Friday, October 17, 2008

Famous French postmen

French postmen have often become famous in one way or another. For example, a rural postman named Ferdinand Cheval [1836-1924] devoted his off-duty hours to building an extraordinary naive-art concrete edifice in the village of Hauterives, not far from where I live.

[Click the photo to access a video about the Postman Cheval.]

For many observers, the Postman Cheval [whose name in French means horse] was a crazy idealist, motivated by a strange architectural passion. He spent 33 years erecting his so-called Ideal Palace, and another 8 years in building his personal tomb. We can suppose that, during all this time, the mail got through normally. In the '60s, the great writer André Malraux, who had become the minister of Culture for Charles de Gaulle, decided that the palace of the Postman Cheval should be classified as a French heritage masterpiece in the category of naive architecture.

In a quite different domain, some of France's legendary aviation pioneers might be thought of as postmen, since their employer, the Aéropostale company, started out as an airmail delivery service.

When he wasn't risking his life flying over oceans and mountains to deliver mail to distant lands, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote Vol de Nuit (Night Flight) and the fabulous philosophical tale of the Little Prince.

One of France's best-known postmen was a fictional character invented by the cinéaste Jacques Tati [1907-1982].

In his enthusiasm to deliver the mail rapidly and efficiently, Tati's extraordinary village postman, played by the cinéaste himself, was obliged at times to overtake an entire bunch of competitive cyclists.

Today in France, a 34-year-old real-world Parisian postman named Olivier Besancenot is renowned in the political arena.

In last year's presidential elections, Olivier Besancenot was the candidate of the extreme leftwing party, the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, and he obtained an honorable score of over 4 percent of the votes: that is, almost a million and a half votes.

Insofar as the outdated adjective "Communist" sticks out like a sore thumb in the name of Besancenot's party, it was decided in 2007 that a new party would be created, in a modern European context, to replace the aging French LCR. For the moment, its tentative name is Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste, but its inaugural congress won't take place until next year, so everything is still in a state of flux. It goes without saying that, for a new political party whose name includes the adjective "anticapitaliste", the current world economic crisis has been an immense promotional godsend. But Besancenot has had another extraordinary windfall of a totally unexpected kind.

In May of this year, the French weekly magazine L'Express revealed that Olivier Besancenot and his female partner were being spied upon in a totally unacceptable old-fashioned style, recalling the habits of former Soviet nations. Besancenot immediately filed a legal complaint. A week later, as the guest of France's most popular talk show, hosted of a Sunday afternoon by Michel Drucker, Besancenot had the good fortune to be able to evoke this intrusion into his private life. Finally, over the last week or so, we've learned that the spying would appear to have been organized by a certain Antoine Di Zazzo, who's the French importer of Taser stun guns, which are now issued to French police. [I'm expressing myself cautiously, because this is an ongoing legal affair, and an accused individual is considered to be innocent up until a French law court decides otherwise.]


In 2007, Olivier Besancenot dared to state publicly that this weapon could be lethal, whereupon the French importer accused him of slander. This affair will be judged tomorrow in Paris, and Besancenot will be defended exceptionally by a high-profile barrister who doesn't normally practice law any longer: the former TV journalist Noël Mamère, now a member of parliament associated with France's "green" party. In other words, tomorrow, Di Zazzo will be the accuser, and Besancenot, the accused. Because of the espionage inquiry and findings, we now know that, in a forthcoming trial, their respective roles will be inverted.

In any case, a brilliant political future can henceforth be predicted for this charismatic young French postman.

1 comment:

cm said...

Thank your for this article! I knew all people you mention, but it never crossed my mind to think of them as postmen, which of course they were/are.

Next time I come to see you I would like to visit Facteur Cheval's place - I have never been there. Unfortunately, it is a bit too late for a flight in St. Exupéry's plane...

As for the last one, "bon vent" as the French say.