France: Macron on a good mood tour

As a Emmanuel Macron Just recently in office in 2017, the writer Philippe Besson published his work “Un personnage de roman”, which told of the rise of Macron. Besson approaches the eponymous “Fictional Character Emmanuel M.” with undisguised admiration: “What drew me to him from the beginning was his uniqueness.” It is not one of Macron's most instinctive decisions that he Besson barely a year after the book was published wanted to make consul general in Los Angeles. The appointment was overturned by the State Council after allegations of nepotism. Besson is not in California like that, but Macron proves again and again that the title of the book was cleverly chosen. As soon as the current political situation leaves him a little breathing space, he designs his term of office as if he were a character in a novel.

For example this Thursday when he was traveling to a village school in Picardy in northern France. Red brick, tree in the playground, cute kids. This village school not only looks like something out of a picture book, it is a carefully chosen glimpse into the president's family album. Because here, in this school in Poix-de-Picardie, Macron's grandmother taught. As discreet as the president is otherwise with his private life, he has been making an exception for this grandmother for years. Everyone should know how much he loved her, how he spent his childhood on the reading chair with her.

Germaine Noguès, her grandchildren called her Manette, opened "the door to knowledge, to beauty, perhaps to infinity" for him. This is what Macron wrote in book form in his presidential application in 2016 ("Révolution"). And in a long interview in May he stated that he “grew up in the memories of his grandmother” and was therefore “desynchronized” by his own generation.

The grandson pays a state visit to the grandmother

So now the grandson paid a posthumous state visit to Manette. It should be a double bow: that of his family roots and those of the country. The Élysée announced that the President's visit to northern France would be all about reading. The awakening through letters that Macron experienced with his grandmother should experience all little French with the fables of Jean de la Fontaine. Since Jean-Michel Blanquer became Minister of Education under Macron, every French elementary school pupil has been given a ribbon with de la Fontaine's fables. Now, on Fontaine's 400th birthday, Macron visited the small town of Château-Thierry, where the writer was born in 1621, after his stop in Picardy on Thursday.

Macron's literary excursion is the third stop on his “Tour de France”, which has been taking him to another region of France every week since the end of May. This tour got special attention last week after the president was slapped by a man, but that doesn't change the holiday-like mood of these short visits. The President is going to beautiful, cheerful, sunny France. Gladly combined with messages of sigh of relief. Macron served in Bourgogne in May when the restaurant terraces had just reopened. The President stood in front of the cameras with a glowing orange glass of spritz. Thursday in Picardy was also symbolically charged with relief: For the first time since autumn, the French no longer have to wear a mask in the fresh air. And the night curfew ends.

All of this is not an election campaign, but simply "my work," said Macron on Thursday. This time he doesn't want to see himself desynchronized by his generation, but by the political topicality. The regional elections in France begin on Sunday. While Macron talked about the joys of reading, his competitor drove Marine Le Pen to southern France, where her Rassemblement National party could win a region (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) for the first time. Macron's party, on the other hand, has no chance of victory. Which is not a major problem if you believe Macron, who, as he said on Wednesday, “will not draw national conclusions from this local election”.

France's news channels illustrated the simultaneity of the visits on the split screen, Macron on the left, Le Pen on the right. In fact, the split screen is not the worst metaphor for the state of the country. France is experiencing both in these weeks. The clearly noticeable relief after a long pandemic winter that Macron is staging with his Tour de France. And the first harbingers of a tough presidential election campaign in which the most aggressive voices and those from the far right increasingly dominate the political climate.