Le Maire and Schiappa controversies: when did we switch to this puritanism? By Sylvain Fort

Le Maire and Schiappa controversies when did we switch to

It’s still funny, this idea that a minister should not write, but devote himself entirely to his task, day and night, without unhitching. That publishing a book, a fortiori a novel, when one exercises ministerial responsibilities is an admission of dilettantism. If an erotic scene slips into the story, then it’s downright Sodom and Gomorrah.

Since when did we switch to this puritanism which, after casting the suspicion of concussion and conflicts of interest on the entire political class, will now censor their right to dream, to create, to write, as if politics, having ceased, as we know, to be a profession, had become a kind of mission resembling the vestal and the hermit?

It is understood that politicians must not have a body (Marlène Schiappa’s legs have come to remind us of this), must not have a soul (it takes the serenity of François Bayrou to explain his reservations about the end of life law), and henceforth we must refuse them to have a spirit, and pour it into books. Except, of course, when this spirit is so pure that it leads to opuses as immortal as I am writing to you from the front of the Somme (by François Ruffin, September 2022) or Beyond the Androcene (by Sandrine Rousseau, August 2022). The mind, therefore, reduced to its militant part, to its social function, to autotelic theories, in short, the mind only has value as a pure auxiliary to the political machinery, deprived of its freedom, its doubts, its transports, of its very flaws.

De Gaulle, Churchill, Malraux, and even VGE…

Puritans who laugh at a minister who writes while publishing their ephemeral tracts themselves say this: the only dignity of a politician is his usefulness and this usefulness is basically so questionable that it must to be bought by a life of monk-soldier. I believe precisely the opposite. I’m not saying this to defend Bruno Le Maire, who defends himself well. I say this because politics will eventually die of this virtuous robespierrism. I say this because I do not believe that Charles de Gaulle has been sued for dreaming of being Chateaubriand and of trying, in his Memoirs, to equal it; to André Malraux, minister, to pursue the vertiginous deepening of his views on art; to François Mitterrand to dream of being a Chardonne while writing to Anne Pingeot letters of a subtle delicacy which will earn him, I hope, to enter literary history as one of its great letter-writers; to Valéry Giscard d’Estaing for wanting to be Maupassant (without quite succeeding).

We have forgotten that Winston Churchill received the Nobel Prize for Literature, that Clemenceau wrote admirable pages on painting, Édouard Herriot on Beethoven, Blum on Stendhal, that Jaurès left seventeen volumes of philosophical works, that the pen was since Jules César companion of the saber but also the help and the refuge of all the actors of the public debate… Should we still mention Vaclav Havel, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, Mario Vargas Llosa, or quite simply Victor Hugo?

Literature is so close to politics, by its art of storytelling, its fundamental belief in the role of the verb, by the part of imagination, that it is neither its relaxation nor its distraction, but very often, since centuries, intimate breathing. That in France, this link is derided, denounced as a lack of seriousness, says a lot about the brutalization of part of the political field. The question of time remains. How does a minister find the time to write? But precisely here too, we should rejoice that our rulers sometimes take the time to do something other than shake hands on the markets and examine their files. The time of solitude, the time of decantation, the time unplugged from microphones and cameras, this is the time of literature, whether reading or writing. Literature is what takes us out of ourselves to bring us back different from what we were. It is a fruitful path, a silent initiation, like music, like any art. Politics has everything to gain at these times when the politician stops looking at himself in the mirror of public opinion, returns to himself, regains perspective. I distrust those who enjoin politicians to burn on the altar of politics the little self-esteem they possess. This fanaticism is much more dangerous for all of us than a novel.