Today marks the 88th anniversary of le 6 février: on 6 February 1934, far-right paramilitary leagues rioted in Paris in an attempt to overthrow the newly installed French government. Does that sound familiar? John Ganz thought so too. “So, just how similar were Feb 6 1934 and Jan 6 2021? Starting somewhat superficially, it has to be admitted that there is an eerie parallelism: both involve a far-right mob with many military veterans attempting to to storm the legislative branch that was in the process of recognizing a new administration.”
The King of Cheese
In Smithsonian magazine, Joshua Levine looks at the history and somewhat uncertain future of Roquefort cheese. “The king of cheese is in trouble. Over the past dozen years, sales of Roquefort cheese have fallen 15 percent, to 16,000 tons in 2020. The people who love it are growing ever grayer, and French parents are no longer bringing up their young to appreciate a taste that any normal child instinctively finds yucky (god knows, mine does). It takes training and persistence to overcome a natural human instinct to avoid food that, let’s face it, is spoiled, albeit in a tightly controlled and highly refined manner.” I have tried Roquefort a grand total of once: my sinuses have never since been so clear. It’s an experience, to be sure.
A Historian Detained
Il faut désormais faire face outre-Atlantique à l’arbitraire et à l’incompétence la plus totale. Je ne sais ce qui est le pire. Ce que je sais, aimant ce pays depuis toujours, c’est que les États-Unis ne sont plus tout à fait les États-Unis.—Henry Rousso
When reports started appearing on social media that a distinguished French historian had been detained and nearly deported by U.S. officials at Houston’s international airport, I thought, as I clicked the link, that I probably knew who it was.
And indeed I do: the historian in question is none other than Henry Rousso, whose book, translated into English as The Vichy Syndrome, is absolutely essential reading for anyone studying the Second World War and its aftermath: it looks at the ways France has remembered, commemorated — and forgotten — the War, the Holocaust, the Occupation and the Resistance. (That book loomed very, very large in my studies.)
Last Wednesday, Rousso was travelling to the U.S. to speak at Texas A&M University; his 10-hour detention has been described as a mistake by an “inexperienced” officer. Rousso describes his experience in this French-language Huffington Post article. Basically, when he was pulled out for a random check, he was asked whether he was coming to the U.S. for compensated work (his talk) as a tourist; the U.S. does not require a visa from French tourists, and most people have taken this sort of thing very casually, but U.S. officials seem to be getting more strict about it. His previous J1 visa, issued for his visiting professorship at Columbia University last fall, was flagged, and he was accused of entering the U.S. on that (now-expired) visa. Texas A&M had to haul ass to prevent his deportation and ensure he could give his talk last Friday.
France takes its history very seriously, and that extends to its historians. I’m not at all surprised that Emmanuel Macron, the centrist presidential candidate with a real shot at beating Marine Le Pen, tweeted his support for Rousso. Make no mistake: France noticed this.