French press review 17 August 2011

Text by: Carla Westerheide
4 min

Holidays and seasonal work and Beethoven's Ode to Joy all feature in the French newpapers today....


Libération focuses on the 26th World Youth Day currently underway in Madrid. Some 450,000 pilgrims travelled to the Spanish capital. The paper says that “non-believers” disagree with the event because it could cost the city as much as 100 million euros.

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At the same time, the organization itself doesn’t have to pay anything because they get help from volunteers and manage to break even in the end, also because the city made schools and gymnasiums available for the pilgrims. Something protestors see as unacceptable when the country’s economy is in crisis.

That story is also making the headlines in Catholic paper La Croix. But here the paper says that the young pilgrims did anything but forget about the ongoing economic crisis.

Instead, they are “renewing their sense of charity,” giving back to the community and the city that’s hosting them. The paper also says that their faith is what gives them hope for the future.

Moving on to communist paper L’Humanité, which looks at seasonal workers in France, saying they are often “mistreated.” Because, the paper says, while seasonal work allows them earn money, there is no place for them to live!

There is still a lot of discrimination in France against people who don’t have a full-time contract, because homeowners don’t want to rent out to them, afraid they won’t be able to make the payments.

The paper reports that many of them actually have to live in their cars. Unions are trying to put an end to that, informing seasonal workers of their rights, but that campaign is moving at a snail's pace, because there are a lot of stereotypes to break down.

Aujourd’hui en France says the French are champions. Champions in taking their holidays in August! The paper interviews an American living in Paris who says she was surprised to see the capital just empty during her first August here.

The paper also says that the French, along with Italians and Spaniards, take the longest holidays in the summer (21 per cent take four weeks or longer). They have an average of 37.5 days of holiday per year, of which they tend to take 18 in August. And more than half stay in France.

And the paper asks: Coco Chanel – was she a Nazi spy? A new biography has been published in the United States called “Sleeping with the Enemy, Coco Chanel’s Secret War.” Many biographies have already alluded to the fact that she had an affair with a German officer during the Second World War, that she tried to persuade Winston Churchill to negotiate a secret peace between England and Germany, but this is the first time it has been publicly alleged that she actually spied for the Third Reich.

What do you think of when I say “Ode to Joy?” Beethoven’s 9th? According to Le Figaro, North Korean soldiers stationed along the demilitarized zone with South Korea didn’t know what to think.

They are used to having to cover their ears when the South broadcasts negative comments about the North’s leader Kim Jong-il over loudspeakers.

But in this case they got to listen to the full symphony, played by an Israeli/Palestinian orchestra near the border. They had already given a similar performance in Gaza. Its conductor, Daniel Barenboïm says, if you want peace, don’t wait around for politicians.

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