PARIS — One of the oldest enmities in Europe — the English versus the French — has been given a boost by a book that’s got folks on both sides of the Channel in high dudgeon.
Entitled “Pour en Finir Avec l’Anglais” (“To Have Done With the English”), the book is a tongue-in-cheek diatribe against his Anglo-Saxon neighbors by a mysterious French academic. The author used the nom de plume Chanteclair, the French cockerel that symbolizes national pride.
“Objectivity obliges one to recognize that the English…are the dirtiest, most hypocritical, beastliest, and, in a word, most harmful of all the human race,” opines Chanteclair.
London broadsheets and tabloids all took turns lambasting the book as a dangerous outbreak of the long-running verbal war between England and France — two nations united by their mutual contempt.
“Face it, France, you’re the shrill nag of Europe,” trumpeted a headline in the Sunday Times. “The French have always had an inflated view of themselves and they are having to come to terms with the fact that the rest of the world views them as funny, ill-mannered, strutting little provincials.”
By coincidence, French Culture Minister Jacques Toubon recently unleashed a plan to eliminate the use of English from all business correspondence.
Then the Paris weekly Globe, which is partly financed by Pierre Berge, plastered a photo of John Cleese in a bowler hat, knickers and suspenders on the cover of its latest edition, devoted to English puritanism and recent ministerial scandals.
“I’m a bit upset that people took it so seriously. It’s meant to be a spoof,” Chanteclair, an economics professor, told WWD — in fluent English.
His paperback, he said, was partly in response to a recent British book called “I Hate the French Official Handbook.” “I only meant to send a shot across the English bows, not to launch a Patriot missile,” pleaded Chanteclair.
These are some of Chanteclair’s “shots”:
How do the English reproduce?
“Given the English liking for homosexuality, the reproduction of the race remains a mystery. We can, however, advance the fol -lowing hypothesis. One of the consequences of puritanism is that the Englishman cannot accomplish the sexual act except in a state of drunkenness. It is therefore probable that a certain confusion over the target of his attentions might arise, and, from this misunderstanding, conception can occur.”
The English and food:
“The English are great lovers of good wine and food. How then can you explain the awfulness and repellent nature of English cuisine? The dreadful fish and chips served in newspaper, the disgusting steak and kidney pie, the inedible puddings, the unbelievable roast lamb with mint sauce, repugnant jellies?
“The answer is simple. Obsessed since the Napoleonic Wars by the fear of a French invasion, the English invented a Machiavellian strategy. Make it impossible for a French army to contemplate a long-term stay on English soil by the impossibility of swallowing the abject local food. In case of a military invasion, any attempt to force French soldiers to eat the food would result in mass desertions and rebellion.”
The Royal Family:
“The English are very attached to the Royal Family, in spite of criticism from pseudo-intellectuals and seeing the state of advanced degenerence of its members (locking up the royal relatives because of madness, horse faces — due to over-frequent visits to paddocks — and sexual perversions revealed by their obsession with hats).”