French destiny, Eric Zemmour's new book, is a powerful and profound meditation on History. Faithful to himself, the essayist revisits the past to better deconstruct the present. Surprise: in a poignant introduction in the form of a confession, he also reveals his childhood and his family.
"We are from our childhood as we are from a country," wrote Saint-Exupery. And to understand Eric Zemmour, it is this source that must be drawn. His name starts with a Z, like Zorro, but at 10, Zemmour dream of being Bonaparte. He devours André Castelot's Napoleon, "with his green cardboard cover", which his mother offered him for his birthday. His mind wanders in 1800 in the middle of battlefields. He saw the imperial epic again. On his galloping horse, the child wearing his cocked hat loads with the soldiers of the Grande Armée, vibrates at the victory of Austerlitz and cries after the retreat of Russia and Waterloo. Later, he discovers Lost illusions. Balzac is his Vautrin, who teaches him to grow. It is decided, for want of being able to be emperor, it will be Rubempre. Unless he is the author of The human comedy himself. "From childhood, I understood that France was this unique country made of heroes and writers, heroes who claimed to be writers, and writers who dreamed of themselves as heroes," he writes. French destiny.
One of the immense surprises of the 569 pages abounding of his new essay, concerns the first 40. At 60, in a poignant introduction in the form of a confession, the essayist reveals the most precious part of himself, the one he hitherto kept jealously for him: his share of childhood. It took six months for Lise Boëll, Albin Michel's editorial director of essays and documents, to convince this great modest to indulge. Zemmour laughs at being loved. He wants to convince by his ideas, not by what he is. By reason, not by emotion. And yet, how can one not be touched by the destiny of little Zemmour and his family? As Camus had dedicated The First Man, his most personal work, his mother, Zemmour dedicates his book to his parents. They experienced the tragedy of the returnees thrown into the sea with a cardboard suitcase. However, they have not conceived any rancor with France. "France was life; Algeria, nostalgia. France, the great nation; Algeria, the little homeland ", summarizes Zemmour. At home, we sing Aznavour during the day and Oum Kalsoum at night. His father speaks Arabic in the cafes of Goutte-d'Or, but holds French literature for the world's largest, and notes carefully on a notebook the sentences of Victor Hugo ...
One day, shortly before his death, he confides to his son: "I'm tired of hearing on television" the Jews of France ". I am not a Jew of France, I am a Jewish Frenchman. I'm not a stranger or an immigrant ... "This sentence says almost everything about Eric Zemmour. She sums up the meaning of her fight. Not for ethnic purity, as claimed by his detractors who did not understand anything. But for assimilation through transmission and culture. "I do not have a drop of French blood, but France runs in my veins," said Romain Gary. "The history of France flowed in my veins," writes Zemmour.
France as a lost paradise
For the show The Sunday Terrans! Thierry Ardisson, which will be broadcast on September 16 at 19:05 C8, Zemmour returned to Drancy. Where he spent his early years. Since he was 11, he had never been back.
Behind his eternal mischievous smile, Zemmour hides his trouble badly. He stops at length in front of number 22 where his family lived on the ground floor. He walked the park where he tobogganed and played football with his friends. The Faidherbe residence has not really changed. The decor has remained the same. The little bar has remained the same. It's the actors who have changed. In the park, Zemmour meets a veiled girl. "In my day, it would have been unthinkable," he slips. Little Zemmour grew up in the 1960s in a France where the expression "living together" did not exist, but where national cohesion and sense of belonging were a reality. In the suburbs before family reunion and drug crazies, before the beards and burqas. "I have no bad memories here except for leaving. It was a haven of peace, a paradise, "says the essayist. Zemmour will forever be inconsolable about this lost paradise, this pacified France that he refuses to see disappear forever.
"Eric Zemmour returned the situation and showed the whole table that the idiot, it was not him ..."
Very early, well before Charlie and the Bataclan, he saw everything: multiculturalism and militant anti-racism combined with mass immigration, the reduction of the history of France to its "darkest hours", individualism consumerist exacerbated by so-called happy globalization, had to compromise the assimilation of newcomers and fuel the fire of identity. Retrospectively, French Suicide (2014) appears in every respect prophetic. His phenomenal success (500,000 copies sold) proves that he echoed the deep anguish that inhabited many French people. But as Nicolas de Chamfort said: "In France, those who set fire and persecute those who sound the tocsin are allowed to rest." As long as the Parisian salons thought they could ridicule him, Zemmour was tolerated. As Michel Onfray noted it in FigaroVox with his sense of the usual formula: "Invited at the end of the table for dinner cons, yes, but Eric Zemmour returned the situation and showed the whole table that the con, it was not him ..." They did not forgive him. Nourished with Balzac's milk, Zemmour had learned "to know men and women, to fear and be wary of them, to expect nothing from them except envy and pettiness." He was not unaware, besides, that "controversy is the pedestal of celebrities" (Lost Illusions). He sometimes gave in to the risk of lending the flank to the caricatures. It must also be said that nothing was spared him: neither the repeated trials nor the most delusional calumnies. One day he is presented as a Zionist, following him as an anti-Semite. Designated as Islamophobic in the morning, portrayed as an Islamist in the evening. Some want to silence him by all means. The release of his book of chronicles, A quinquennium for nothing (2016), is torpedoed. Its space of expression is reduced from year to year: in spite of hearings at the top, i-Télé suddenly dismisses it in December 2014, today RTL withdraws its editorial ...
The trap is close to closing on him. Zemmour could have fired any wood. On the contrary, it avoids outbidding. Understands that he must not become a talk show figure and is becoming rare. Like the Count of Monte Cristo, he meditates his revenge. It will take the form of French destinylishhis work is both the most personal and the most accomplished. He could have done the following French suicide. On the contrary, he chose to write the book of genesis. His own genesis and that of France today. Suicide ... told the forty years that defeated France; Destiny ... revisits the thousand and five hundred years that made the Great Nation. A titanic job that took him three and a half years. A meticulous Stakhanovist, Zemmour rewrote every chapter dozens of times. With breath and style, he confronts his masters: Michelet, Bainville, Taine. But also because France is a literary nation, Bossuet, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo and of course Balzac.
Make no mistake: his latest book is not just a monumental history book. Admittedly, the essayist embarks the reader in "the machine to go back in time", from Clovis to Joan of Arc, from the Crusades to the Wars of Religion, from the absolute monarchy to the Revolution, from the Empire to the Republic, from the Great War to the "funny war", from Petain to de Gaulle, from Beauvoir to Butler (American philosopher, specialist in gender studies), but it's mostly a book by Eric Zemmour. His domestic national novel. The author gives up nothing of what made his success as fed the anger of his adversaries: the formulas that cut through life, the vertiginous historical analogies, systemic theories, debatable shortcuts, outrageous paradoxes, the refusal to spare the susceptibilities and the pleasure of displeasing the clergy of the time. If Zemmour explores the past, it is once again to better deconstruct the dogmas and blindness of the present. Zemmour remains Zemmour. A warrior. His sword is his pen.
The revenge of history
His homeland? Heir to the Roman Empire, the originality of French civilization was to melt and amalgamate Mediterranean elements and barbaric elements, says Eric Zemmour. "France was, by its Mediterranean coast, in intimate contact with the worlds Greek, Roman, Byzantine; by its Atlantic coast, with the Scandinavian Vikings; by its Pyrenean border, with Islam; by the Rhine, with the Barbarians, "he writes. But the unity of this complex mixture, which made our strength as our weakness, could be maintained, according to him, only by a strong state and after a series of bloody internal wars.
Eric Zemmour refuses to apply to History our contemporary morality. We can blame him for always distrusting emotion, never being a Manichaean. At home, nothing is ever all white or all black: everything is gray. Heroes act like bastards, bastards like heroes. The weak as strong, strong as weak. Zemmour dismounts the black legends one by one: those of the crusades, wars of religion, colonization, France collabo. Montaigne said that he loved Paris "even in its warts and its spots". Zemmour takes up the famous word of Bonaparte: "From Clovis to the Committee of Public Safety, I assume everything." At the risk of shocking, he prolongs it: "From Clovis to Petain and Bugeaud, I assume everything." No to rehabilitate Vichy, as good consciences are indignant at it. But because he knows that history is complex, tragic. For Zemmour, she does not repeat herself, she takes revenge. And the deadly poison of repentance infuses the new civil wars to come.
With French destinyZemmour shows all those who wanted to reduce him to the role of controversial champion of the buzz that he is much more than that: an intellectual and a writer.
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Journalist at Figaro and responsible for FigaroVox.