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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Fleur Pellerin - the French minister of culture who hasn't read a book for two years

Here's a question for you.

What was the last book you read?

Don't worry if you can't remember.

Or if your answer is that you haven't picked up on for a few months or even years.

Because you're not alone.

Fleur Pellerin (screenshot - clip from Le Supplément, Canal +)

Astonishingly enough (perhaps - although nothing should come as a surprise with what some might - unkindly - describe as the motley crew currently governing France)the country's minister of culture, Fleur Pellerin revealed at the weekend that she hasn't read a book for the past couple of years.

The admission came during Sunday's edition of Le Supplément on Canal + as Pellerin was being interviewed by the programme's host, Maïtena Biraben.

While waxing lyrical about a lunch she had shared with this year's winner of the Nobel prize for literature - French author Patrick Modiano - Pellerin was asked which of his books was her favourite.

The minister probably wished the ground would open up before her, as she let out the longest, "Er", smiling (or was that grimacing) with embarrassment before coming clean.

"I have to admit - without any difficulty - that I've not really had the time to read for the past two years," she said.

"I read a lot of notes, a lot of legislative texts, news, AFP stories, but I read very little otherwise."

A visibily gobsmacked Biraben gently pointed out that perhaps it was time to read something by Modiano who was, after all, "The Nobel prize winner this year."

All right, all right, culture isn't just about reading books. There's painting, music, sculpture, dance, theatre...heck a whole panoply of arts.

But from a country which has such a proud and rich literary tradition, and from the minister of culture to boot, such a disclosure comes as something of a shock...and of course opened the door for a deluge of criticism on social media.

That said, there was also support from some quarters for the 41-year-old's honesty.

Writing in L'Obs (Le Nouvel Observateur's new name) Dom Bochel Guégan defended Pellerin, saying that she had been "principled enough to recognise her ignorance and to admit it quite simply" and that maybe (as junior minister for Small and Medium-sized enterprises, innovation and the digital economy and then, since August, switching to the culture minister portfolio)  "she had perhaps been a little too busy over the past two years to find time to read."

True - after all politics is a full time job in itself.


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