60 Million Frenchmen Can't be Wrong

Jean-Benoît Nadeau und Julie Barlow, Sourcebooks, 2003
344 Seiten, ISBN 1402200455

Ein kanadisches Ehepaar (Journalisten und Politikwissenschaftler) lebt zwei Jahre in Frankreich und versucht sich an einem Buch über Frankreich und die Franzosen. Natürlich kommen alle bekannten Clichés zur Sprache: die Wertschätzung guten Essens, ebenso wie die (vermeintliche?) Angst der Franzosen vor der Globalisierung, das Beharren auf dem Status einer Weltmacht und die öffentliche Förderung der französichen Sprache. Es gibt aber auch Kapitel über das Schulwesen und das Justizysystem, sodass das Buch doch viel Interessantes bietet. Dazu ist es mit einem zwinkernden Auge geschrieben, sodass man auch einiges zu lachen hat.

Aber dann: Im Kapitel "Die Bedeutung Europas" entdeckte ich so viele haarsträubende Fehler, dass ich leider am Wert der Informationen aus den übrigen Kapiteln stark zu zweifeln begann. Ich bin daraufhin am 14. August 2006 mit den AutorInnen in Kontakt getreten:

Dear Mrs. Barlow, Monsieur Nadeau,

Up to the last but one chapter I read your book “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong" with great pleasure. I forgave you the error of calling the microorganism which is involved in Roquefort-production bacteria, while in fact fungi are used. I also overlooked the mistake in the test-question for énarques: recent reforms of the qualified majority in the European Commission. There is no qualified majority voting in the European Commission. QMV only takes place in the Council of Ministers.

However, when I got the chapter "the Meaning of Europe", I identified so many errors, which cast a shade on your whole book. How much of the rest is true or proper information, when this chapter alone has EIGHT errors, by far too many for political scientists I would say.

1. There was never a European Economic Union,it was the European Economic Community, later the European Union
2. The European Parliament existed before 1979
3. It does not ratify Commission's decisions, but votes or comments (depending on the subject) on the Commission's legislative proposals
4. There was never a thought that Norway would join the European Monetary Union, as Norway is no EU-member, you probably meant Sweden
5. Once you refer to 25, once to 27 EU-Members by 2007. That is indeed still open, but at the time of writing, it was much more likely to have Bulgaria and Romania acceding in 2007
6. There is no Treaty of Lisbon
7. The main job of the Commission is to develop legislative proposals, not recommendations
8. The European Council does not consist of Ministers, but of Heads of Government

By being so careless in this chapter, I am inclined to downgrade your book as a nice journalistic effort, but not as a reliable source about current France.

Yours Sincerely
Margareta Stubenrauch,

Am 14. September 2006 erreichte mich folgende Antwort:

Dear Ms. Stubenrauch,
I thank you very much for your observations and will transmit the information to our publisher for corrections. Our American publisher did a fairly lazy job at editing and some obvious mistakes should have been intercepted. In fact, some of the mistakes you reported were pointed to us by previous readers and reported to our publisher, who was supposed to have made the corrections - I will inquire on this point, but the explanation is most certainly in the previous sentence. Fortunately, most of these errors had been caught for the French edition of our book, titled Pas si fous ces Français! and published at Seuil, a very authoritative publisher. Regarding your last remark, I wish to reassure you on one point: although 60 million Frenchmen can indeed be wrong at times, 30 000 of them bought our French edition and few critics had anything to say against our book in terms of obvious errors and most found it a very credible (and surprising) source about current France. This we took as the best tribute to the quality of our book. Mit unsere bestem Dank, Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow

Margareta Stubenrauch, 31. Oktober 2006