"In America", the Monde recently wrote, "there is more friendship for France than confidence in France." Friendship--and, indeed, admiration, and the kind of affection that Eluard expressed so well in his nostalgic war prisoner's dream:
Un pays où le vin chante
Où les moissons ont bon cœur
Où les enfants sont malins
Où les vieillards sont plus fins
Qu'arbres à fruit blancs de fleur
Où l'on peut parler aux femmes . . .
A slow country, especially south of the Loire, old-fashioned and lovable. Such is a widespread, and not entirely false picture of France --or of a part of it--that so many foreigners like to carry in their hearts.
On closer examination, however, it is a country full of contrasts and contradictions. On the one hand, first-class motor roads, and the world's fastest rapides on her main lines; but, on the other hand, a backward peasant economy, not nearly enough new houses, a patronat that is often mean, shortsighted and overcautious with its industrial "Malthusianism"; a good social-insurance system, first-class engineers, scientists, and technicians, but under-equipped laboratories; a highly organized State, with an efficient civil service, but a lame tax-collecting machine, some corruption, and one of the shadiest police services in any ostensibly democratic country; a people abounding in decent human instincts, but capable of the greatest ruthlessness in its overseas territories; a people tired of war and passionately devoted to peace, and yet tolerating, for eight years, a costly, brutal, and senseless war to be waged in Indo-China. A people combining a vocal feeling of inferiority with a quiet but solidly-established sense of superiority. A puzzling mixture of good and bad, yet not with quite enough of the "good" to make France a thoroughly efficient modern State. And when a man like Mendès-France shows too much reformist zeal, he thereby treads on too many toes, and Parliament prefers to get rid of him.
Apart from the dainty and whimsical "Letters from Paris" in our better-class journals--Letters full of French words in italics, and dealing . . .