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Emmanuel Macron wants to redefine French culture (The Economist)

Mis à jour : 12 Fév 2018

But some Francophone writers are not impressed
Print edition | Books and arts (Getty image)
Feb 8th 2018 | PARIS
A PHILOSOPHY graduate and unpublished novelist, Emmanuel Macron treats French culture like a national treasure, and the French language as a jewel. “French is the language of reason, it’s the language of light,” the president declared when inaugurating the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, a silver-domed gallery on a sandy shore that he called a museum “of the desert and light”. Mr Macron has vowed to make French the first language in Africa, and “perhaps” the world; he named a young bestselling Franco-Moroccan novelist, Leïla Slimani, to lead this mission. Yet his campaign to rejuvenate French, and to open the country up to writers who share the language around the world, has inadvertently revived a French culture war.

Today more people speak French in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, than in Paris. By 2050, thanks to population growth in Africa, some 85% of the world’s French-speakers will live on the continent. Mr Macron has been promoting French on his recent travels to the Gulf, China and, pointedly, Ghana, an English-speaking west African country surrounded by French-speaking ones. Visiting Tunisia, he said he wanted to double the number learning French there by 2020.