Feminism, schools and capitalism: The 9 French ministers releasing books this autumn

At least nine French government ministers have upcoming book releases. Simultaneously fulfilling both literary and political ambitions, they join a long list of published authors in the corridors of power.

Feminism, schools and capitalism: The 9 French ministers releasing books this autumn
Photo: Stephane du Sakatin/AFP

As the five-year mandate of France’s government draws to a close, ministers have been setting pen to paper – and not just on official documents. 

Here’s a look at the new releases:

Prolific writer and Citizenship Minister Marlène Schiappa is set to bring out her latest novel on October 6th. Sa façon d’être à moi (His way of being to me) will interrogate timely political questions, ranging from workplace harassment to environmental policy and greenwashing. 

Schiappa was a writer before she became a politician. She founded Maman travaillea blog for working mothers, in 2008, and has authored numerous essays and novels exploring questions of contemporary feminism. She has also never denied claims published in newspaper L’Express that she previously wrote erotic novels under a pseudonym. 

READ ALSO La rentrée littéraire: When France goes book crazy

Keeping with the theme of feminism: Élisabeth Moreno, the Gender Equality Minister, and Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the Industry Minister, are reportedly  collaborating to produce a passionate argument for gender equality. 

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has penned a 112-page pamphlet titled École ouverte (Open School). Published on September 9th, the short work reflects upon the French government’s management of the pandemic, defending the controversial decision to keep France’s schools open for as long as possible. 

According to UNESCO figures, France’s schools were fully or partially shuttered for just 12 weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, representing the shortest school closures in the European Union. 

Blanquer’s Minister Delegate for Youth and Engagement, Sarah El Haïry, has also been hard at work putting together a new book. Set to be released on October 20th, the semi-autobiographical Envie de France (Desire of France) will explore El Haïry’s vision of citizenship, including reflections upon her own Franco-Moroccan heritage. 

Housing Minister Emmanuelle Wargon is also merging the personal and the political. Her 432-page memoir-manifesto explores themes of solidarity, fraternity, and political struggle. Advocating perseverance in the face of crisis, Bienvenue en politique, à ceux qui sont tentés de renoncer (Welcome to politics, to those who are tempted to give up) will be released on September 22nd. 

Meanwhile, Olivia Grégoire, Minister of State for the Social, Inclusive and Responsible Economy, has written an essay outlining her vision for a citizen-focused capitalism. Et après ? Pour un capitalisme citoyen (And afterwards? For a citizen capitalism) will be released on October 21st, and rumour has it, according to Le Parisien, the preface may be penned by none other than President Emmanuel Macron himself. 

Le Parisien also reports that Grégoire’s boss, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, is working on his 14th book, although neither the subject nor the publication date has yet been revealed.

This would mark Le Maire’s fourth book since his arrival at the Finance Ministry in May 2017. His latest work, L’Ange et la Bête: Mémoires provisoires (The Angel and the Beast: Provisional Memoires), was released just this January, sparking a literary stir through its personal revelations, as well as its poetic description of Emmanuel Macron’s piercing blue gaze (click here for an extract).

Adrien Taquet, the Children and Families Minister, is also said to be working on a text, but details remain unknown.

Literary ambition is nothing new for France’s politicians, who have published everything from political manifestos to romantic novels and erotica.

Former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe co-wrote an an erotic detective novel titled Dans l’Ombre (In the Shadows), while former President Valéry Giscard D’Estaing sparked rumours of an affair with Princess Diana following the publication of his 1994 romantic novel Le Passage (The Passing). 

One book that few claim to have read, however, is an unpublished romance novel reportedly written by a young Emmanuel Macron about the love of his life, Brigitte.

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French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

France's interior minister said on Tuesday that he would seek to overturn a rule change in the city of Grenoble that would allow women to wear burkinis in state-run swimming pools.

French government aims to block 'burkinis' in swimming pools

The all-in-one swimsuit, used by some Muslim women to cover their bodies and hair while bathing, is a controversial issue in France where critics see it as a symbol of creeping Islamisation.

The Alpine city of Grenoble changed its swimming pool rules on Monday to allow all types of bathing suits, not just traditional swimming costumes for women and trunks for men which were mandated before.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called the change an “unacceptable provocation” that was “contrary to our values”, adding that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

Under a new law to counter “Islamist separatism” passed by parliament last year, the government can challenge decisions it suspects of undermining France’s strict secular traditions that are meant to separate religions from the state.

Attempts by several local mayors in the south of France to ban the burkini on Mediterranean beaches in the summer of 2016 kicked off the first firestorm around the bathing suit.

The restrictions were eventually overturned for being discriminatory.

Grenoble’s mayor Eric Piolle, one of the country’s highest profile Green politicians who leads a broad left-wing coalition locally, has championed the city’s move as a victory.

“All we want is for women and men to be able to dress how they want,” Piolle told broadcaster RMC on Monday.

The head of the EELV party, Julien Bayou, argued that the decision had nothing to do with secularism laws, which oblige state officials to be neutral in religious matters but guarantee the rights of citizens to practice their faith freely.

Burkinis are not banned in French state-run pools on religious grounds, but for hygiene reasons, while swimmers are not under any legal obligation to hide their religion while bathing.

“I want Muslim women to be able to practice their religion, or change it, or not believe, and I would like them to be able to go swimming,” he added. “I want them also to suffer less demands to dress in one way or another.”

Grenoble is not the first French city to change its rules.

The northwestern city of Rennes quietly updated its pool code in 2019 to allow burkinis and other types of swimwear.