Returning to Reims
by Didier Eribon
Semiotext(e). 240 pages, $17.95
IN FRANCE, Didier Eribon is what we would call a “public intellectual” or, less flatteringly, a “talking head,” one of those people who keep appearing on TV to give you their views on some topic of the moment. Eribon is now a professor of sociology at one of the regional French universities that he ridicules in this book. For years before, however, he survived as a public figure largely thanks to the success of his biography of Michel Foucault and articles he wrote for news magazines like Le Nouvel Observateur, a publication that he “hated” and “detested,” to quote this book. “I really didn’t have a choice,” he insists when talking about how he wrote for it for so many years. Evidently, there were no other jobs to be had in France at the time, or at least none that Eribon didn’t regard as even further beneath his dignity. This book is full of such self-justifications.