French Mock Sarkozy by Reading Book He Hates

La Princesse de Cleves gets a boost of unexpected popularity as a protest symbol
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2009 2:03 PM CDT
Some of the tens of thousands of protesters from the public and the private sectors march in downtown Paris, Thursday March 19, 2009.   (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
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(Newser) – France is in the grip of a nationwide strike, but dissatisfaction with Nicolas Sarkozy’s reforms is also taking a more cultured form: the reading of a classic 17th-century book the president has said he hates. The book has become an odd symbol of dissent. Sales are climbing as Sarko’s approval rates plummet, and buttons that say "I am reading La Princesse de Cleves" have sold out, the Telegraph reports.

Sarkozy has disliked La Princesse de Cleves since he was forced to read it in school, and once even ridiculed a public-sector job exam for including questions on the work. The novel even made the top 3 in a survey of the favorite books of 100 French writers—a ranking most believe La Princesse would not have approached if the unpopular president didn’t hate it.