Thursday, September 11, 2008

La Rentrée

I love France. My first visit was when I was 14 and I played rugby for a while in a town in the Pyrénées called Perpignan. I now work for a French company, Publicis, headquartered on the Champs Elysées next to the Arc de Triomphe, and I still believe Paris is one of the great 5 cities in the world. My love of France is also why I bought a house in St. Tropez and why I’m a big fan of French Rugby, French wines, French cheeses, French Cuisine (by far my favorite), and French philosophers.

However, as much as I love it, it is not always easy to get things done in France, particularly in August when the whole country takes off for summer holiday. For a start, Paris becomes a ghost town and I know, to my own pain, it is impossible to see a surgeon during that period. But now August is over and we have La Rentrée, the new school year; the new beginning. In France La Rentrée is similar to January 1 in the US. It’s a time for resolutions, new commitments, new beginnings. Elle magazine writes that “the French are like eternal children that return to school every year.” That may be true, however, based on my observations this year it seems gloomy, despondent and pessimistic. Generally the weather was pretty poor in August and French people are certainly at their best when the sun is on their backs. I hope politically, emotionally, and socially the country can lift itself out of this gloom quickly. Europe needs an optimistic France, France needs major reform, and I need a good mood from all my French colleagues to help us get through the next 6-9 months of continued economic difficulty.

President Sarkozy will be in New York next month to be honored by the Marion and Elie Wiesel Foundation where my boss and inspirational partner, Maurice Levy, was honored last year. I hope Sarkozy (and, of course, Carla) succeeds in getting France refocused and reenergized because the world needs his leadership.

But tell me this. Everywhere in the world the Publishing Industry keeps all their blockbusters for April/May and hammers them all out just before summer which is a peak reading period. In France there is a cascade of new books waiting to launch this week. Only French logic would determine the peak season for new books is when people return from vacation, go back to work and have less time to read. You’ve got to love them.


Piotr Jakubowski said...

Went to Paris for the first time this summer, and fell in love with it. The lifestyle, the culture, all the little side streets with their cafes. The food was fantastic as well. Had a chance to speak with some people who also work for a French Company, and they did mention the fact that August is dead. Didn't know it was so literal.

Nothing beats a river cruise down the Seine at night!

Anonymous said...

The pessimistic atmosphere do break up my Paris dream.Hope everything will come back into normal soon.

Sophee McPhee said...

Intimacy: surviving a prolonged journey in a rickety elevator the size of a shoe box.

Sensuality: the smell of fresh chocolate crepes being served hot off the grill in front of the awe-inspiring Notre Dame.

Mystery: a beautiful stranger zeroing in on you from the pavement and asking you to accompany him for an early morning espresso.

I love Paris. From the time it was born, it has had the lovemarks ‘strategy’ down to a tee. I've been separated from my lovemark for far too long, and I simply must see her again. Soon.

Jean-Philippe DIEL said...

Amis Francophiles Bonjour !
Maybe I can shed some light into the book releasing calendar... Could it be that it's actually in work commutes that people read the most ? I have been a Parisian 4 years and I remember 2 hours of subway commute in Paris and everyone ignoring their neighbor by dipping their nose into a book... Now there is also all those book awards and I guess the need to create a buzz in time for Christmas sales... non ? Oh well at least Carla released her new Album before the holidays... ;-)

Jean-Philippe @