12 February 2016

Fleur Pellerin now has time to read Modiano

Yesterday Fleur Pellerin, the French Ministre de la Culture et de la Communication, was sacked from the post she had held for only eighteen months. The world can only ask why she wasn't sacked earlier, or indeed how she came to occupy the post in the first place.

The Nobel Prize for Literature is arguably the most important international event in the literary calendar, and was won by French novelist Patrick Modiano on 6 October 2014, after which Fleur Pellerin had lunch with him: I can't imagine what they talked about, although Pellerin told Maïtena Biraben that the lunch was wonderful, and that the two of them 'laughed a great deal'.

Biraben was questioning Pellerin on Canal plus's Supplément programme on 26 October 2014, and perfectly logically asked what her favorite Modiano book was: 'Euh, euh...' Not only couldn't Pellerin think of a Modiano book but she hadn't read one of his books, hadn't even read a book in the last two years because of the pressures of work. Many people might consider book reading as part of the work of a minister of culture, and many people throughout the world reacted in a very negative light to this confession. OK, this was obviously a wonderful opportunity for the right-wing Le Figaro to score political points by bemoaning the lack of culture in the government's cultural figurehead, but the paper evidently had a very strong point.

How can a governmental representative of French culture have lunch with a French winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature and not raise the subject of, well, literature? The reminder that the mighty André Malraux once held the post Pellerin held until yesterday makes her original appointment look not only stupid but really bizarre. What next? Donald Trump for president of the USA? Pellerin made things even worse for herself by saying how shocked she was by global reactions to her idiocy. But at least the wonderful news is that she's gone now, and she missed out on the Villa Médicis jolly. No wonder she reportedly burst into tears on hearing of her dismissal: she'd been onto a good thing for far too long.

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