Bruno Le Maire isn’t the only politician to try his hand at an erotic novel, but one passage has been singled out for attention
Sex in novels is frequently terrible and occasionally so excruciating as to verge on the actionable; indeed, a legal precedent that would penalise writers for scorching their readers’ retinas with the sheer heat of embarrassment might function as a useful deterrent. Literature needs all the fans it can get; protect us from the throbbing gristle and heaving mammaries of a thousand overheated imaginations. Institute a particular ban on the word moist, and freedom of speech be damned. Alas, it would be too late to curb the creative enthusiasms of Bruno Le Maire, the French economy minister whose most recent novel, Fugue Américaine, has erm, risen to prominence courtesy of a dilated anus. Protect your eyes and do not enquire further.
Naturally, much of the truly gripping stuff is going on beyond the page. Le Maire stands accused of fiddling while Paris burns, amusing himself on his typewriter as France’s citizens stand on the barricades protecting their pension rights and railing against the callousness of the Macron administration. This feels harsh: everyone has a right to a life outside work and writing about an anus seems small beer compared with eating one on national television in a celebrity game show, or hosting frothing rightwing debates, were one, say, to be a sitting member of parliament.
Le Maire has form in literary circles, not merely as an author – this is not his first rodeo – but as an actual character; he is the inspiration, if that is le mot juste, for the character of politician Bruno Juge in Michel Houellebecq’s most recent novel, Anéantir (Annihilate), a typically lighthearted romp through woes both contemporary and timeless: mortality, the death of love, violence, alienation, that sort of thing. Le Maire and Houellebecq are pals, whose intimate soirées to parse passages of Balzac were written in the stars when the politician helped the writer in the tricky bureaucratic matter of repatriating his beloved corgi Clément’s remains from Ireland to France over a decade ago. (So attached was Houellebecq to Clément that he exhibited a series of photographs and watercolours of him at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo a few years ago, accompanied by the deceased dog’s toys and a monologue by Iggy Pop. And they say the English are mad about their dogs.)
But back to sex. It rarely thrives out of context, whether in prose or actual life, and we should salute Le Maire for having a go; he is, at least, interested in books, rather than being a mere dilettante cashing in on his public profile. Politicians, as we know, have far less edifying passions, and the gatekeepers who would create a special category of “proper” writers should remember that for every Dorries there is a Disraeli. We must not be cowed by the memory of Boris Johnson’s sub-Wodehousian foray into fiction, Seventy-Two Virgins, though it is to be devoutly hoped he never attempts it again.
Meanwhile, in life as in literature, there is always a subtext. Le Maire, who has previously clashed with Macron, is touted as a possible contender in the French presidential elections of 2027, in which the incumbent cannot stand for a third term. It’s a little early for his rivals to get going, but if the electorate remembers a dilated anus before it remembers Le Maire’s political record, then tant pis.
Source: The Guardian