10 February 2007

Encore, les Francais

And the hits just keep coming. Last week in the London Times:

Well, zut alors! A distinguished French literary professor has become a surprise bestselling author by writing a book explaining how to wax intellectual about tomes that you have never actually read.

Pierre Baynard, 52, specialises in the link between literature and psychoanalysis, and says it is perfectly possible to bluff your way through a book that you have never read — especially if that conversation happens to be taking place with someone else who also hasn’t read it. All of which just goes to confirm what I’ve always thought about French academics, which is that mostly they are oversubsidised frauds.

Obviously I haven’t read Mr Baynard’s book; but it is in the spirit of his oeuvre that I shall proceed to write about it anyway. The first thing to say about Comment Parler des Livres que l’on n’a pas Lus (How to Talk About Books that You Haven’t Read) is what a wonderfully French concept this is. The French take great pride in their intellectual patrimony, considering themselves to be pretty much the inventors of most forms of high art, something that irritates other nations, especially the Italians, a great deal. For them it is crucial to be able to hold their own in a literary conversation, a mark of cultural honour that is the very essence of French-ness. The trouble is, in these busy times, who apart from Alain de Botton has time to really get to the bottom of Proust?

Here's the whole thing.
Actually I dissemble in this manner all the time. Saith Tom Townsend in Metropolitan, "You don't have to read a book to have an opinion."
Long live the Sally Fowler Rat Pack.


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