Vive La France of the Resistance

December 27th, 2010

Bliss it is to be alive on this 2010 dawn. The spirit of the 1789 French Revolution is flourishing over the channel despite the reactionary government led by Nicholas Sarkozy, a Bourbon in democratic clothing.

A short book written by Stéphane Hessel, a 93-year-old hero of the French Resistance, has taken the country by storm.

Though only 30 pages long it has already sold 600,000 copies and the publishers expect it to top a million soon.

The book is a clear, concise denunciation of the American consumer capitalism, which Nicholas Sarkozy, no less than Britain’s Cameron government, is slavishly emulating.

The Guardian Paris correspondent sums up the message.

“This is an appeal to citizens, young and old, to take responsibility for the things in our society that don’t work,” he said. “I wish every one of you to find your own reason for indignation. It’s precious.” Hessel’s reasons for personal outrage include the growing gap between the very rich and the very poor, France’s shocking treatment of its illegal immigrants, the need to re-establish a free press, protecting the environment, the plight of Palestinians and the importance of protecting the French welfare system. He calls for peaceful and non-violent insurrection.

It has already made as big an impact as that seminal work of 1967, Le Defi Americain, which fuelled the minds and hearts of those young French people who stormed the barricades in 1968.

As well it might. Hessel fought the Nazis, survived torture and two concentration camps, and is now reminding today’s French youth of what their ancestors were fighting for, in the 1940s and in the 1780s.

His mother inspired the Francois Truffaut film, Jules et Jim, which delighted all Francophiles of my generation.

Her son has lived on to speak to a new generation, which is crying out for better leadership. A British publisher should publish an English translation pronto.

It will sell like hot cakes to those school children and students who take to the streets as the Coalition cuts bite more deeply in the year ahead.

And to those oldies who are with them in spirit.

Leave a Reply