LEST: Claire Berlinski har besøkt Istanbul, New York og Paris og sammenligner de tre. Hvor er livet best? Kun New York er pålitelig. I Istanbul finnes ikke noe slikt som en pålitelig tidsfrist, og i Paris er livet behagelig, men på en skummel måte. Det er som folk ikke vil ta virkeligheten inn over seg.
Betraktningene kunne passe på andre byer i Europa. Complacency sier man på engelsk, den samme selvtilstrekkelighet som preget fin de siecle. Livet vil aldri ta slutt, det kan ikke ta slutt, og så tar det likevel slutt.
No one in France seems to have grasped the connection between the country’s army of ceaselessly striking civil servants and the prospect of economic doom. For now, the cash machines still dispense euros, and the army of civil servants still makes French life more pleasant, not less. After all, they provide an agreeable diversion. My father, who lives in Paris, was taking out the garbage when he was accosted by two women in uniform, members of the ecology police, patrolling the neighborhood to make sure that tenants understood the importance of recycling. He offered them his opinion: recycling is a stupid racket. They listened and then offered the official state opinion: recycling is not a stupid racket. They were polite, well-informed, and dogged. In the end, they won: he agreed to recycle. It was all very civilized, and one could see that many people in the neighborhood found the bureaucrats’ visit pleasant.
France can no longer pay for its comfortable way of life. French exports are declining, French budget deficits are increasing, and French taxes are too high. Despite the statistics, though, Paris feels like a city whose troubles are far away. Alain is still hawking his oysters. Over the years, like a master who begins to resemble his dog, he has come to look like a hairy oyster himself—a tiny man with a great bushy beard and long, gray, matted hair, sea salt permanently embedded in the deep wrinkles around his eyes and in the creases of his blue proletarian overalls. He’s always drunk and fiendishly proud of his display. “Come try my oysters, mesdames and messieurs!” he hollers to no one in particular. “Excellent for your gymnastique de nuit!”