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Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French Paperback – May 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1999, Canadian journalists Nadeau and Barlow moved to Paris for a two-year fellowship to study France's culture and economy in an effort to understand why the French resist globalization. They began by examining this puzzle: How does a country with "high taxes, a bloated civil service, a huge national debt, an over-regulated economy, over-the-top red tape, double-digit unemployment, and low incentives for entrepreneurs" also boast the world's highest productivity index and rank as the third-largest exporter and fourth-biggest economic power? By delving into France's cultural and political history, the authors show how it all works. Chapters are devoted to the French obsessions about World War II and the war in Algeria and how these events still shape attitudes and policies. Other chapters explore the French insistence on precision in language, their sense of private space, and the effects of immigration. In an era of irrational reactions to all things French, here is an eminently rational answer to the question, "Why are the French like that?" Beth Leistensnider
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"Should be handed out at Calais and Charles de Gaulle airport to anyone hoping to get a grip on France." Daily Telegraph, 10 March 2004 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 351 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks; 1st edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402200455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402200458
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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233 of 252 people found the following review helpful By Erik Olson VINE VOICE on July 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Even though I never bought into the whole "freedom fries" thing, until recently I would've been less than kind in my appraisal of the French. However, after visiting Paris for four days in June of '03, I came away with a whole new appreciation for France and its people. I backpacked through four different countries during my trip, and France ended up being my hands-down favorite.
Why the change of heart? Well, first of all Paris has to be seen to be believed. I'm a history buff, and the city is soaked with centuries of it. However, it was the people that really made an impression on me. I was assisted in my wanderings by a number of kind French, including a woman who gave myself and some others an impromptu tour of Notre Dame, and even had three of us over for (free) dinner at her parent's restaurant. And all that just because I asked her for directions! I confess that I fell in love with Paris, and after returning home I began looking for books to learn more about a place that could turn my opinions around so quickly.
I almost skipped over this one - the title and goofy cover art made me think it was some sort of satire. But I gave it a shot, and it turned out to be one of the best books I've read this year. It answered many questions I had about France and the French, from the turbulent history that formed the French national identity, to why a Frenchman spent about a minute correcting my pronounciation of "Champs Elysees." Better yet, the authors write in an accessible, entertaining style, even when dissecting the minutia of French government. A great read from start to finish - don't let this one get away.
I can't wait to go back to Paris, and if you feel as I do, or just want to know why "60 Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong", then by all means get this book!
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Digbee VINE VOICE on March 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a very readable and enjoyable introduction to French "culture." More specifically, the authors want to explain various features of France to North Americans. They are certainly qualified to do this, being fully bilingual journalists; he is Quebecois, she is Ontarian. Though they are Canadian, they are writing for a US audience as much as for a Canadian one, and they regularly compare all three countries.

The book consists of three parts: "Spirit," "Structure," and "Change." The part on Spirit is by far the best. It provides a good entry to diverse aspects of the French mindset, sometimes using the device of "studying the aborigines" in France. These include, for example, the French attitude toward land, their fondness for grandeur, and their notions of private and public space. The section is full of anecdotes and discussions with French people, and these voices come through very well.

The section on "Structure" is much less successful. Perhaps, as a political scientist, I am inclined to be overly critical of those who discuss politics without the analytical apparatus that the discipline uses. Still, I see that other reviewers were also disappointed in this section. I think the problem is that the authors rely too much on "regular people" as sources. This strategy works really well when people are talking about their own views of things, as in the "Spirit" section. It doesn't work so well when people are talking about things outside themselves, especially if those things may require some expertise to understand, such as the economy.

When Nadeau and Barlow make generalizations about France, the US, or Canada, it's important to realize that all three of these are diverse countries.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Simpson on May 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a rare breed in the world of nonfiction: a factual book you'll actually read through to the end.
In a lively style punctuated with anecdote, authors Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau trace how the society and politics of France have evolved over the centuries. The result? We start to understand there is a distinct French character and that the current showdown between France and the English-speaking world is not resistance for its own sake, but the result of the real, historic differences that exist.
This book is for anyone who has ever lived in France, visited or tried to do business with the French. It will illuminate some of the mysteries and answer questions you didn't know to ask.
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95 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Sidney B. Hickox on December 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
The book is not totally without value but I believe that problems issue from a limited knowledge of the people of greater France plus for the purposes of comparison a lack of knowledge of the United States. I have lived for the better part of four years in the beautiful and rural Department of the Correze in what is considered southwest France. I came here to retire from Southern California. I have visited Paris a few times but am just as much a tourist there as most Americans.

Unlike the Nadeaux my knowledge of the French language is not first rate inspite of time spent here. Yet I am able to communicate well enough with many French in the area in which I live and have made close and interesting friends. They are most tolerant of my language failures and my nationality. They would be quite surprised to know that they close their shutters for privacy rather than for weather conditions or that they would never show the insides of their homes other than the Selon or Cusine to guests. Contrary to the book or perhaps contrary to Parisians, in the evening light emminates from my neighbors homes even to a kilometer away across a little valley to the village and the Maire and Ecole.One should also remember homes dating from the Middle Ages don't have a lot of windows or portals.

If political corruption is overlooked,as written, why is President Chirac facing charges of misuse of funds when he served as Mayor of Paris? The system here protects politicians from prosecution while serving in office but that ends when he leaves his elected positon. The former Gaulist Primier Juppe was certainly brought up for illegal political donations although he apparently did not personally benefit.
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