Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beijing partisan

[This post is based upon an article in Ouest-France,
27 July 2008, by Donatien Huet.]

The married name of this 50-year-old lady is Anh Dao Traxel. Try to identify her. I'll give you a few hints... She was born in Vietnam and suffered terrible hardships there before her expatriation to France in 1979, as a 21-year-old refugee who didn't speak a word of French. Today, Anh Dao is married to a French police lieutenant, Emmanuel Traxel, and she has a French passport.

She has an Olympic message. Last 22 July, she scrambled up onto the Great Wall of China and unrolled a banner, authorized by Chinese authorities: For international peace, in the Olympic spirit.

The Traxel couple have four children, with very French Christian names: Bernard, Laurence, Jacques and Cassandre. Do these names help you to figure out her identity? When asked why she was militating for the success of the forthcoming Games in Beijing, Anh Dao replied: The education of Bernadette and the affection of Jacques made me want to reach out to others, just as they once reached out to me. My involvement is, as it were, a homage to my parents.

Anh Dao is the adopted daughter of Jacques Chirac and his wife Bernadette.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scum in the suburbs

The French-language website called Le Post, run by the prestigious daily Le Monde, publishes articles written by internauts as well as professional journalists.

Early this morning, this portal featured a short presentation of a video sequence in which the CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour asks Nicolas Sarkozy, standing alongside Barack Obama at the recent press conference at the Elysées Palace, if he regretted his use of the term "scum" in a declaration made by the French president back in November 2005, designating rioters in the suburbs. The article was erased from the portal a few hours later, and replaced by a short message that doesn't tell us what happened.

Fortunately, I kept a copy of the offending article, and I can see retrospectively what went wrong. As you will see in a moment, it was basically a transcription error on the part of the French internaut called Chamizam who signed the article.

Christiane Amanpour speaks French, but she actually used English in her question, and her use of the word "scum " for Sarkozy's "racaille " is, to my mind, perfectly correct. Here is the exact wording of Amanpour's question to Sarkozy: "I'm wondering whether you feel today, when you stand next to somebody you clearly admire so much and who has broken so many barriers, that you regret that term, or that you wish you hadn't said it." Curiously, the internaut Chamizam, who presented the video in the Le Post website, claimed that Christiane Amanpour's question could be translated into French as follows: "Monsieur le Président, ne regrettez-vous pas votre propos raciste? " [Mr President, don't you regret your racist expression? ] Clearly, no professional interpreter at the Elysées press conference would have made such a translation blunder. As I see things, somebody has alerted Le Post of this journalistic fault, bordering on slander [the internaut has taken the liberty of introducing the adjective "racist "], and they've simply removed Chamizam's article.

Here, in any case, is the video in question:

In conclusion, I think that Amanpour's question was excellent, in the usual direct and slightly impertinent style of this brilliant Persian woman. And I'm sorry that Chamizam's presentation of the video wasn't simply corrected, rather than being axed. If Christiane Amanpour had wanted to be really nasty, she might have asked the president if he regretted having suggested, back in those days when he was minister of the Interior, that rebellious youth in the suburbs should be treated with a Kärcher cleaner. But that exotic question would have surely made Barack Obama wonder what the hell was going on in France...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lascaux paintings in peril

Pollution problem

The cave of Lascaux, with its Upper Paleolithic wall-paintings, dating probably from the Solutrean epoch (21 to 18 thousand years ago), is located in the Dordogne department of south-west France, in the ancient province of Aquitaine. To avoid damage through pollution, the main cave, referred to as Lascaux I, has been permanently closed to sightseers ever since 1963, but they have been able to visit a nearby replica known as Lascaux II.

A year ago, the authorities were alarmed by the discovery of black mold in certain parts of the cave system, and it was recently decided to ban all humans from Lascaux I for a period of three months, while the moldy areas were treated with a biocidal product. Although the outcome has been encouraging, Unesco has nevertheless presented France with an ultimatum. If the mold is not totally eradicated within a year, the caves could be added to the dishonorable list of World Heritage entities in peril.


Last Friday, the French minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, visited the site and outlined a draconian program of "vigilance" designed to get rid of the black mold. In the commune of Montignac, the entire hill where the caves are located is to become a sanctuary, with the prohibition of all human construction and the gradual purchase by the state of all the surrounding land. Vehicles will no longer be allowed to park near Lascaux II, whose visitors will be obliged to access the replica cave on foot. Finally, Unesco has asked France to organize an international colloquium of experts, early next year, to examine the challenges of preserving Europe's prehistoric wall paintings.

Raison d'être of this blog

This blog has been created by William Skyvington, 67, who resides at Choranche in the Isère département of France.

French Leaves will present posts in all kinds of domains related to France: politics, culture, science and technology, sport, etc.