Monday, July 23, 2007

Thinking vs. doing

This weekend two remarkable things happened. 1) I was without internet for a 24-hour period, and 2) Jo and I carried a bookcase upstairs that's much taller than I am and a good bit shorter than he is. Now that I have internet at my disposal, I can nevertheless barely type. My arm! That was a heck of a bookcase, a mere $15 at a Park Slope stoop sale, and it fits almost all of our books.

While I was unable to move or blog, Jo read me part of a Times article aloud, about how the Sarkozy administration is asking the French to be less pensive and more active. My new favorite thing ever is the line, "'How absurd to say we should think less!' said Alain Finkielkraut [...]." It doesn't get better than that.

All on my own, pre-bookcase, I read BHL on Sarkozy. Levy mentions four of the authors whose works are on the MA reading list, not to mention synthesized much of recent French history, so I take it BHL would find this exam somewhat less of a challenge than most.

Levy's main point is the following:

And finally we discover — as will Americans — the first of our presidents for whom our relationship with the rest of the world is so clearly inspired by the best result of the antitotalitarian movements of the ’70s and ’80s, namely a fidelity to Israel that will no longer waver in the face of “ups and downs in our interests in Arab societies”; a sensitivity to genocide and in particular to the Holocaust, that “stain on the 20th century and all of human history”; a refusal of that “cultural relativism” that would allow us to look at the Chechen drama or the fate of Chinese political prisoners differently from events happening in Europe; a true concern that human rights be respected in relationships between states, between democracies and dictatorships; and last but not least, his view of America, for which, beginning in his preface, he declares an outright and unfeigned admiration if not love, contrasting sharply with the stubborn antiAmericanism that for decades has been part of the platform of much of the French political class.

So in light of all that, why did I not vote for him?

His response: "I will explain elsewhere, in another way, when it is time." He mentions a few things about national identity and Algeria, about an inability to comprehend the truth of the car-burning riots. Levy is not entirely pessimistic about Sarkozy now that the latter is in office, but with a caveat:

I am only saying that there is in Sarkozy a relationship to memory that troubles and worries me. Men usually have a memory. It can be complex, contradictory, paradoxical, confused. But it is their own. It has a great deal to do with the basis of who they are and the identities they choose for themselves.

The review was translated, so of course the question is whether he meant that the universal, gender-neutral "men" have a capacity for memory, or whether women have trouble keeping details about historical events in their minds. In which case all of us joint French-French Studies students are in a bad spot indeed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i am the translator and his original sentence is:
"Les hommes, d’habitude, ont une mémoire. Elle peut être complexe, cette mémoire, contradictoire, paradoxale, confuse. Mais enfin c’est la leur"

just so you know!!