresponsible.

Then something else occured to me. The Ministry of Culture is supposed to have an eye to the state of French national identity - the great subject of debate at the moment.

Could the the debate about French national identity also be described as a Baudelairian capharnaum?


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  1. You really do seem to understand the undercurrents and unsaid meanings behind what you read about life in France. I do admire this and wish I could do it. Unfortunately for me I can follow most of the French I read in the papers but miss the nuances of when certain words are used, as opposed to others.

    I'm learning a lot about life in our chosen country from your blog - keep on doing it please. In the meantime I wish you a lovely and happy new year in which to do it

    x Julie

  2. French Fancy, I have been lucky enough to have had French friends who clued me in to a lot of stuff that would otherwise have passed me by. I'm sure I still miss a lot, though...nothing like growing up in a society for catching all the cultural references.
    I've always been interested in politics - the b..s end up spending my money, after all - so that comes out in the blog as I tend to scribble about whatever is on my mind at the moment.
    Looking at people blogging about their lives as immigrants to France, it is always interesting how much you learn about the differing cultural assumptions between the place of origin and France - whether as overt comments, or just in passing.
    Thank you for being so kind about my's where I blow off steam!
    I hope all goes well for you and Mr.FF in 2010...and I wonder how soon it will be before you are leaving the Breton mullets for life nearer the capital. One thing for sure, your comments on it will be required reading.

  3. If the old order succeed in ousting Baudot, they can always send him back here. On past form we'll give him a peerage and a ministerial post, no problem.

  4. Brother Tobias, yes, he does seem to qualify, doesn't he?

  5. I never realised that there was so much of the "jobs for the boys" in French politics. Well, you already know that politics go way over my head, but I am learning so much from your blog and its very interesting. Carla certainly seems to be the "power" behind the man doesn't she? I guess he is totally besotted and just does as she tells him?

  6. Ayak, there certainly seem to be jobs for Carla's 'boys', anyway. Pity they're so unsavoury.

  7. I love your blog, but it's starting to make me feel guilty: the world carries on much as usual - corruption, scandals, famine, natural disasters that could have been alleviated if not prevented etc etc. You write about it, and here I am, worrying if the snow will ever melt and I can get on with house-training my puppy...

  8. Pueblo girl, get a grip. Puppies come first. We can do something about puppies, not much about the rest of the shambles.