Fascinating & highly relevant article from the New York Times on the struggle to preserve the French language during an age of globalism.
The article details the great struggle to “preserve the integrity of the French language” both domestically and internationally in literature and popular culture. Leading the pro-French charge is the “French literary Bill O’Reilly” – a conservative journalist called Eric Zemmour. Interestingly, Zemmour himself is descended from Spanish Jews who fled to French Algeria in the 1800’s, which underlines both France’s diversity and the complex racial underpinnings of the struggle.
Increasingly, it seems that the future of the French language lies outside of the French metropole. There are 200 million French speakers in the world, and only 65 million are in France itself. Even in France, French is on the decline – elites favor English and the lower classes have no “respect for the integrity” of the language. But the torch has been picked up by the French in Africa, Canada and the Caribbean. Writers across the Francophone world are beginning to write in French. Even non-Francophone immigrants to France – such as a formerly Russian writer called Andrei Makine – are choosing to follow in the tradition of Beckett and Kundera, writing in French instead of their native language.
So all is not lost for French. But the language’s literary future may very well lie beyond the metropole – a reality that may take some getting used to for its Parisian proponents.