To The Barricades

As soon as I became French (and I was already half French through my mother) I realized that my new compatriots were lazy, swindling, resentful, jealous, proud beyond all measure, to the point of thinking that anyone who is not French is a savage and incapable of accepting criticism. I have also understood that to induce a Frenchman to recognize a flaw in his own breed, it is enough to speak ill of another, like saying “we Poles have such and such a defect,” and since they do not want to be second to anyone, even in wrong, they react with “oh no, here in France we are worse,” and they start running down the French until they realize they’ve been caught out.

They do not like their own kind, even when advantage is to be gained from it. No one is as rude as a French innkeeper. He seems to hate his clients (perhaps he does) and to wish they weren’t there (and that’s certainly not so, because the Frenchman is most avaricious). Ils grognent toujours. Try asking him something. “Sais pas, moi,” he’ll respond, and pout as if he’s about to blow a raspberry.

They are vicious. They kill out of boredom. They are the only people who kept their citizens busy for several years cutting each other’s heads off, and it was a good thing that Napoleon diverted their anger onto those of another race, marching them off to destroy Europe.

They are proud to have a state they describe as powerful, but they spend their time trying to bring it down: no one is as good as the Frenchman at putting up barricades for whatever reason and every time the wind changes, often without knowing why, allowing himself to get carried into the streets by the worst kind of rabble. The Frenchman doesn’t really know what he wants, but knows perfectly well that he doesn’t want what he has. And the only way he knows of saying it is by singing songs.

—Umberto Eco, The Prague Cemetery

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11 Responses to “To The Barricades”


  1. 1 possum November 29, 2011 at 5:46 am

    “They are proud to have a state they describe as powerful, but they spend their time trying to bring it down:”

    Are the French Republicans in disguise?

  2. 8 Bryan Sheehan November 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Heh. I owe my handle and a smidge of my personality to this movie, my all-time fave.

  3. 10 Josefa March 28, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.

    You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your weblog when
    you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

    • 11 bluenred March 28, 2014 at 11:29 pm

      Well, this is interesting. Attack spam. Telling me I’m a muck-up.

      I like how it tells me I should write more. When here I wrote not a word. But instead cadged words from another.

      And then chides me for relying on a video. Saying I could do much better in words. Right. Sure.

      The particular video in question, not least because it is not in word, but in song, overriding and overflying every mere word that has ever been written about this place and these people and this period in time, ever.


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