Post 63 – Le Pen’s ultra-rightists ascend in France with a celebratory vengeance – so what’s next for French Muslim migrants & Jews?

Sarkozy poses on a neat blue Vespa scooter with his glam partner Carla Bruni, who is showing us a lot of her enticingly bare thighs. In contrast, poor old Hollande is still being ridiculed for sneaking off in disguise on a clumsy three-wheeler to visit his actress girlfriend, Julie Gayet.

I’m hoping for some light romantic insights when I meet my French Government contact at a literary cafe in Montparnasse. Jean Paul, however, squints nervously towards the cafe terrace as we shake hands and I order coffees con lait.

‘It’s not good here just now, Phil,’ he tells me in a low voice. ‘Our President is regarded as a figure of fun, and as our once vibrant economy declines the Front National are winning votes.’

I’m thinking of Marine Le Pen smiling provocatively as her far right party celebrates its soaring popularity with French voters.

‘This has happened before,’ Jean Paul confides. ‘We had a resistance of sorts in the last war, but the Waffen SS had a popular recruitment centre in Calais and many of our people collaborated with the Nazis.’

I think I need a large whiskey and maybe a cigar on the terrace. But my French Government contact has more depressing news. ‘You have seen what happened to the Jews here,’ he says. Of course, many were betrayed and exterminated during Hitler’s reign, but Jean Paul is referring to the bombs and ransacking of Jewish businesses by anti-Semitic mobs in Paris just a few weeks ago.

‘These people are now fleeing to Israel and London,’ he says, ‘and Hollande is keeping a very low profile on what is happening … for it seems that he does not wish to offend Marine Le Pen’s supporters in the neo-Nazi Front National.’

I enjoyed reading Albert Camus when I was a student, and I was impressed by the fact that he and his lover, Simone de Beauvoir, were both part of a courageous wartime resistance against the Germans. But now, 70 years after the Holocaust, the slogans in the Paris Jewish suburb of Sarcelles and elsewhere are worrying. ‘Death to the Jews,’ ‘slit their throats,’ and ‘Hitler was right’ are commonplace expressions.

‘And then there are our youngsters,’ Jean Paul adds. ‘They have no qualms about supporting Dieudonne and giving his neo-Nazi ‘quenelle’ salutes outside Auschwitz and other places where Jews were exterminated.’

I can’t take too much more of this, but my French Government contact isn’t finished. ‘You know we have banlieues outside Paris and in other French cities,’ he says.

Sure – for a while it was French Government policy to keep their city centres elegant and respectable, which meant less fortunate people on welfare benefits were forced to accept out of town social housing in the desolate banlieues.

‘These people are now mainly Muslims,’ Jean Paul confides, ‘and in many cases they come into our cities to deal in drugs and steal from our more affluent residents … well Madame Le Pen wants to send them all back to Africa and the Middle East … so if she comes to power there will be much acrimonious conflict.’

I’ve had it: ‘Deux grand whiskies, s’il vous plait, mademoiselle,’ I say to the waitress … ‘and if you don’t mind, Jean Paul, I’d like us to go out onto the terrace where I can have a cigar.’

We’re on the Boulevard Montparnasse, and as we relocate to an agreeably shaded table, I’m trying to forget the French fascists by losing myself in the Paris love feast experiences of my favourite writers, including: Beckett, Joyce, Donleavy, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald and Henry Miller. It’s challenging… but the whiskey helps!!

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