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French press review 10 November 2010


Difficult students, what lies behind the métro lines, murder, monks and George W. Bush. This morning's papers, along with the weekly magazines, make for good reading.


Weekly magazine Le Point interviews Dominique Lecomte, who has just written a book about her life as the director of the medico-legal institute of Paris, which is to say: the morgue. Lecomte, one of France's best coroners, says dead people's faces are almost always beautiful; it’s something to do with the muscles relaxing.

The morgue, described as the dark face of the city of light, lies between the métro and the Seine. It receives 3,000 corpses a year of which 2,000 of them need autopsies ordered by the courts. Lecomte’s book is not just description of bodies; it's polemic against the tendency of undertakers, families and general society to close coffins too quickly and against adults who avoid talking to their children about death. This sits oddly with the opening sentence which says that she always told her children she worked for the police.

She spends her leisure time reading stupid magazines, and occasionally gets a little literary context with an Agatha Christie or a Simenon thriller. This morning, the interviewer says, she has a lot on her plate, which in French is “she has bread on her board” – a shamelessly apt metaphor. “My corpses are waiting for me,” says Lecomte.

Nouvel Observateur runs a long piece about someone called Fatima Anechad, if that is her real name. She is either very unfortunate in having been married to two men who disappeared without trace or a manipulative murderer. The disappearance of her second husband involves false passports, the international jewellery trade and a casino.

Libération runs a double page spread interview with Philippe Joron, who was attacked at home by one of his students, who entered his house, dowsed it with petrol and threatened him and his family with a gun. Somehow the aggressor ended up dead and Joron has been suspected of murder for the last year, but the case has been dismissed.

The paper also has a story about a school reintegration scheme, which was introduced in September. It is designed to keep the “pupils who poison the lives of others” away from the ones that want to learn, but the scheme is having some problems. Yesterday the 40 teachers at a school in Craon stopped working after a group of 14 segregated pupils burst into the class of 'good pupils' and attacked them. Several parents have decided to withdraw their children from the school.

Centrist Le Monde looks across the Channel at a new bill being put before the British parliament proposing that people on unemployment benefits work in the general interest or risk having their benefits withdrawn. The move is expected to save 18 billion euros over the next five years. Not all of the 1.4 million people on the dole will be called up; it will be up to job agents to decide which ones to send to clean the streets or to help old people.

Figaro’s histoire du jour tells us the Capuchins are recruiting. The average age in the Swiss order is now about 70 and the 200-strong brotherhood has had to close two monasteries over the last 10 years. The monks are not offering remuneration, but social security and of course spiritual enrichment.

In Le Monde we learn that the French Development Agency has lent Cairo 44 million euros to finance a third metro line, which is also being assisted by a loan from the French government of 200 million euros. Remember to sing the Marseilleise if you take line 3 in Cairo. It’s not reported how much interest is charged on these loans.

Yesterday George W Bush's memoir came out – in time for Christmas, as Libération points out. Le Monde summararises it neatly: it covers the period from 1986, when he was trying to overcome his alcoholism, to 2008, when he was trying to overcome the economic crisis. In it, he defends water-boarding against three prisoners and said it prevented a repeat of 11 September. The criticism of the rapper Kanye West that Bush’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina was because he didn’t care about black people really hit a nerve.

“I was often criticised during my presidency,” says Bush. “I didn't enjoy being called a liar about weapons of mass destruction or accused of making tax exemptions for the richest people, but to suggest I was racist because of Katrina was the worst moment of all.”


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