French newspaper round-up 7 January 2016


Charlie Hebdo, Pierre Boulez and Emmanuel Macron share the front-page honours this morning. The satirical magazine is still in business, despite the massacre of 11 of its editorial team one year ago. Boulez leaves a great silence in the world of contemporary music. Macron has a dream.

Boulez is described by Le Figaro as the pope of contemporary music. He died on Tuesday at the age of 90. Libération’s front-page headline simply reads “Silence!”

Recognised as a major figure on the global music scene, as both composer and conductor, Boulez is variously qualified as demanding and intransigent. His music is not easily accessible, being based, according to the composer himself, on controlled chaos, chance and surprise directed by the will of the writer, which is none too accessible as an idea.

But he wasn’t all avant-garde austerity. In 1984 Boulez famously conducted the Barking Pumpkin Digital Gratification Consort in three works by Frank Zappa of The Mothers of Invention. Zappa said Boulez was a very weird individual, and most people would agree that Frank knew the territory.

The French composer said he found the American’s music inexpressive but an interesting exercise in style. After the Paris concert, Zappa enigmatically said no one could have done it better than Boulez.

Exactly 12 months ago Saïd and Chérif Kouachi killed 11 members of the editorial team of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

According to the main headline in right-wing paper Le Figaro, 7 January 2015 was the day the jihadists declared war on France.

Le Figaro notes that, one year after the tragedy, the identity of the individual who planned and directed the January attacks, probably from outside France, remains uncertain.

It is still not clear how the attackers obtained the weapons they used, nor have the police managed to identify the potential reinforcements mentioned in several messages to the killers as they hid in a print works in northern France.

Communist L’Humanité publishes a special edition to commemorate the fact that Charlie is still with us, despite the tragedy.

L’Huma says the past year has brought out the best and the worst in the French republic.

The public solidarity with the victims and the re-appropriation of republican symbols have been among the best; the drift towards a totalitarian security system and the plan to enshrine the state of emergency in the constitution represent the worst.

The communist paper quotes the words of its founder, Jean Jaurès, reminding President François Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls that “socialism is powerless without the republic but without socialism the republic is an empty shell.”

Catholic La Croix attempts to understand how the terrorist attacks of last January and November have changed France.

The philosopher Tzvetan Todorov says the country is right to insist on the defence of the French identity but must be careful not to pay too high a price in losing such characteristics as openness and plurality of cultures. France is a far wider and worthier concept than the “prison” advocated by some on the right wing, he believes.

International relations specialist Dominique Moïsi says there remain too many fundamental contradictions in foreign policy, notably on the question of relations with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia.

There is a crying contradiction in the fact that the home of the original declaration of human rights continues to do business with the Saudis, who recently executed 47 prisoners, or with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, despite the Russian annexation of part of Ukraine, he feels. These contradictions mean that French influence in global diplomatic debate is reduced, forcing the emphasis onto security and military solutions.

Finally, Le Monde gives the front-page honours to Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron. He says the way to defeat terrorism and the rise of the far-right Front National is to boost the economy.

Macron says politicians have to stop being stupidly optimistic. No one believes that crap any more. What the French want to know is what their leaders propose to get them out of the current mess. More work, more growth, more money would go a long way to making life harder for the terrorists, says Macron. To achieve that we need fewer rules and more flexibility, according to the minister.