French finance minister’s erotic novel raises eyebrows amidst economic turmoil

Image courtesy of Bangkok Post

A recent novel by France’s Finance and Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire, 54 years old, has caused quite a stir and left the government facing questions about how he finds the time to write amidst the nation’s current economic challenges. “American Fugue” is the 13th book penned by Le Maire, who has been at the forefront of defending President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reforms and grappling with surging fuel prices and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The novel, which explores the life of legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz through the eyes of two brothers, Franz and Oskar Wertheimer, has attracted attention primarily for one particular page – an explicitly erotic scene involving Oskar and a woman named Julia. The passage has been widely mocked on social media and has drawn criticism from some politicians who believe the minister should be dedicating all his time to addressing pressing national issues.

The novel’s publication coincided with the news that credit ratings agency Fitch had downgraded France’s debt worthiness, further fuelling the debate around the appropriateness of Le Maire’s literary endeavours at this time. Likewise, the controversy surrounding the French government’s communication approach has been heightened following Social Economy Minister Marlene Schiappa’s recent photo shoot for Playboy. While mostly clothed, Schiappa’s decision to pose for the magazine prompted expressions of disapproval from Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

Despite not having read the novel, Le Maire’s colleague Olivier Dussopt defended his right to write it, stating that it showed there were “feelings… behind the suits of the ministers.” Le Maire himself has been open about the importance of his writing alongside his political career, suggesting that the latter would be insufficient without the freedom provided by literary creation.

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Writing is not an uncommon pursuit for French politicians. Former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 94, wrote several racy novels during his retirement, including “The Princess and the President,” a story widely believed to be based on a romance between a French leader and the late Princess Diana. Additionally, former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has co-authored two thrillers.

In response to the interest surrounding his latest novel, Le Maire took to Twitter to address how he balances his political and literary life. Acknowledging people’s curiosity about finding the time to write while serving as a minister, Le Maire explained that maintaining a “personal balance” is essential. Just as others might engage in hobbies such as gardening, hiking, or attending cultural events, he said, “As for me, I write”, reports Bangkok Post.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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