Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. (Letter from Paris)

By Dalrymple, Theodore | New Criterion, April 2003 | Go to article overview

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. (Letter from Paris)


Dalrymple, Theodore, New Criterion


One of the questions that always crosses my mind when I visit Paris is, What do unintelligent or uneducated people read there? Certainly, the daily newspapers cannot meet their requirements: Le Monde, Liberation, Le Figaro (to say nothing of L'Humanite) strenuously eschew the wilful vulgarity that the British are inclined to mistake for vigor and a critical spirit, but which is, in reality, just plain old vulgar vulgarity. I confess that it is a relief to read for once newspapers that do not worship at the shrine of meretricious celebrity, and assume that their readers might actually be interested in the affairs of faraway countries of which they currently know nothing. But their circulations are small, at least by British standards: and the rest is silence.

I confess also to a mild frisson of irritation--so tonic in the mornings as one sits in a cafe--at their incessant use of the word "anglo-saxon" as a term if not of outright abuse, at least of thin-lipped and not well-veiled disapprobation. What does "anglo-saxon" mean in this context, exactly? In the mental economy of the French intelligentsia, it means crass, shallow, and vulgarly materialistic, though also regrettably powerful and attractive to lesser breeds without culture. It plays the same role as the term "judaeo-masonic" once did in the minds of some of the less intellectually distinguished, though perhaps more historically influential, political philosophers of the twentieth century.

Of course, I know as I experience my brief frisson of irritation that I shall experience precisely the same frisson as soon as I return home. And what will irritate me? All the crass, shallow, and vulgarly materialistic people I see around me. Only their mysterious, preternatural power is missing from the judaeo-masonic version. And the worst thing about the British is that they are materialistic without being very good at it.

Still, this gets us no nearer the answer to the question as to what unintelligent and uneducated Frenchmen read. The bookshops--in which I spend quite a few of my waking hours in Paris--provide no answer. France is definitely not the land of the airport novel, to say nothing of the less elevated literary genres. One looks in vain for the garish paperbacks that make up so much of the merchandise in a modern British bookshop. (Incidentally, there are far more independent bookshops in the land of Colbertian dirigisme than there are in the homeland of Smithian free enterprise where, in the name of competition, bookselling has been almost entirely consolidated into one or two enormous chains. With regard to book publishing and selling, at least in England, Karl Marx was right.)

Nor do the French seem to go in much for self-help or personal development, those manifestations (deep in one sense and shallow in another) of popular self-absorption. On the other hand, they have an insatiable appetite for something far worse: the prose of psychoanalysts. And it goes almost without saying that the French psychoanalysts can out-obscure those of any other nation, and drive an intelligent, literate person insane within the space of a paragraph. The laws of the marketplace suggest that these books must be bought, but we are no more entitled to conclude from this that they are read than a doctor may conclude that his patient takes his medicine merely because he is prescribed it.

It is also true that the works of the current French maitres a penser--Jacques Derrida chief among them--are available everywhere. Their pretentiousness can addle a perfectly adequate brain almost as quickly as heat can coagulate the albumin of eggwhite. Not long ago, for example, I attended a conference of French intellectuals at which a Lacanian gave a lecture. It was only two-thirds of the way through that he realized that he was reading out the pages in the wrong order: something which, to do him justice, no one in the audience had detected either. I was one of the few who found this both amusing and significant: most of the audience took it as being one of the hazards of profundity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Anglo-Saxon Attitudes. (Letter from Paris)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.