À propos de la France

Detail of Napoleon Crossing the Alps (1802) by Jacques-Louis David (Public domain via Wikimedia)

In the normal course of things, more than a few Americans would be traveling to France for vacation right now. But things are complicated — so complicated, it’s no sure thing to gain admission to Canada or Mexico. Is Yellowstone open? Cedar Point (alluring destination of my youth)? Never mind: I have brought some of France to you . . .

. . . in the person of Mathis Bitton, who is a summer intern here at National Review, and a sophomore-to-be at Yale. To hear our Q&A, go here.

Mathis can talk about any number of things, but we confine our conversation to France, which is a big enough topic for hundreds of podcasts. I ask Mathis about the French language — and about the role of the Académie. And about poets and novelists. And philosophers and scientists. And artists and musicians. And filmmakers and carmakers.

And statesmen. What to think about Napoleon? When my gurus disagree, I get confused. Paul Johnson, in his biography, paints Napoleon as a proto-Lenin. Andrew Roberts, in his, paints him as a hero. Can Monsieur Bitton break the tie?

What about de Gaulle? Mathis is a Gaullist, and I jab him about his man — but he is right (and so is de Gaulle).

The incumbent president, Macron? The Le Pen family? What about French identity, and nationalism, and chauvinisme, and assimilation? All interesting, even urgently so.

You will enjoy listening to Mathis Bitton, as I did. In fact, we may have Round 2, to cover more of the waterfront, so if you have questions, let me know (jnordlinger@nationalreview.com). Again, this Frenchy Q&A is here.

P.S. I’m not much of a statistician, but if I were, I would note — with satisfaction and gratitude — that this Q&A is the 250th: the 250th episode. So Mathis joined me on a “historic” occasion.

P.P.S. Do you prefer “an historic” (versus “a”)? I really do.

P.P.P.S. Years ago, Matt Labash interviewed Jesse Jackson. (We were both working at The Weekly Standard at the time.) (Matt and I, I mean, not Jesse and I.) Matt was questioning him on his facts — his numbers. Jackson replied, “Yeah, well, you can talk to the statisticians about that.” I wasn’t present, but Matt re-enacted it, and the disdain in that “statisticians” was priceless.

P.P.P.P.S. On another occasion, Jackson was saying that he was a big-picture guy, not a detail guy: “I’m a tree-shaker, not a jelly-maker.” I have always aspired to be a tree-shaker, but it hasn’t quite happened yet.