How my selective horrors spice up the ‘French type’
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.
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.
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.
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