Narrative feature

Is France now the sick man of Europe? It is if it’s taking Eric Zemmour seriously

The bestseller Le Suicide français reveals a political thinker in the Jeremy Clarkson league, says Graham Robb

22 November 2014

9:00 AM

22 November 2014

9:00 AM

Le Suicide français Eric Zemmour

Albin Michel, € 22.90

For the Figaro journalist and TV commentator Eric Zemmour, whose Le Suicide français has been topping the bestseller lists in France, France is ‘the sick man of Europe’. The land of liberty was once admired by the whole world. Then came May ’68, feminism, immigration, consumerism and homosexuality. On the surface, nothing has changed; espressos are still being plonked down on zinc counters, and ‘the legs of Parisian women still turn heads’. But ‘the soul has gone’. Gays and Muslims are taking over, and France is ‘dissolving in the icy waters of individualism and self-hatred’.

The blurb calls Le Suicide français an ‘analyse’, but there is nothing analytical about it. Society, according to Zemmour, is a mass of self-righteous fools who must be held in check by powerful men. All social change, other than natural degeneration, is the result of laws passed by politicians. The more those politicians resemble Napoleon or de Gaulle, the healthier society will be.

The tale begins (like Sarkozy’s autobiography) with the funeral of General de Gaulle. ‘Here ended the series of providential French men initiated a century and a half before by Bonaparte, a national speciality like Camembert or Gevrey-Chambertin.’ ‘Providentiel’ is the term conventionally applied to French leaders who plotted or carried out coups d’état for the good of the patrie.

This ‘big cheese’ view of French history provides the filling of an interminable, half-baked baguette of indigestible prejudice. Criticism of Zemmour’s book in France has focussed on his dismissive remarks about the Vichy régime: instead of indulging in an orgy of self-castigation, France should congratulate itself on having saved so many Jews. There are many other inflammatory and unsupported statements. He suggests, falsely, that the Muslim boys whose death sparked the Paris riots of 2005 had committed a burglary. He insults ‘minorities’, pressure groups, left-wing journalists, Americans (‘capricious, insatiable and lacking self-control’), his compatriots (indistinguishable from Americans), and the Dutch referee who enabled the flaxen-haired, disciplined Germans to defeat the creative and impetuous French in the 1982 World Cup semi-final in Seville.


The underlying problem, says Zemmour, is women — not the ones whose legs turn heads but the ones who go out to work. Because of feminism (repeatedly referred to as ‘the burning of bras’), abortion and contraception were legalised, ignoring the fact that ‘while there may be unwanted pregnancies, no pregnancy is ever undesired’. The normal ‘complexities of private life’ were mistaken for ‘violence against women’. The emasculation of the patrie was confirmed by the rise of homosexuals — ‘evolution’s answer to the population explosion?’

For Zemmour, the dominant male is the pillar of civilisation. If a man be not legally superior to his wife, he will not be ‘sexually reassured’, and the wife will end up hating him. For a woman to admire her husband, she must be dominated. Only then can she ‘give herself without shame’. This explains why ‘women still marry men who are better qualified and better paid than themselves’. In the old days, before the de-trousering of French society, women could understand ‘a sexuality different from their own’. They were happy to see their husbands run off to the brothel or a mistress, and ‘a concupiscent hand passed over a charming female bottom’ did not result in a sexual harassment complaint.

Perhaps the book itself is a symptom of the sickness it describes, but then so is the fact that this pantomime polemic is being taken so seriously in France. In some countries, the mind of Eric Zemmour would belong to the realm of light entertainment. He might be fêted as a blimpish anachronism, the hilariously pontificating author of a ‘Why everything is merde’. As a political thinker in the Jeremy Clarkson league, he might still pursue a career in television.

This kind of pseudo-analytical ranting is not automatically subject to ridicule in France. Xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic views are not infrequently aired in what might otherwise be called polite company, and Zemmour’s opinions are not particularly outlandish. Some of his jibes at Euro-bureaucracy, ideologically tendentious legislation and slavish veneration of May ’68 are even quite defensible. There is, however, something odd about the 530-page ensemble.

No one has this many ridiculous prejudices, or, if they do, they don’t usually form such a coherent package. The question is: why was the book written? Is it an attention-seeking rant or a serious manifesto? Amid the tear gas and the smoke of burning bras, a faint light occasionally shines and an oily condescension seeps into the prose. One group alone is spared Zemmour’s insults. He calls them le peuple — the hard-working, white, male citizens of the true France. In 1993, the law was changed to allow parents to name their children as they wished. Until then, only names in the calendar of saints and ancient history had been accepted. Suddenly, there were Mohameds all over the place. ‘With the feeble weapons at their disposal, the people tried to defend their national euphony’ by calling those traitors ‘Momo’. ‘They softened and gallicised those guttural consonants,’ but to no avail.

Today, Zemmour’s France lies dying from self-inflicted blows, and those proletarian boys, neglected by a politically correct élite, ‘find it hard to seduce girls who prefer the glibness of students or even the ostentatious virility of the “scum” from the banlieue’. According to Zemmour, many of them vote for the Front National. In a nation which, unbeknownst to Zemmour, has been multicultural since before the Revolution, that may indeed prove suicidal.

Available from Spectator Bookshop (by phone only 08430 600033) at £27. Graham Robb has written widely on France, including biographies of Victor Hugo, Balzac, Rimbaud and Baudelaire.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10


Show comments
  • BFS

    Needless to say that Eric Zemour simply by steering back to how humanity thought or simply reacted just a few decades ago (and for hundreds of thousand of years before that) suddenly looks extraordinarily bold and independent in his view.

    He is upsetting the politically correct vegetative navel gazing mass thinkers intellectuals, rainbow idolaters, with no back bone that have managed (using fake good sentiments and making the normal to look ridiculous ) to fraudulently establish a mad new normal relativist thinking disorder. Poor little things,

    By stating the truth and nothing more that, for which the use of exagerations is forgivable, shall it be the case, Mr. Zemour is hopefully helping many of us to wake up from a very bad dream.

    • gerontius

      Haven’t read the book, but upvoted you because i like the cut of your jub.

    • cartimandua

      It was thrilling wasn’t it when women were domestic slaves.

      • Laguna Beach Fogey

        Got your knickers in a right twist, eh?

        • cartimandua

          Is France so stupid these days that they think homosexuality “arrived”. It used to be a country of some intellect.

          • Mr Grumpy

            Who says they do?

          • cartimandua

            All the people who bought the book. But then of course France is still Priest ridden.

      • Tom M

        About as thrilling as working down a coal mine, rivetting the sides of ships or pouring molten steel into moulds for twelve hours a day I imagine.

        • geraldo nosebrawl

          Don’t forget the 24-hour swing shift every second week.

        • Paule Deneau

          Indisputably soul & body crushing work..industrial revolution nightmare. Don’t forget the sweat shops, linen & cloth mills, stables & kitchens /coal stoves) hospitals, institutions, and domestic servitude all largely the employment of women. Read Charles Dickens, everyone’s life was blighted. And don’t even get me started on the cottonfields, sugar cane, rice, coffee & tea plantations etc….all work shared by both sexes. I am also aware that there are still brutal jobs today, high rig steelers, meat butchering plants, assembly lines, oil fields, mining, fighter pilots, long haul rigs etc. and yes they are still largely done by men and ‘some’ women too. Or some women have tried but were discouraged (Tailhook in the USA) Let’s just keep moving forward together!

    • red2black

      When is an exaggeration the truth?

    • Alberto Dietz

      The solution for France (and for most of Europe) is called Marine LePen.

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    What a sniffy, snarky little article.

    What is genuinely suicidal for France and Europe is the kind of mass non-white immigration and multikult thinking that has brought our civilisation to the brink of war. Though not perfect, Front National may be part of the cure.

    Additionally, women may indeed be the problem, and Zemour certainly has some sound views on them, but who gave a voice to the original feminist trouble-makers? Who tolerated their nonsense in the first place? Alpha males? Le peuple themselves? Plenty of blame to go around.

    • EricHobsbawmtwit

      How is our civilisation on the brink of war?

      Have you been at the brandy?

      • Laguna Beach Fogey

        How can you have missed the rising urban unpleasantness?

        Old prescription on your specs?

        • EricHobsbawmtwit

          No, there’s always been urban unpleasantness. When I was a kid it consisted of white dog poo and the occasional riot. Today we don’t have the dog poo, so I conclude society has massively improved.

          • Laguna Beach Fogey

            You’re in so deep that you can’t see it.

          • Bumble Bee

            yeah, today we have a british soldier beheaded in his own capital, school infiltration, sharia patrol and thousands and thousands of mass raped girls nobody cares about

            you must be in a coma

      • Zanderz

        A slightly different view, but relevant – the western world hangs by a thread. There is absolutely no self sufficiency built into our system – we are entirely dependent on the services and products of other entities. Should any of our key services stop (electricity, water, gas, fuel etc) then we’ll all be feral & tribal in a few weeks. So, yes, we are on the brink of war, it’s just hidden beneath a very thin veneer.

        • cartimandua

          Not everyone lives in an urban horror.

          • Zanderz

            Just the vast majority.

      • Mr Grumpy

        When I hit the brandy I have dreams where the RAF are bombing British jihadis who specialize in decapitating British aid workers. Thank goodness nothing like that could really happen.

    • dalai guevara

      Stay off the Calvados, mon ami.
      Multikult is here to stay – you may want to extend the cave you are about to have to crawl back into.

      It is France that state-owns its energy supply, a thought the UK is tinkering with but will never do, simply because that market is already in foreign hands.

      It is France that state-owns its railways. Look at it. No comparison to Britain which is crippling itself to fund HS2 – something the French did thirty years ago.

      It is France and Paris thirty years ago that had the same issues London has today – we will have to respond to those issues and find better solutions than the French. I am seeing little evidence that the clientele which frequents these blogs is aware of that.

      • greggf

        France shows Britain an alternative future it could have had.

        • dalai guevara

          in order of appearance
          1- the same future – multikult is an internationally recognised and appreciated phenomenon
          2- agreed
          3- I think you will find history is reversible
          4- I think you will find repeat history is already in the making

          • greggf

            If you believe Britain can reverse its current trend dalia, first it must change its voting system to Westminster.
            Because FPTP allows, even encourages, an oligarchy to control power throughout the UK. And it is quite evident that this oligarchy has sort of habits which are resistant to change, even though they are propelling the nation down a path to sort of Carey Street.

  • Zanderz

    As others have commented, the points raised in the book are a reflection of what has happened to Western society over the last 40 years. We are in a rapid decline where nihilistic hedonism will be the de facto motivation of our society.

    And then, as all histories show, our society will crumble from the inside to be taken over by one that has strong rules, strong social structures and a strong identity – anyone know what that could be…

    • cartimandua

      We live longer and better than we ever had in history. What we don’t know how to do is employ everyone when machines do so much which used to be “manly work”.
      Its not women at fault its just modernity.

      • Zanderz

        I agree – the Western world is a feminised place where masculinity is not an admired – or required – trait. Hence the big problem of young men in our society, they see no purpose for themselves.

        • ‘Required’ is certainly the key point here. We have lived without danger for so long, so gradually jaws have softened, weakness has been celebrated, the art of manliness has been lost. The father’s role in the traditional family can now de facto be outsourced to the state, which has dealt marriage – already an institution against men’s biological impulses – a death blow.

          And children of either sex are raised Exactly The Same – because that’s what they are, right?

        • Paule Deneau

          Zanderz, well they could join the human race/all genders) and find cures for cancer, ebola etc, build better housing,design more efficient cars, anti pollutant methods, and in short continue the work of the ages in science, math, medicine, engineering, architecture, music, philosophy, the arts, literature etc. or just build a gazebo for the backyard if they are lucky enough to have one. All these endeavors belong to all of humanity and we are the better for it. A woman’s hands can wield a hammer as well as a rolling pin. And there are many men AND women that can be admired and I do. It’s called an egalitarian society. All is not ‘lost’ as you seem to believe.

      • Gregory Mason

        Living longer doesn’t necessarily mean better. We are far more comfortable but I do not see how such comfort will benefit society long term. It will just make us soft.

    • Laguna Beach Fogey

      Note how the feminists are silent in the face of Muslim cruelty towards women. Instead, they prefer to continue to rail against the imagined crimes of White men, becoming even more ridiculous and embarrassing themselves in the process.

      It’s probably the case that feminists hate white men more than they care about women. An anti-White animus, I suspect, trumps everything.

      I think this ought to be investigated further.

  • Bill_der_Berg

    “He insults ‘minorities’, pressure groups, left-wing journalists, Americans (‘capricious, insatiable and lacking self-control’)

    Blasphemy! Has the man no respect?

  • beenzrgud

    France is dying, and in my opinion it’s probably terminal. I believe the reason for this is largely because the French expect something for nothing. They have their problems, the same as us, with things like immigration, but their sense of entitlement really is something to behold.
    I expect in the end they will as usual be casting about for someone to blame for their demise, and it will likely turn out to be us. La perfide Albion strikes again no doubt !!

    • Gregory Mason

      The French unlike us I think will actually fight to stop the negative affects of mass migration. We don’t seem to have the stones for any of that these days, just a resigned apathy.

  • Mr Grumpy

    No doubt Zemmour has his prejudices, but his unforgivable crime is plainly that he doesn’t share the bien-pensant prejudices of the writer. Is Graham Robb a nom de plume for Emily Thornberry?

  • cartimandua

    Perhaps women just find him disgusting??? He doesn’t sound as funny as Clarkson. he just sounds nasty.

    • EricHobsbawmtwit

      He’s engaging in a paper and print form of click-bait.

      I expect the royalties from the book will be more than enough to allow him to live in the best brothel in France for the rest of his life.

    • Laguna Beach Fogey

      You’re just engaging in creep-shaming.

      Utterly typical.

      lol

  • cartimandua

    It is not the fault of women that the nature of work has changed and men have not yet adapted to the changes.

    • Laguna Beach Fogey

      It’s never the fault of women. Pure, blameless angels.

  • Blindsideflanker

    When we have May banning an American because he gave seminars in how to pick up women, and May going to introduce laws for emotional cruelty, can’t the same thing be said of here.

  • red2black

    Anyone actually read the book? Sounds a bit trendy to me.

    • Paddy Kilshamus

      Yeah I read it. Nowhere near as good as Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail.
      We should remember that France is the birthplace of the poison of Egalitie Libertie Fraternite which has pervaded the West like a veneral disease, eating away at our immunity to absurdity and producing the syphilitic ravings of the demented advocates of mass immigration. Perhaps the disease can be stopped at its source in France but alas, America too is founded on that poisonous trinity of lies.

      • red2black

        Raspail’s book is on line as a pdf, so I can have a quick read.

        • Paddy Kilshamus

          It is well worth a read. It is even a possible scenario for the future.

          • Simon Fay

            I thought it was the basis of a treaty to which all Western states had signed up, and the name of a Common Purpose course deemed de rigeur for local govt officers.

          • Paddy Kilshamus

            it is required reading on all common purpose courses. There are striking similarities with the situation in Southern Italy and the camps at Calais. The idea of Europe as the Promised Land takes possession of the minds of the Third world masses and they overwhelm the West by sheer volume of people. Similar to the scenario that Gadaffi threatened the West with if he was removed from power. It really is a worthwhile read. The images linger in the mind a long time.

  • The Master

    Somewhat mixed thinking on Zemmour’s part. On the one hand, women need to be dominated, on the other he rails against Islam. Nothing like the old beardies for a bit of domination of the ladies

    • cartimandua

      I know. What he is really whining about is that he thinks white men are no longer obviously dominant.

      • The Master

        I dominate in my household, but please, don’t tell my wife I said so…….

      • Laguna Beach Fogey

        Well, admittedly it’s a rather odd and dangerously unsustainable situation when a chap is no longer head of his own household.

      • Randy McDonald

        What he is wishing, I think, is longing for a France of old while not acknowledging that in that France he himself would not have been wanted.

  • David

    Fascinating. Highly overblown to the point of silliness, but still fascinating. There is a kernel of truth in much of what he says, but it is exaggerated beyond respectability. Men have suffered under feminism in Europe and you only need to live in Asia to see how things are when gender roles are more sensibly delineated and less politicised; both sexes seem to be happier.

    • cartimandua

      Utter cr** women are abused in those societies in every possible way.

      • David

        And you would know how, exactly?

        • cartimandua

          These things can be and are measured. Just to begin with there are vast amounts of child marriage and trafficking of women and children in all of them except possibly Japan.
          The domestic abuse stats in Japan are still waay above what is found in western Europe.

          http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/07/06/editorials/violence-against-women/#.VHNHFZVybm4

          • David

            One solitary article in the Japan Times does not your case make!

          • Randy McDonald

            How much more evidence of pervasive violence and discrimination would you want?

  • EricHobsbawmtwit

    A concupiscent hand on an attractive behind is quite expensive in London.

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    Observe the Lefties desperately scrambling to denounce Zemmour.

    Point, sputter, j’accuse!

  • runningdog

    “For a woman to admire her husband, she must be dominated. Only then can she ‘give herself without shame”. This is all very Hegelian . . . the concept of right together with the actualisation of that concept. I’m not sure that Hegel had anything to say about mandating children’s names though, although it’s a nice idea.

  • Albin

    France is a figment of its own hyperactive imagination. Nobody has admired it since the Napoleonic wars and the only convincing rendition of the Vichy period was written in real time by an elegant Jewess exterminated at Auschwitz before it could be published.

  • greggf

    “….May ’68, feminism, immigration, consumerism and homosexuality.”

    Surely, more simply, “metropolitan socialism” would be more succinct?

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    It’s very curious that Graham Robb leaves unmentioned the fact that Zemmour hails from an Algerian Jewish family.

    Those like Robb who are denouncing and dismissing Zemmour appear to filthy anti-Semites, and they ought to be investigated.

  • Simon_in_London

    “Xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic”

    I’m feeling quite lefty-phobic right about now.

  • ‘while there may be unwanted pregnancies, no pregnancy is ever undesired’.

    That seems like a nuance that didn’t translate from French to English. Surely it can’t be that silly sounding in the original.

  • Andrzej Baltimore

    Another review by a politically correct leftie.

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