Saturday, August 21, 2010

Paris Jornal VII: Madam Ovary

There is a danger in running away to a beautiful place and pretending that you’re somebody else. Paris afflicts many Americans in this way, and before they know it they are groveling at the supremacy of a more melodious language, notoriously tasty food, and the legend of Gallic sexuality. The average American who doesn’t happen to be a French culture hero, like Jack Palance or Jean Seberg, Henry Miller or Jerry Lewis, suffers from an inferiority complex when it comes to French society, a fact that makes the notion of a vacation in France a dubious enterprise. Paris is still filled with couples who kiss fervently in public, which only drives the nail into the coffin for the typical self-hating American couple, conspicuously consuming pragmatists who, knowing of no better way to achieve status than to flash aging packets of devalued American Express travelers checks, find themselves reduced to psychobabble as they attempt to analyze each other’s shortcomings on the corner of the Boulevards St. Michel and St. Germain, only steps from cafés like Les Deux Magots, which are no longer haunted even by the ghosts of De Beauvoir or Sartre. The tendency to speak in Franglais, a polymorphically perverse tongue in which sophistication is attained by inserting French expressions like faute de mieux into otherwise normal English sentences—a bit like using strap-ons and sex toys in place of living sexual organs—is another symptom that appears among those unfortunate couples who suffer from extreme cases of Francophilia.

This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

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