French Books USA: Week in Review

January 21, 2016 | By Amy Martin

Why Save the Bankers?

Why Save the Bankers?, a new volume of the acclaimed economist’s Libération columns, is touted as “Piketty for the proletariat” by on its list of this year’s most anticipated non-fiction books. The collection, translated by Seth Ackerman, begins with Piketty’s 2008 articles after the Lehman Brothers collapse, and traces the aftermath of the worldwide financial meltdown. Why Save the Bankers? is a great way to understand Piketty’s analysis of unfettered and regulated markets as well as the concentration of wealth—even if you never made it through all 700 pages of Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Liberté, Egalité, Zombie Catholicsm

Who is Charlie? Emmanuel Todd asks in his complex—and not uncontroversial—book, recently translated by Andrew Brown, analyzing xenophobia and the middle class in France today. Todd considers the question “Who is French?” by looking at geographical, religious and political divisions in the population. He views the nationwide protests in France after the January 2015 attacks on Charlie Hebdo as a clear sign of divisiveness in France, since participation in regional marches was higher in the periphery, home of “zombie Catholics” (those who held on to religion long after the secularism taken up by the French Revolution) who tend to have a less inclusive definition of what is French.

Remembering Michel Tournier

The recent death of Michel Tournier at age 91 recalls his influence on French readers since the publication of his first novel, Vendredi ou les Limbes du Pacifique in 1967, a character reversal of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and his companion Friday: “It is Friday who initiates Robinson into the savage life, and not the white man who brings his civilization.” Countless French schoolchildren have read Tournier’s philosophical novel in grade school since the author rewrote it for young readers as Vendredi ou la Vie sauvage. Despite controversial statements about abortion and the death penalty in the 1980s, Tournier remained a prominent author who served on the Académie Goncourt for almost 30 years, retiring in 2010.


On a computer keyboard in France, you might notice that @ or ! is not where you found it on the last keyboard you used. You might also note that typing the Greek letter µ is easier than the common French É, or that a hypertext ² takes fewer keystrokes than the useful euro symbol €. These quirks of the keyboard are simply due to a lack of standardization among manufacturers, a lack the Ministry of Culture hopes to correct. The Ministry has called on Afnor, an international organization tasked with standardizing products across industries, which has organized a committee of computer programmers, keyboard manufacturers, an ergonomics specialist and everyday keyboard users to find a solution—just one solution—to the keyboard chaos.

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