May 31, 2014

UNDENIABLY FRENCH:

A Jew Joins the Académie Française  (Benjamin Ivry, May 31, 2014, iForward)

In April, after the deaths in recent years of such venerable French Jewish members as anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and biologist François Jacob, the Académie française increased its quotient of Yiddishkeit. That day, the author Alain Finkielkraut, born in Paris in 1949 to a family of Polish Jewish origin, was elected to join the group of 40 so-called "immortals" who defend the French language by compiling a dictionary. The son of a leather merchant who survived Auschwitz, Finkielkraut told France Inter radio after hearing the news: "Fifty or perhaps 60 years ago, certain circles of the Académie would have taken offense at the son of a Polish Jew with an unpronounceable name. Today, my national identity is being reproached. The spirit of the times changes, but what can you do? Stupidity is perennial."

The stupidity in question was an ill-fated protest that took place after Finkielkraut had been asked to declare his candidacy for the Académie. Some academics who remained anonymous told the French press that Finkielkraut was too "divisive" (using the French neologism "clivant" which, some journalists pointed out, is not even in the Académie's dictionary). One objector even stated that if Finkielkraut were elected, then France's far-right wing National Front party would "enter the Académie."

Jean Clair, an art historian and former director of Paris's Picasso Museum, told Le Monde it was "ignominious" to call Finkielkraut a "harbinger of the [National Front]," given his family history and the latter party's extensive record of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Yet other observers of the French literary world contended that for some years, Finkielkraut had been "playing with fire," as Jean Birnbaum wrote last year in Le Monde in a review of Finkielkraut's "Unfortunate Identity" ("L'Identité malheureuse"), a lament about doomed French society, permanently ruined by immigrants. Finkielkraut was not criticizing his parents' generation of immigrants, but rather more recent ones from Africa who refused to assimilate.

The more recent the immigrant the more nativist. 
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Posted by at May 31, 2014 8:07 AM
  
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