Tale of two cities: how the virus lockdown revealed the class divide in France – world


When the successful French novelist Leila Slimani – the author of The perfect nanny– admitted that she felt “a bit like Sleeping Beauty” while contemplating the locking of the coronavirus in the comfort of her country house, she struck a very raw nerve.

Class tensions, never very far from the surface despite the beautiful feelings of the French national motto “freedom, fraternity and equality”, exploded.

Parisian women without second homes to flee to apologize on social networks, with economist Thomas Porcher, author of The Leaves (which roughly translates to “Those who stay”), calling Slimani “indecent”.

With biting irony, journalist Nicolas Quenel recommended that poor families read the newspaper of his bucolic confinement in The world newspaper to “ease the tension of life in 15 square meters”.

Apartments in the French capital are often tiny, with almost a quarter of the population living in 30 square meters or less.

Famous writer Marie Darrieussecq received similar treatment for describing sea voyages and deer grazing in the garden of her second home.

The novelist Diane Ducret was not impressed.

Stuck in a two-room apartment and unable to see the sky, she said they were typical of a certain class of intellectual elite disconnected from France “for whom the revolution does not seem to have taken place”.

She compared Slimani to “Marie Antoinette playing on the farm” in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles and “almost as much in contact with the people’s fear and anguish”.

Later, the Queen of France lost her mind to the poor angry Parisians.

In a scathing stripping from Slimani’s diary Marianne In a magazine, Ducret described how his elderly neighbor recently committed suicide by throwing himself out of the window of his tiny bed because the owner wanted to sell him, convicting him on the street.

The virus has “exposed our inequalities,” she said. “When it comes to a certain social class … when our precious freedom is challenged, equality becomes just an ideal,” she added.

When France declared its lockout three weeks ago, about a fifth of the capital’s population fled to the country and the seaside, sparking resentment in the provinces.

Many accused “selfish Parigots” – slang for Parisians – of having spread the virus.

Indeed, Darrieussecq timidly wrote about the use of his second car in the country because “it is not good to get around” on the plates of Paris.

Young fashion designer Romain Mittica chose to stay in his studio in a poorer corner of north Paris rather than travel to the east of France and risk infecting his parents.

Extending his arms, he can almost touch both walls.

“I leave the window open so that I don’t feel so locked up,” he said.

But at least he just has to live with himself.

An exasperated grandmother, Kouther, told AFP that she was “losing her mind” while trying to entertain her five grandchildren in a 30 square meter apartment.

“We will kill ourselves if this continues,” she said as the children ran around a bare square at the foot of a group of towers.

The playgrounds and parks have been closed since the start of isolation, the French are only allowed to exercise once a day, as long as they do not move away from more than one kilometer from home.

“You can’t keep kids locked up like this. It’s wrong. They can’t play with their friends, ”added Kouther. “They fight from morning to night. “

The father of the children is an independent delivery driver who had to continue working to respect his contracts. Their mother works in a supermarket, which is also open.

Like Slimani, Kouther, 63, was born in Morocco, but the similarities stop there.

“The rich don’t care – they wouldn’t be rich if they did,” she said.

But as she continued to glorify herself in the bliss of the country, Slimani – whose book, titled Lullaby in the UK it is about two children murdered by their nanny – admitted that not everyone was so lucky.

“We are not equal,” she wrote. “The coming days will aggravate these inequalities with a certain cruelty. “

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