Jeremy Harding

8 July 2024

The barrage holds

Relief, renewed anxiety, several surprises. These are the mixed feelings of a country that voted down the Rassemblement National on Sunday. As the blog’s unreliable narrator on France, I’ve presented readers with poll predictions in earlier posts that turned out to be wide of the mark. That Marine Le Pen’s party would come in third, as it has, behind the Nouveau Front Populaire and Macron’s Ensemble alliance, was a long shot. Turnout in both rounds of voting was about 66 per cent, the highest since President Chirac dissolved the National Assembly in 1997. High turnouts were said by some pollsters to favour the RN, but it wasn’t the case.

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1 July 2024

Occluded Fronts

For years, in round after round of elections, the far right have been treated by French public broadcasters as dangerous animals, caged by skilful moderators and prodded through the bars by political opponents. But it may no longer matter. Le Pen’s party now has a wealthy patron who has let it loose in his vast private media domain, where it roams at leisure as his favourite charismatic species.

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12 June 2024

Macron en feu

Emmanuel Macron’s announcement a few hours after the polling stations closed on Sunday night that he would dissolve the National Assembly left his opponents – and many followers – wondering what the point could be in calling a snap election for the end of this month, with a second round, where necessary, on 7 July. Macron pitched his decision to the electorate as a way of bringing the recent ‘fever that has taken hold of public and parliamentary debate’ to a head – and presumably nursing the patient back from delirium after the crisis. But his chances of success are low.

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11 January 2023

Charles Simic 1938-2023

Charles Simic, who died on Monday, was a regular contributor to the LRB for nearly 25 years. Born Dušan Simić in Belgrade in 1938, he left Europe as a teenager in the 1950s and the family settled in Chicago. He became a US citizen in the 1970s, retaining dual nationality. In the 1990s he was intrigued by international press coverage of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. Reviewing The Serbs by Tim Judah in the LRB in 1997, he argued that there was no deep-rooted concept of a ‘Greater Serbia’ driving Milosevic’s policies: it was just a bogus ‘Plan B’ after his ‘other schemes to extend his power over the rest of Yugoslavia had collapsed’. But ‘even if Mahatma Gandhi had been the president of Serbia there would still have been a Serbian problem to solve.’ Like many former Yugoslavs Simic wasn’t cut out for the reinvention of primitive nationalisms in Europe. Nor is his verse.

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27 October 2021

Subversive Activity

Last week the Israeli defence minister, Benny Gantz, signed an executive order designating six Palestinian NGOs as ‘terrorist’ organisations. One was Defence for Children International – Palestine, whose offices had been raided in July. Others included the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Workers’ Committees. The most distinguished ‘terrorist’ organisation under Gantz’s executive order is Al-Haq, a human rights NGO founded in the late 1970s, which focuses on legal issues in the Occupied Territories. Al-Haq’s primary purpose is to defend the rights of Palestinians under occupation.

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6 January 2021


The late Pierre Cardin bought the château in 2001 and the arts school was acquired the following year by the Savannah College of Art and Design. That’s when the process of ruin in Lacoste underwent a curious reversal: the dilapidated castle was rapidly refurbished while the village beneath – population in the low hundreds – became a lifestyle showcase, like Cardin's high-end prêt-à-porter, as he began buying up property. Some of it was empty, but several residents were prêt-à-partir: his offers were too good to refuse.

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1 December 2020

Unreasonable Force

Lecturing at the Collège de France thirty years ago on the nature of the state, Pierre Bourdieu queried Weber’s notion that functioning states enjoy a monopoly of ‘legitimate physical violence’. Bourdieu already preferred the expression ‘legitimate and symbolic physical violence’, and in the lectures he commented: ‘One could even call it the “monopoly of legitimate symbolic violence”.’ In the last few years, the French police have overstepped the mark. The use of unreasonable force is nothing new. More worrying is the coincidence, on more than one occasion, of physical violence with sinister signals that make a mockery of the idea that the police are a ‘legitimate’ expression of symbolic violence on the part of the state. If they are, then France is in trouble.

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18 March 2020

Into the Bunker

Macron spoke again on Monday evening. His tone was more sombre; the time had come for a ‘general mobilisation’. ‘We are at war,’ he kept repeating. For most people, it turns out, the struggle will unfold without a trace of the martial virtues: these will be left to first-responders, medics and carers. The rest of us would simply have to crawl into the bunker and remain there ‘for at least 15 days’, effective from Tuesday noon, in the knowledge that the enemy, in Macron’s words, is ever-present, ‘invisible, elusive, making progress’. It isn’t inappropriate or tasteless to recall that in Camus, too, the plague ‘never ceased progressing’ or that it had ‘a characteristically jerky but unfaltering stride’.

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29 April 2019


The fire in Notre-Dame de Paris was extinguished in the small hours of 16 April. But residual heat from the blaze has left several brush fires smouldering.

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7 December 2018

In the Fog of the Real

As the gilet jaune revolt moves forward and another destructive showdown looks imminent tomorrow in Paris, the government – and the president – have opted for the lesser of two contradictions. The greater: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you set aside progressive fiscal policy and tax rich and poor at the same rate, putting social justice – a grand French aspiration – in parenthesis. That didn't work. The lesser: to reduce your national carbon footprint, you get alongside low earners and help them through a difficult transition, even though the climate jeopardy of clapped-out diesel UVs is absurdly obvious. But that hasn't worked either.

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