Fifty Shades of Grey, according to The Guardian's Paris correspondent Kim Willsher, is not enamoring the French un iota with its alleged sexiness. Where have we heard that point of view before, hm? She points out that this may be a matter of principle, given age-old rivalries between jolly old England and the erstwhile domain of Napoleon. Plus, of course, the French sort of consider themselves the masters of this stuff, being the geographic origin of the writings of the Marquis de Sade and Anne Desclos' the Story of O. Even given all that, the French are extra-defiantly numb as to the so-called reading pleasures—enjoyed by millions!—of the best-selling trilogy, which came from British author E.L. James by way of an Australian e-book publishing company before the writer nabbed her deal with Random House.
Willsher writes, "As French bookshops prepare to take stock of the British bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey—or as it is called in French, Cinquante Nuances de Grey—on Wednesday morning, our Gallic cousins would like us to know that they have nothing to learn from us Anglo-Saxons in matters of sadomasochism." Note: in French translations, mummy or mommy porn becomes porn de ménagère. She continues, of the insults received,
Les Inrocks magazine asked if it marked a "cultural shock between the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy and the old authentic SM of the French." It described James's offering as "sadomasochism light … and flavourless," full of "insignificant, consensual and cliched" content and the "fantasies of a cheap sex-shop." James's book, it said, contained none of the "philosophy" of the relationship between master and slave....
The website Slate.fr added: "In Fifty Shades there is no intellectual construction; this is the glaring difference with Sade, and with the Story of O. Nor will you find that poetic eroticism that makes Anais Nin's books so charming. It's 50 shades of boredom."
The book's Paris publisher, JC Lattès, nonetheless has 500,000 copies to sell, and a spokeswoman says they're doing just fine, but suffice it to say we don't expect Charles de Gaulle to be selling these T-shirts (translated or not) anytime soon. How do you say "Laters, Baby" in French, anyway? Très yuck.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.