Articles: Déliaisons Dangereuses.
Between February 2004 and
February 2005 I wrote twenty six freelance articles for francophile internet
magazine Bonjour Paris + one article with Karen Fawcett (President) and Sarah
Gilbert Fox (Directeur Général), which was published in the guide-book, "Paris
For Dummies." Here is one of the original twenty six, with the original
What’s Really Behind The War Between France & The US?
Pat Brien attended the
book-signing at Brentano’s Bookstore expecting a little light-hearted banter and
came away with some serious food for thought on the future of French/American
relations. READ MORE.
When I first picked up this
assignment I somehow got the impression that I would be reviewing a kind of
light-hearted, slightly comic review of the differences between France and the
good ol’ US of A. From there, I presumed that the book-signing would be a
grinning, slightly camp equivalent of a Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, “You
say potato, I say… pomme-de-terre,” type of thing. Ha, ha, ha, slaps on the
back, everybody goes home. Mercifully, I was wrong.
The event was held in
Brentano’s excellent, spacious and customer-friendly French/ English bookstore
at 37, rue de l’Opera on 1 April*. The first major difference between France and
the US I noticed was that Walter Wells, American co-author of the book
and editor of the International
Herald Tribune, hadn’t turned up, whereas Jean-Marie Colombani, editor of Le
Monde, had. Points for France, then.
Another major difference I picked
up on was that, whereas the French language version of the book had a cool cover
design, featuring the Statue of Liberty torn asunder, and with a large
photograph of the authors on the back, retailing at 16.95 euros, the English
language version had only a very basic cover, no photograph, and retailed at
22.10 euros. With one of the main American complaints about Europe being it’s
high costs, the word ‘irony’ sprang immediately to mind.
I then realised
that without Walter Wells, who was sick in bed apparently, the whole event would
be held in the French language. This didn’t help my cause, as I sell myself as
somebody who can relate to and write for those coming to Paris sans a full grasp
of the language. But it didn’t matter. I’d already bought and read the book,
which left me capable of picking up on what was being said.
The place was packed and
Jean-Marie Colombani didn’t appear to have any ruffled feathers about being left
to hold the fort alone; in fact, he gave the impression that it would be
difficult to ruffle his feathers at all. Relaxed and smiling, he seemed one of
those people who look at life through slightly-amused, knowing eyes most of the
time, and who would be pretty hard to shock or surprise, even if you’re American
and good at it.
But, despite the quiet humour of the man, this was no
Fred and Ginger song-and-dance routine. One, Ginger hadn’t turned up; and Two,
‘Déliaisons Dangereuses – What’s Really Behind The War Between France and The
US?’ is a serious, intellectual attempt to question modern-day differences
between France and the US and to discover the real reasons behind a growing
Jean-Marie Colombani - April Fooled
(non!) But Unruffled.
It does this by raising the
necessary questions about recent international events, then studying them in the
context of the historical differences between the two nations, before going on
from there to question the possible future of French, US relations. All good,
It also explores the times of friendship in war and
suffering between the two nations and their complex cultural contradictions:
America’s feeling of cultural inferiority towards France, for example, and the
French fascination with the awesome myth of The American Dream.
The book is serious but not
difficult. It has an easy-going interview style, cutting from Colombani and his
French viewpoint, to Wells and his American perspective, which breaks the text
up nicely and prevents some very serious thinking from becoming turgid, heavy
Pitted against today’s dark political reality, almost all
aspects of American and French society are investigated and discussed in-depth:
French bureaucracy, stemming from the deep-rooted socialist belief that people
should be financially and legally protected, is contrasted sharply against the
American belief in independence, with it’s ‘Land of Opportunity/ American
Dream,’ drive to personal success. Many other political and cultural conflicts
are also dealt with in a straight-forward, no-nonsense manner by the two
Shooting For The Stars: Living
& Dying the Dream.
Importantly, the book resists the
temptation to slyly ridicule one system whilst quietly promoting the other. It
gives a balanced view, attempting to understand the mentalities of the French
and American people living within those systems, cleverly keeping it’s eyes on
the ball, rather than sinking into yet another heated political debate that
It’s possible to assume that if there were more French
people like Colombani and more American’s like Wells, they could well have
ditched this book idea altogether and just recorded that Fred & Ginger
number I was talking about back at the start.
But alas, these are serious
times, and this book is serious reading and a MUST for anybody with an interest
in the modern political scene and the question of what the future holds.
Certainly questions concerning
the relationship between France and the US will not go away anytime soon; in
fact, they will almost certainly become louder and more frequent as time goes
So, if you’re one of those people who like being in the know, get
down to Brentano’s and snap up a copy of ‘Déliaisons Dangereuses – What’s Really
Behind The War Between France and The US?’ and start making up your own
And in case I’ve whetted your appetite, Brentano’s may also have
some Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movies available in their video/DVD
stocks. Happy viewing.
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