(Image source) Things can't really get much worse for French president, François Hollande: the economy is limping, his new government is already in the firing line, Nicolas Sarkozy may be launching a political comeback at any time, unemployment is over 10% and now, well, his private life is splattered all over the press. When it comes to being unpopular (he is at a record all-time low of 13%) and looking an idiot, he doesn't need much help from Valérie Trierweiler. He is managing very well all by himself.
Do I want to read 'Merci pour ce moment'? Of course I do! Hell hath no fury and all that - and besides anything else, the French deserve to know just who they voted in to power and who they're stuck with until the next elections in 2017 (though most have a pretty good idea by now).
There is a saying here: l’information s’arrête à la porte de la chambre à coucher. Huh! Had people known what DSK (and others besides) was up to behind a LOT of closed doors, it would have saved many women a great deal of humiliation and suffering. Nuff said.
Kim Willsher writing for The Guardian says, 'Valérie Trierweiler’s score-settling book about her life with François Hollande, published this week, does not stop at the presidential bedroom door. It does not even knock politely, but kicks it off its hinges, trampling taboos, totems, rules and privacy in its muckraking wake. Merci pour ce Moment (Thanks for the Moment) has no racy sex scenes, unless readers find the image of a besuited Hollande kneeling on a bed with his head in his hands a turn-on, but is still a torrid read, described by one French commentator as “sentimental pornography”. It is also deeply disturbing on many levels.'
(Image source) What has really rocked France is not the news of Hollande's infidelities (nobody is even remotely taken aback) - Gayet won her case against the gossip magazine who revealed the affair just six days ago - but the revelations of his condescension and antipathy where the poor are concerned. Punct. According to Trierweiler, he mocks them unmercifully, labelling them (amongst other insults) "les sans dents", because they can't afford dental treatment, reports The Guardian. Oops. Not at all good for a left-wing leader who won his election in 2012 on promises of social justice. But isn't it better that truth will out?
The surprise launching of Trierweiler's book has caused stuff worthy of a soap opera script. One of the strongest voices to defend him comes from none other than Ecology Minister Segolene Royal, the mother of his four children and his partner of 25 years - the very woman he dumped for Trierweiler.
(Image source) Imagine for a moment the mind-boggling scenario of a British PM with one lover at Number 10 threatening to do herself in whilst another is round the corner waiting to replace her. Can you? No. Impossible. There'd be immediate resignation as we have witnessed with MPs caught in cars with dubiously long-legged ladies who aren't their wives and sowing wild oats beyond their own yards, see HERE, HERE and HERE for example - and they weren't Prime Ministers. They were MPs. In the UK, we call such scandals 'sleaze' and we definitely do NOT appreciate them. Au contraire this side of the puddle: whenever a president of the Vè Republique has been caught en flagrant délit so to speak, his approval ratings have improved.
Interestingly enough, my ex-pat friends are dying to read it. For we Brits, Hollande's antics are fascinating because they are so utterly UNTHINKABLE. How can he possibly behave as shamefully as he does and retain his seat as the President of France? It's an enigma.
Trierweiler is loathed in France today and getting a battering from all sides. Did she expect it? Probably. And why? Because she has broken a cardinal rule: 'the private life of a public figure must remain inviolable'.
But it is not this book that will damage Hollande. 'Trierweiler merely goes to confirm the general sense of government that took power with noble intentions, but rides a moped to a lover’s den at night, while during the day acts not out of evil or deceit, but in a way that is incorrigibly shabby,' says Ivan Briscoe for The Herald. Correct.
(Photo source) As certain bookshops refuse to stock such a torchon and TV channels loudly omit to mention it, it makes Trierweiler's kiss-and-tell all the more enticing. Haven't the French learned that the more one tries to cover something up, the more tempting it becomes?
Gérard Collard, a bookseller in Saint-Maur des Fossés, near Paris, told The Telegraph he expected sales to reach half a million. He said the book was "a huge success of the kind you only see once a decade" and that it had "displeased the politicians" but sold well to "the middle classes who feel under attack by President Hollande" and have seen their taxes rise since he came to power. I bet!
Interestingly enough, there are quite a lot of scathing books out by former French politicians that are likely to embarrass and make not only waves but veritable tsunamis. According to the NYT, we have 'I Will No Longer Stay Silent,' by Claude Bartolone, president of the National Assembly (out Oct. 15th) which sounds ominous; 'The Parties Will Die ... and They Don’t Know It,' by Robert Hue, former Communist Party leader (fun all the way in that one, me thinks); and even more depressingly, 'To Future Generations Who Will Have to Pay for Our Mistakes,' by 84-year-old former prime minister, Michel Rocard to look forward to. And that's not all.
Already on the shelves is 'From the Inside: A Voyage to the Land of Disillusion,' by Cécile Duflot, once leader of the Greens who resigned as Hollande’s housing minister, describing her two years in Hollande's cabinet (and none too flatteringly either). "His main fault is that he doesn’t say what he means," she writes. She criticises him for abandoning his Socialist Party base and by extension, herself. 'Her disappointment with a president who failed to follow her advice jumps off almost every page,' says the informative article 'Raw Politics on French Bookshelves' in the NYT.
There's a biography of Arnaud Montebourg due out this week, too. Oh blimey. Remember him? Economy minister, he was fired after unsuccessfully challenging Hollande’s policies last month, which wreaked havoc and triggered a cabinet reshuffle. The book, 'Montebourg: I, President,' (sounds like a spoof on I, Claudius!) is probably proof that Montebourg's exit was nothing short of a relief. But still. More scandal, more dirt-dishing, grubby laundry, lots of the smelly stuff and not enough shovels - none of it anything for which le palais de l’Elysée should be proud.
In the meantime, the first 200,000 copies of Trierweiler's book have sold out. More are being printed, and expected to be on the shelves by Wednesday. I for one shall be waiting and perhaps I shall pick up a copy of Duflot's book too while I'm at it....
This latest French farce hot off the boards of a théâtre de boulevard could close with a particularly tragic final scene, for Marine Le Pen (far-right FN) is waiting in the wings looking horribly smug. She is now heading the polls for 2015 and it is estimated that she would beat Hollande in a second round. What an odious thought. Is that the real reason Trierweiler is so hated? For putting France in danger? Surely, one needs look no further than the President for that.