Déliaisons Dangereuses – What’s Really Behind The War between France & The...

Déliaisons Dangereuses – What’s Really Behind The War between France & The US?

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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 US and that the book-signing
would be a grinning, 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’Opéra on 1 April, and the
first major difference between France and the US that 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.

The
second major difference between the two countries I noticed was that
whereas the French-language version of the book had a cool cover design
featuring the Statue of Liberty torn asunder, with a large photograph
of the authors on the back, and retailed at 16.95€, the
English-language version had only a very basic cover, no photograph,
and retailed at 22.10€. With one of the main American complaints about
Europe being its high costs, the word ‘irony’ sprang immediately to
mind.

I then realised that
without Walter Wells, sick in bed apparently, the whole event was to be
held in the French language, which didn’t help my cause, as I present
myself as somebody who can relate to and write for those coming to
Paris without a full grasp of the language. But it didn’t matter. I’d
turned up earlier and bought and scanned the book, which left me
capable of picking up on what was being said.

The
place was packed, and Jean-Maire 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 looks 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 an 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 animosity.

The
book 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 from there
to question the possible future of French-US relations. All good,
well-rounded stuff.

It also
explores the times of friendship in war and suffering between the two
nations and their complex cultural contradictions: America’s feeling of
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 heavy reading.

Pitted
against today’s dark political reality, almost all aspects of American
and French society are investigated and discussed in-depth: French
bureaucracy and the deep-rooted socialist belief that all people should
be financially protected and given some kind of equality are contrasted
directly with the American belief in independence, with its ‘Land of
Opportunity, American Dream,’ drive to personal success, and is just
one conflict dealt with in a straight-forward, no-nonsense manner by
the two writers.

Further, the
book seems to resist 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 its eyes on the ball rather than
sinking into yet another heated political debate that leads nowhere.

It’s
possible to assume that if there were more French people like Colombani
and more Americans like Wells they could well have ditched this book
idea altogether and just recorded that Fred & Ginger number I was
talking about…

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 any time soon; in fact they will almost certainly become
louder and more frequent as time goes on.

So,
if you’re one of those people who likes 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
mind.

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.

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