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French press review 13 October 2016

Moscow's main man, Vladimir Putin, is back in the news, accusing France of failing to understand the situation in Syria and of stirring anti-Russian hysteria. Why has it taken the Swedish Academy so long to name this year's Nobel literature prize winner? And why should we believe right-wing presidential candidates when they promise to do things after this election that they failed to do five years ago?


Russian President Vladimir Putin just will not lie down.

Yesterday, says Le Monde, he told a business forum in Moscow that he hadn't cancelled his trip to Paris for the inauguration of an Orthodox cathedral, he had been told by the French that this was perhaps not the ideal moment for such a cultural event, so he didn't insist. Such a nice fellow.

He did not say a word about the situation in Syria, where Russian planes continue to bomb rebel-held parts of the city of Aleppo.

But he has criticised the French, who last weekend tried to get the UN Security Council to condemn the bombing, of engaging in political rhetoric and failing to understand the reality of the Syrian crisis. The Russians, who clearly do understand that crisis but aren't explaining it to anyone else, vetoed the French effort at the UN.

Putin says Paris has aggravated the situation for ordinary Syrians and is simply stirring up anti-Russian hysteria. He continues to deny any responsibilty for the destruction of an aid convoy near Aleppo last month, saying the attack was carried out by a terrorist group not by Russian aircraft.

Nobel literature laurels to be awarded one week late

Later today we'll find out the name of the 2016 winner of the Nobel literature prize. One week behind the traditional schedule. The announcement is normally made on the first Thursday in October, at the end of the week in which the recipients of the other awards - physics, chemistry, medicine and peace - are named. Not this time.

We've been told by the Swedish Academy that the delay is purely technical, down to the fact that the academy rules oblige the jury to meet on four consecutive Thursdays, starting from the second-last Thursday in September. This year, that fell on the 22, so the four statutory meetings bring us to today, 13 October. A bit complicated, perhaps, but no conspiracy.

Which hasn't done anything to stop the theorists.

The jury is savagely divided, says the Swedish cultural journalist Bjorn Wiman. They are torn on the question of politicising the award, according to radio commentator Mattias Berg, a clear reference to the candidacy of the Franco-Syrian poet Adonis whose last collection was, says Le Monde, far from gentle on the politics of some Islamic states. And then there's talk about giving this year's medal to Salman Rushdie, nearly three decades after the academy refused to support an appeal to the Swedish cabinet in support of Rushdie when Iranian leaders imposed a death sentence on the English writer for his alleged blasphemy in his novel The Satanic Verses.

All of which provides food for thought and fuel for debate.

Still in the running are said to be the Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Americans Don DeLillo and Joyce Carol Oates and Japan's Haruki Murakami.

We'll know the winner's name later today.

To find out about the delay and the rumoured divisions among the judges, we'll have to wait another 50 years, the period for which the minutes of the Swedish jury's deliberations are kept secret.

French primary contenders to face off in bare-knuckle brawl

Right-wing Le Figaro is excited about tonight's televised debate featuring the seven candidates for the conservative presidential ticket.

It will be, first and foremost, a test of their credibility before an increasingly sceptical electorate. The fundamental question to be answered by the six men and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is why should we believe you will do things after this election that you failed to do five years ago?

Alain Juppé has said he won't promise anything he can't do, which has drawn the fire, and the ire, of his arch-enemy and chief rival, Nicolas Sarkozy. That sort of talk, says Sarkozy, will lead to a continuation of the powerless policies that have seen France brought to its knees over the past five years. Bruno Le Maire says that Juppé's claim that he is limiting his promises to what is reasonable is a promise of paralysis.

Sarko is going to have referendums about everything crucial, supposedly a way of guaranteeing that he'll listen to the people this time.

"A smokescreen," says his former prime minister, now bitter rival François Fillon. But Fillon wants referendums too, just on different subjects. While Sarko is going for a broadly security line, on family regroupment for immigrants and the treatment of terrorist suspects, Fillon is putting his eggs in the basket of constitutional change, notably on security and immigration issues, and an alignment of pensions in the public and private sectors. He is going to reduce public spending by 100 billion euros over five years and give back 10 billion to individual tax payers, 40 billion to businesses. And pigs will fly.

Whatever effect it will have on French people's lives, tonight's debate is certainly going to make great television.

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