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22nd of August, 2003 POST·MERIDIEM 04:55

I ended up watching the “Naked in Westminster” reruns on Sky One last night (I should have been ironing or cooking or doing anything other than finishing a bottle of Casa Roja—I’ve had better wine, btw—in front of bad TV. Nngh, must move somewhere with DSL and no widescreen TV) and Catman, the unpreprocessing bald beponytailed main man of the place ends up going to Paris, the “showgirl capital of Europe” because none of the women who responded to his ads will take off all their clothes. And, well, the showgirls they interviewed in this “showgirl capital of Europe” turned out to be for the most part English ballerinas.

Which reflects what seems to me to be a very British conception of France today; stuck in a continual rewind of the belle époque , the period when France had to pay war reparations to Prussia and life and flesh became as cheap as they were to do in Berlin forty years later. The cancan shows are among the most popular tourist sights to be seen in Paris. The writers of the time, Rimbaud, Verlaine and de Maupassant continue to be widely studied abroad, to the detriment of their modern successors. Even GQ, normally pretty together on this sort of thing, in an article on the mundanity of mistresses south of la Manche  describes the country as Catholic and thus prone to bouts of guilt. Now, modern France is less Catholic than modern England is Anglican or modern Sweden Lutheran, which makes it very non-Catholic indeed.

The truth is something like; the place is middle-class as fuсk, the health service is great, the trains are great, they’re even occasionally polite to the tourists, they spend several times more a year cleaning up their capital than do the British, their roads are great, and some of the only interesting things that are happening are happening among the first and second generation immigrant populations. France is currently about as culturally productive as Switzerland has been historically. The only interesting places in Europe today, culturally, were Communist fifteen years ago, and life and flesh are cheap there today. Can someone name a publication of the calibre of http://​www.​exile.​ru/​ founded since 1995 outside the former Communist bloc?

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