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French weekly magazine review 14 February 2016


Love is remarkably absent from this week's magazine front pages, despite the fact that today is St Valentine's Day. Instead of romance, we are offered anxiety, artificial intelligence, a look at the bank accounts of French intellectuals and a belligerent Nicolas Sarkozy, "back from the dead and looking for revenge!" Nice.


It's hard to believe today is St. Valentine's Day! Seven French weeklies in front of me, and only one gives its cover to the question of love.

The others could hardly be further off the mark on this day sacred to two early Christian martyrs, both priests, both called Valentine, associated with conjugality and romance.

Instead of love, Le Point offers us anxiety, and how to cope with it.

L'Express is concerned about artificial intelligence and whether "thinking robots" will liberate or destroy mankind.

The Le Monde Magazine is a special edition consecrated to California, quickly out-living its thrash image as the tackiest state in the Union.

Le Nouvel Observateur tries to find out how much money France's professional intellectuals make each month. Quite a lot, thank you, if less than most professional footballers. Which doesn't save the top thinkers from scoring the odd own goal!

The cover of Marianne is arguably furthest from the spirit of St. Valentine, with a grim picture of former president Nicolas Sarkozy done up as a horror film bad guy, and the headline "He's back from the dead and looking for revenge!" Did somebody mention love?

Even if the genties and layitymen at Le Figaro deserve praise for remembering the significance of February 14, they can hardly be said to have taken to the subject with gusto. Love gets the stock-market treatment, being described as "a rising value". And the magazine's main article is an endless waffle by the philosopher Luc Ferry on "a sentiment which has invaded every aspect of our lives". When a bloke makes love sound worse than a contagious disease, assuring us, and I quote, that "love is a magnificent heritage of christianity," you have to wonder if he's barking up the right tree. And feel sorry for the other religions.

Satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné looks at the pressure exerted by some advertisers on some publications here in France.

For example, Le Nouvel Observateur was recently offered free photographs of Jennifer Lawrence, star of the Hunger Games movies, and the best paid actress in Hollywood. All this, practically on the eve of the Oscars. The reason for the timely burst of generosity is Dior, the fashion and fragrance multi-national to which Ms Lawrence has been contracted since 2012. The magazine got Nicolas Bedos to write an article to go with the pictures, and we were all laughing. Except Dior, who didn't like the ironic tone employed by M. Bedos, nor his suggestion that the young actress should help him to have babies, two girls and a boy to be precise. Either the article changed, or the fabulous photos went elsewhere. So a freelance was called in to normalise the original piece by Nicolas Bedos. Eventually, the whole project was dropped.

Says Le Canard, it's better business for a glossy maazine to offend a star writer than to damage relations with a big advertiser.

When the computer seller Apple buys a full-page ad, the company demands to be assured that the main story in the publication will not deal with "war, terrorism, nazism, nudity, sex, religion or politics," which doesn't leave the editors enormous scope.

Is it any wonder 58 per cent of the French doubt the independence of us journalists?

More people suffer from worry than any other disorder in the modern world. Clinical anxiety is a real disease, "the problem of the century," according to Le Point, and the more intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be worried.

It's not good for your health, and you are at an increased risk of becoming addicted to tranquilisers, alcohol and more serious narcotics. Living with someone who acts like the main character in a Woody Allen movie is no fun for your family.

Help is, thankfully, at hand, in the form of a best-selling book by an American.

He's Scott Stossel, he's a journalist, and he's not worried.

The secret is to take plenty of physical exercise, examine your fears head-on, meditate and learn to accept that you can't always meet all the goals you set yourself. If you're still in trouble after all that, there's plant therapy (you make tea with the leaves), hypnosis and something called biofeedback where you learn to understand and control your physical reactions to stress and so limit the extent to which you suffer.

Having read the article, I'm now worried that I don't worry enough.

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