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French weekly magazine review 31 January 2016


This week's magazines are all about accusations: the SNCF is being accused of having hidden facts from an ongoing investigation, while French bureaucrats are being accused of "a silent coup". Plus, why comic book heroes should stay dead.


We start with satirical paper Le Canard Enchainé. The paper actually made the headlines earlier this week with one of its stories. In an article, Le Canard says the SNCF, the French national railway company, “has done everything to manipulate the investigation” of the Brétigny train incident.

As you might remember, the Brétigny incident saw a train derail and kill seven people in July 2013.

According to the information the Canard got, SNCF employees who worked that day had been briefed before answering questions from police and judges. Those high ranked SNCF employees allegedly had their phones tapped by the investigators.

On the tapes, Le Canard heard one of them yell: “In Bretigny, all of them are useless. We need to kick them all out”. That’s a worrying bit: it appears that the incident happened because the rails and station were too old and in bad condition. And according to the paper, the SNCF tried to hide its responsibility from the investigators.

This week’s L’Express has an article on someone you’ve probably never heard of... Matthias Fekl.

Fekl is the French Secretary of State for Foreign trade. L’Express describes him as the “anti Emmanuel Macron”, the government’s controversial self titled “social-liberal” economy minister.

The Minister is exactly the same age as Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, but unlike her, remains largely in the shadows, explains the weekly. Fekl, unlike Macron, “defends a social democratic and pro-european” political line. He’s also a dual national, holding both French and German nationalities.

Fekl seems to be an oddity in “a government of egos” writes the weekly, which describes him as practical, hard-working and cerebral, something that's rare nowadays. To give you an example, when visiting Iran with French CEOs, he chose to read Persian poetry instead of statistics to prepare because it gave him “a better understanding of the culture”.

And when asked what kind of advice he would give to a student entering the job market, he says “to live his life”. Macron’s answer to the same question was to “become a billionaire”. That’s probably why L’Express seems to think that he might be the next big Socialist star.

Right wing Le Point’s cover is devoted to a “silent coup”... from bureaucrats that is. Le Point is devoting 15 pages to “those public servants in charge of the country”. The weekly has a few examples on how bureaucracy is clogging France and stopping the country from moving forward.

There are number of reports commissioned by the government for one, apparently Manuel Valls even asked for a report verifying another report. More concretely there’s the number of norms in France… and their cost: new norms represented 1,671 billion euros in 2014 and 563 billion in 2014. What those norms are, Le Point doesn't say.

But the magazine has an interesting point: almost all of France’s senior public servants and politicians went through the same elite school: l’ENA. We even have a name for them: les énarques.

And that’s a huge problem, because it means all of them, including François Hollande, share the same ideas. And that nothing ever changes, concludes Le Point.

L’Obs cover is all about “which diplomas will give you a job”. But since l’Obs is only talking about France, you, dear reader, will probably not be interested. There’s another interesting article though, titled “Let our heroes die”.

We’re talking about French comic books heroes here, such as Lucky Luke, Astérix or Corto Maltese. “All of them keep on living thanks to young authors” says the weekly. “But the result is often disappointing” it adds.

There’s an explanation to why those heroes didn’t die with their creators: money. For example, the last Astérix comic sold 3 million copies - that’s 8% of the number of comic books sold in France in 2015.

“The result of those new takes are average at best and dictated by marketing” says L’Obs. “The only valid justification of resuscitating an old hero is to let your inner child live again” it concludes.

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