French weekly magazine review 04 September 2016


With the main parties' presidential primaries just two months away, most of the French weeklies take an angle on the candidates’ campaigns. And there are reviews on Don Winslow's narco-novel Cartel, whose literary hero is inspired by the Mexican drug trafficker El Chapo.


Marianne focuses on education, asking whether there is a candidate who can save French schools.

The left-wing weekly says that all the candidates have sworn, with their hand on their heart, that education is THE issue at the centre of everything. However, although each candidate has put forward a set of proposals, none of them really seems up to the challenge.

Marianne summarises the candidates' education programmes: On the mainstream right former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s educational vision, for instance, is summed up as “the promise to do more with less”. Former foreign affairs minister Alain Juppé is seen as advocating “gentle methods” and “tepid proposals”, whereas Marine le Pen, of the far-right National Front, ignores education completely – or rather skims over it – preferring to concentrate on immigration and terrorism.

According to Marianne, the French education debate oscillates between optimism and complacency. One of the magazine’s cartoons shows pupils unable to see out of their school window because of the number of presidential billboards stacked up outside.

Economic focus

Over at Le Point, economy is the focus.

“Too bad, our children will have to pay,” says the right-wing magazine. “Who doesn’t believe that the economy will be at the heart of the presidential election?”

Le Point publishes “killing figures” collated by Francois Lenglet, which show France lagging behind Germany and the United States.

In France, the increase in labour costs between 1999 and 2013 was 53 percent compared to 34 percent in Germany. Another graph shows the creation of salaried jobs in France’s private sector between 2000 and 2016 as zero, compared to 10 percent in the United States and seven percent in Germany.

It’s a bleak image: France is squashed between an industrial “Germania” and the low-cost countries of the south. France, le Point reports, is about to become the Lozère of Europe – a reference to the rural region in the South of France with one of the lowest rates of employment in the country.

Literary heroes

Le Point runs a feature on Don Winslow’s 700-page narco-novel, whose hero is a literary double of the Mexican drug trafficker El Chapo.

A reporter from Le Point travels to California to interview Winslow, who explains how El Chapo escaped a high security federal prison in Mexico by disappearing down a tunnel 1.5 kilometres long and 10 metres deep.

Don Winslow’s novel Cartel will be out in France on 8 September.

Le Point publishes several extracts from the book alongside the interview, in which Winslow attacks the proposal of the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. “He can build a wall,” Winslow is quoted as saying, “but a wall has doors!”

L’Obs also publishes a short page feature on Don Winslow’s forthcoming novel.

The left-wing magazine says that the “American master” knows what he is talking about and urges its readers to read Cartel, hailing it a “narco-Dostoevsky”.

Iceland: A country of authors

Staying with a literary theme, l’Obs runs a four-page spread on how Iceland is the country where pretty much everyone is an author.

This small, isolated nation of just 330,000 people publishes four times more books than France. Each year, 65 percent of Icelanders buy at least one book and 70 percent borrow one from the library. For every 1,000 inhabitants, five books are published.

“Almost all the Icelanders I know have written a book,” the director of the French cultural body Alliance Française in Iceland’s capital tells l’Obs. The proverb goes that if an Icelander has not yet published a book, it’s because he or she is busy writing it.

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