French Politics: More Forgiving, More Literate, Obviously Sexier Than American Politics

From Philip Gourevitch’s excellent “No Exit: Can Nicolas Sarkozy—and France—survive the European crisis?”

Of course, everyone in the Parisian chattering classes knew that the two men had a tangled history. A decade or so earlier, Carla Bruni had dated [Bernard-Henri] Lévy’s close friend Jean-Paul Enthoven, before taking up with his son, Raphaël Enthoven—who was married at the time to none other than Lévy’s daughter, Justine. Everyone knew about this, in large part, because Justine, a novelist, had told the whole story in a thinly disguised roman à clef, “Nothing Serious,” which became a sensational best-seller. “A father, a son—in France, it’s seen very badly,” a Parisian socialite told me. But then Bruni stayed with Raphaë l for years, and had a child with him. In the socialite’s view, that put an end to the scandal, because it became a love story. “Love forgives everything,” the socialite said. “You can take the son of your lover if it is a love story. If it is Phaedra and Hippolytus, it is O.K. If it is Racine, O.K. If it is just a drink, a Coca, and you go together—unforgivable.” It was the same with Bruni and Sarkozy, the socialite said: “Obviously, a love story, to be a love story, lasts four or five years.”

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