Feb 18th 2023

How my selective horrors spice up the ‘French type’

by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. 

Johnson worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his journalism career. He covered European technology for Business Week for five years, and served nine years as chief editor of International Management magazine and was chief editor of the French technology weekly 01 Informatique. He also spent four years as Moscow correspondent of The Associated Press. He is the author of five books.

Michael Johnson is based in Bordeaux. Besides English and French he is also fluent in Russian.

You can order Michael Johnson's most recent book, a bilingual book, French and English, with drawings by Johnson:

“Portraitures and caricatures:  Conductors, Pianist, Composers”

 here.

 

The French hate to admit it but there is no such thing as “pure souche” (pure-bred French)  any more, nor has there ever been. This country is one of Europe’s big melting pots. Ask anyone where they come from and they will likely cite their individual origins (Brittany, Pays Basque, Bourgogne or some foreign culture).

The ingredients have become more diverse in recent years as migration increases from south to north. Today the young tend to reject the standardized national education program. Arabs and Africans have their say in the classroom, often to excess.

Dati
Rachida Dati 

The result is the gradual corruption of language and culture. Linguists have aded a “fourth register” to spoken French, a casual bending of the rules, often with foreign spice. I don’t even call my family doctor a doctor. He is my “toubib” (Arabic). My favorite is the window above a French door, known as a “vasistas”, from the German for “What’s that?”

This mix is a real problem for a portraitist trying to draw and paint a French type. Almost everyone comes from somewhere else. In my just published collection of 25 Unforgettable French Faces I use the term “French” loosely. Look at the range: Dati, Bianconi, Boulanger, Curie, Eiffel, Gainsbourg, Zemmour. They are eager to be called French anyway.

Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger
Gainsbourg
Serge Gainsbourg

My book has been criticized for its selective horrors, such as Michel Houllebecq at his worst, Serge Gainsbourg in his declining years, Nadia Boulanger as a terrifying piano teacher, and the lovely Brigitte Bardot at age 80.

Like the United States, France has gained strength through immigration, a fact often overlooked by opponents of open borders. Science, industry and the arts have clearly benefitted. And I found the local color in the population to be a rich source for artwork.

 

 

 

Available through Amazon, please click here for the Amazon page.

 

 

 


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