French weekly magazines review 27 December 2015

Most magazines have double editions this week because of the two public holidays for Christmas and the New Year. They celebrate what makes France what it is today. Summing up headlines of the past weeks, it seems as if France needs to assert its identity more than ever before. Taking a quick look at the covers, you can almost see the country’s past, present and future.


Right-wing L’Express has a painting from the revolution of 1830, the French flag paraded with pride. It headlines “The epic tale of the French people”, clearly surfing on the wave of patriotism that has overwhelmed France since the 13 November attacks in Paris. It goes back to the origins of the so-called tale as well as the ups and downs France has faced so far. 

Click here to read more articles on Paris attacks

The magazine goes in depth into French history and, as historians put it, “telling the national story helps overcome obstacles”. Going all the way back to 52BC, the year of the battle of Alésia when the Roman empire conquered France, up to 2015, the feature is headlined “Arise children…”, the first words of the national anthem, La Marseillaise. It says that the song, written during the French revolution, has now become the symbol of the fight for freedom throughout the world. 

Left-wing Marianne has several famous French people - Brigitte Bardot, Victor Hugo, Coluche, actors, comedians and writers - on its cover with the headline “To laugh, to mock and to provoke, that’s France!” as a response to “those who want to kill our freedom”. The magazine features “100 pages of arrogance”, as if to show the world France lives up to its reputation, thank you very much.

And arrogance they give us … Ranging from top-notch French literature, often considered brazen back in the days it was published, to popular culture and the upheavals of May 68, the magazine goes into what has, and sometime still is, been called pure provocation. Ending with several pages of tribute to Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that suffered a deadly attack in January.

Dossier: May 68

Left-wing Le Nouvel Observateur has a special edition featuring more than 30 portraits of people who “will shape 2016”. The cover features the new embodiment of Marianne, the national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason. 

From presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton, in the US, to Alain Juppé, in France, to French rap superstar Joey Starr, they put forward the people who will, according to them, make a difference in the new year. As Time magazine does when choosing its 100 most influential people, L'Obs has each individual's story told by one of his or her peers. 

The editorials comment on other stories.

L’Express talks about the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, the only region in France to have a separatist party running it, the Corsican nationalists having won the regional council for the very first time this year. Some have claimed they are “moderate nationalists” but the magazine says that is a contradiction in terms.

It says that, despite all the raised eyebrows that the results provoked, this is still the region that produced Napoleon Bonaparte, the famous French military and political leader. He cannot be dismissed as being the offspring of an island of goats and chestnuts, it says. 

Interactive map of France

“The people and the elite - why the divorce?” asks Marianne. It says that, for example, on one hand, what the people fear most is the rise of terrorism, whereas for the elite it’s the rise of the far right.

And it concludes by saying that to fight, and beat, the far right, there’s a need to overhaul the principles of democracy, meaning some compromises between the people and the elite are necessary. 

L'Obs begins by saying that if 2015 bears the scars of terrorism those who sought destruction failed, quite resoundingly too. The best proof of that, the magazine states, is the fact that only few weeks after the 13 November attacks, 195 world leaders still came to Paris to sign a historic deal regarding climate change.

Click here to read more articles

The magazine ends on that note: “The worst is always to be expected but, since we cannot exclude the possibility of the best happening, there’s still room for hope."

Finally, satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé has as one of its top stories the famous Le Pen family.

The leaders of the far-right Front National are yet again mired in financial troubles since they apparently failed to declare some of their wealth to the relevant authorities.

At least they’re sticking to their motto “work, family and … financial assets", the paper comments facetiously.

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