A Small City in France


byFrangoise Gaspard, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.Harvard, 208 pages, $32.50/$15.95.
The town of Dreux, sixty miles west of Paris and once a place where little ever happened, attracted attention in 1983 because the neo-fascist National Front party won a local election, ousting the socialist mayor, Fran├žoise Gaspard. Her account of the affair is a level-headed analysis of the conditions that led to the victory of the extreme right wing: the rapid development and industrialization of a previously self-contained, semi-rural area, heavy immigration of foreign workers, an unintentional division of the city into isolated ethnic enclaves, and the collapse of the national economy, which left people of all classes and origins frightened at best and unemployed at worst. This intelligently constructed book is not the apologia of a defeated politician. It is an ethnographic and social history of more than French importance, for the problems of accelerated growth and abrupt decline which the author describes are international.