Napoleon famously remarked that England is a “nation of shopkeepers”. It was, of course, not meant as a compliment. After nearly three decades in the Fifth Republic, I have formulated a rejoinder to that Napoleonic put-down: France is a “nation of shoplifters”. By shoplifters I don’t mean the French are compulsive kleptomaniacs who pilfer and thieve in their local shops. I mean that in France there is general acceptance of rule-breaking – from petty incivilities to calculated crimes – that is perpetrated cynically, guiltlessly, and frequently with impunity. I like to say that the French have good manners and bad behaviour. Crime prevention in France can best be summed up as “penny wise, pound foolish”. There are thousands of micro rules to interdict just about every impulse in French society, but the most shocking crimes like bank heists and

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One scene in my book Home Again in Paris takes place over dinner at the Fontaine de Mars, a well-known restaurant in my 7th arrondissement neighbourhood that became famous when Barack Obama decided to dine privately there with his wife on an official visit to Paris. Besides its cuisine from southwestern France, the restaurant is known for the enormous Roman-style fountain facing the terrace (see photo above). It was built in 1806 to celebrate Napoleon’s victory in the Battle of Austerlitz. The restaurant, in fact, is named after the fountain whose name, fittingly, refers to the Roman god of war. I don’t mention in the book something that has long intrigued me about that fountain. It’s the tiny, discreet sign etched into the stone on the lower right of the fountain facing the street: “CRUE JANVIER 1910″. Tourists casually passing by

It’s extraordinarily gratifying to announce, finally, the release of my new book, Home Again in Paris: Oscar, Leo and Me. I won’t go on at length in this blog post about the book itself as this new website provides all the information you will need. I will only say here that, as a personal memoir, this book is about real people and events — essentially, what happened in my life after moving back to France in 2006. I would like to stress though that this book, to employ a familiar phrase in French, is “ma verité” — my truth, how I observed people and the world around me. It is not an essay about French society; it is a personal memoir about my experiences in France. I assert that caveat perhaps needlesssly, for the subjective nature of the narrative should