The Paris intelligentsia
Cada vez que Patricia de Souza y yo discutimos sobre un autor que a mí me gusta y a ella le repele, Patricia da por concluida la discusión con un argumento irrefutable: "A ése en Francia no lo conoce nadie" Dicho lo cual pasamos a otro tema. Ya no sé si lo dice en serio o si es una broma entre los dos. Por eso no es de extrañar que haya reaccionado en su blog sobre el tema del Time y la "muerte" de la cultura francesa (en lo que respecta a la mención que hace de mi opinión, debo aclarar que aquello de la "decadencia de las culturas dominantes" es una idea que se desprende del texto de Bernard-Henri Levy en The Guardian, no es mía). Por coincidencia leo el post de Patricia de Souza minutos después de leer este artículo en New Statesman, de Andrew Hussey, donde comenta la aparición de las Memorias de Philippe Sollers -en las que, al parecer, se baja a todo el mundo- a quien califica como "epitome of snobbish, bourgeois, mondain Paris". Hussey, de pasada, incide en el tema de la supuesta decadencia de la cultura francesa.
Dice la nota: "It is all the more apposite that the biggest literary event of the Parisian festive season is the publication of the memoirs of Philippe Sollers, a vain, gossipy but undoubtedly talented novelist who is the epitome of snobbish, bourgeois, mondain Paris (Sollers's Maoist youth is only further proof of this pedigree). At the age of 70, Sollers is seeking to establish himself once and for all as the greatest writer of his generation with Un vrai roman: Mémoires. He sets out with waspish attacks on the great writers of his vintage (Julien Gracq, Patrick Modiano and Le Clézio all come in for a battering), an account of his love affair with Julia Kristeva and of the "cultural terrorism" that he launched on the world with the journal Tel Quel in the 1960s (which introduced the likes of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault). Above all, Sollers sees himself as a libertine in the 18th-century tradition, arguing against medi ocrity and in favour of intellectual dandyism. Reading Sollers's Mémoires is like a visit to a bygone age when polo-necked post-structuralists ruled the (Left Bank) world. If Sollers is largely unknown in the anglophone world, this is simply because French writers no longer occupy the central place they did in the days of Sartre or Camus. Nonetheless, in France, Sollers is a force to be reckoned with - no victim to false modesty, he ranks himself beside Mozart, Voltaire or Nietzsche as one of the thinkers who have changed the very substance of their age.
I once interviewed Sollers in the 1990s. He was friendly, avuncular and witty - much as he seems on the telly. The only thing that worried me was his lack of sympathy with popular culture or ordinary people. When I asked him about the cultural significance of the Sex Pistols and rap music I met a genuinely blank face: he had literally never heard of either of these phenomena. This perhaps tells you all you need to know about the vaulting gap between the Parisian intelligentsia and the real world, which has, since then, only grown wider. One of the most interesting facts about the riots of 2005 and 2007 has been the absolute silence of Parisian intellectuals on the subject - presumably because it doesn't fit in with their idea of the real world.