May 25, 2008

If Sarkozy is a mirror, what is Rudd?

"Serge Hefez, a practicing psychiatrist, has identified a new mental illness among the French: obsessive Sarkosis, an unhealthy fascination with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

“As I listened to my patients during consultations, many of them mentioned Sarkozy by name,” Dr. Hefez said. “He’s penetrated some of their deepest fantasies. I noticed all this passion in people speaking of him, and I thought there is something particular about this man — he’s like a reflection of us in the mirror.”

The French project themselves onto Mr. Sarkozy, too, Dr. Hefez said.

“He’s the incarnation of the postmodern man, obsessed with himself, turned toward pleasure, autonomous and narcissistic,” the psychiatrist said. “And he exhibits his joys and sorrows, all his private life, his sentimental doubts and pleasures. He represents the individualism of the society to the extreme, that it’s the individual who counts, not the society.”

A year after taking office, Mr. Sarkozy can appear to be everywhere, at least in the world of television and print. The daily newspaper Le Figaro counts at least 100 books devoted to the French president, his life and loves, with more than a million sold, for $25.1 million.

Some of the titles display the fury and fascination that Mr. Sarkozy has stimulated: “The King is Naked”; “The Man Who Doesn’t Know How to Pretend”; “The Liquidator”; “He Must Go!”; “The Duty of Insolence”; and “Somersaults and Flips at the Élysée.”

Dr. Hefez analyzed this obsession in an article and then in his own book, “Obsessive Sarkosis,” in which he identifies related illnesses, like Sarkophrenia and Sarkonoia."

I'm not imagining one hundred books being published in only a year about our less than scintillating Rudd, nor have I noticed an outbreak of Ruddish projection among the minions across this great brown land. The Rudd Rapture came and went, with only the faintest woot.

As with Howard, Rudd is now our Rorschach inkblot test, but what on earth does this round-faced blot on the political landscape tell us about ourselves?

A passion for (and against) Sarkozy


  1. Anonymous9:39 PM

    So true! There are so many books on him, his ex-wife, the new wife and the politics. He's just passed his first year in office and the cable news channel was wall-to-wall 'how well has he done' and 'what's next' for a week. He's regularly on the covers of the news magazines here (the French language ones, anyway) and everyone keeps up on Sarko gossip in the less reputable doctor's waiting room-style mags, too.

    Heck - he even made an appearance at our wedding (in a way). One of the traditions here is a sort of newlyweds game: the bride and groom get asked questions to see how well they know the other. Favourites colour, favourite movie etc etc. One of the questions we got was 'Sego ou Sarko' (the Socialist and Conservative leaders). I answered 'Sarko' but didn't realise at the time it was a symptom of my developing Sarkophrenia! :)

    100 books on Rudd? I doubt we'd see it, too. Even if you account for the population difference you'd still need to see 30-odd books on Ruddie. Seems a bit unlikely to me. I do remember hearing that books on ALP figures outsell Liberal bios by a huge amount in Australia.

  2. I don't know if that's true Dylan - I think simply more books are written *about* ALP politicians than about Liberal politicians in Oz, so overall sales do much better, though I don't know whether they're that different from book to book. Occasionally you get bestsellers like the Latham diaries, I guess, but apart from that...

    What is Rudd? The phrase 'vast and bland as Buddha' seems to come to mind. You can read almost *anything* into that round face; looking for his personality is like looking for the man in the moon. I guess that's where Rudd sees his appeal lying. Will Australians tire of this and end up voting for someone with a little charisma, like Turnbull? Who knows?

  3. True Tim, there are far more books written about the ALP and ALP identities than the Libs, which is in itself a small mystery.

    However, it's also true that ALP books run off the shelf, Lib books don't.

    I have four biographies of Keating on my shelves! And I know that's not the full collection.

    That's pretty much two books a week in the first 12 months Dylan - can't imagine that they could all have something fresh or riveting to say about Sarko every time a new manuscript hits the printers. Extraordinary. One imagines the obsession will slow, surely??!!

    A couple of books about Rudd came out just before or during the election campaign. No idea how they faired. Not sure that there's much to say about him, once you get past a few key characteristics, and his basic biography. Not a colorful person, nor one of strong convictions or vision, by contrast to Hawke or Keating, for example, both of whom were quite worthy of a number of books - interesting read, regardless of one's personal politics; compelling stories of a piece of Australian history.

  4. Anonymous11:00 PM

    The piece I recalled was from a few years ago on The 7.30 Report. Michael Duffy reckons the ALP outsell the Libs by a huge margin but there's a bit of dispute as to how many books from or on Lab/Lib pollies are published in ratio. The cited examples - a Gorton bio vs the Latham diaries - wouldn't seem to be a fair comparison: the new would outstrip the historical for sales, if not for quality.

    I really should take a photo of one of the politics sections in on the book shops here, Caz. The Sarko books - as well as many others on politics in France - seem to take up a fair whack of the shelf space in the popular non-fiction area of the stores. Even the supermarket down the road with it's seclection of about 10 titles in total has one on Sarko's new wife (though I don't remember ever seeing any on the man himself there).

    A search on brings up 154 books in French with the keyword 'sarkozy'! Everything from analysis to biography and comic books (they call them 'BD' here and they are very popular even with adults). Not all would have been written in the last year - he was a popular minister for the interior under Chirac - but it's likely that most have been written in the last eighteen months since his party nomination. Phenomenal stuff.

  5. The Hawke books sold out, ditto books on Keating. Bigger sellers in their day than even the Latham Diaries, but Hawke & Keating were anther era, perhaps we are less politically sophisticated these days, or perhaps the characters are less compelling. Can't remember the last time I bought a political book, let alone one on Oz politics.

    It occurs to me Dylan: how many books and comics would there be if the French Prez was someone they actually liked?!

    Maybe in France they have Sarko, rather than Britney. So it might not be as unhealthy as it appears at first blush.

  6. Anonymous11:57 PM

    Yeah, Sarko isn't flying in the polls. His rival (if there can be such a thing in such a long electoral cycle) has some 28 books coming up under her name on Amazon and still makes the nightly news most of the time. The Prime Minister here (out polling Sarko by a long way) has been the focus of only one book I can see so far in 2008 but he has been the author or co-author of another three published in the last couple of months.

    Sarko is still reasonably popular, particularly in light of what he is pushing through in the country. Loosening up the IR laws, getting stuck into some of the structural problems in the economy and cutting thousands of govt. jobs hasn't made him immediately popular but should see him reap long term results. Earlier in the month he was polling at 43% which is steady after a long drop for the last year.

    It's a long way from the 53% he won at the election but as one of the commentators pointed out on TV last week, it's about in line with the way that the right/conservatives voted in the first round of the Presidential poll. Between Sarko's UMP party and the other two far-right parties the right collected about 43% of the first round vote. The guy on the television reckons Sarko has thus held onto the support of his 'base' and - when push comes to shove in a one-on-one election - will still be able to beat the Socialist Party by picking up votes in the same way he did last time around. With any luck we'll be with Sarko for awhile yet...maybe another 400 books worth? :)

  7. This is utter tripe. Psychobabble gone wild. WTF?

  8. Caz, I've lost your email address. Can you drop me a line, pls?

    Thx :)