What Eric Zemmour actually believes – according to his books

Who is Éric Zemmour? The 63-year-old French presidential candidate has been fined again for hate speech, after comments he made last September regarding unaccompanied immigrant minors. He is currently on around 14 per cent in opinion polls, splitting the Right-wing vote with the marginally more popular Marine Le Pen.  

Zemmour, Jewish, and of French-Algerian extraction, as well as being a popular television host, is also a literary figure – a historian, biographer, cultural commentator, essayist, reviewer and novelist whose 2014 book Le Suicide français (The French Suicide) sold over half-a-million copies, and 2021 polemic La France n’a pas dit son dernier mot (France Has Not Had Its Final Word) helped to catalyse his presidential campaign.

What can that writing – as yet untranslated into English – tell us about the man and his political ambitions?

Zemmour explained his views on the emasculation of society in 2006’s Le Premier sexe (the title of which gestured to Simone de Beauvoir). In an analysis which places him somewhere between Left and Right, his melancholic anti-capitalist approach notes the way in which exploitation and commodification sought out new markets and workers (an approach not dissimilar to the analysis of many contemporary feminists, incidentally, although their solution tends not to look backwards):

We must salute the tactical genius of capitalism which, faced with a strategic impasse – the upward pressure on the wages of workers and managers – once again found a supposedly progressive exit, shamelessly exploited, for a ridiculous price, armies of well-trained, courageous, organized and conscientious young women, eagerly discovering the new “freedoms” offered by the world of work and financial autonomy… 

Once again, the prophecy of Karl Marx has come true: capitalism, a genuine revolutionary force in history, has consciously destroyed all traditional ties; the patriarchal family – the famous household – was the last stronghold that resisted it, the last obstacle to the commodification of the world.

Zemmour has also written biographies of French politicians Édouard Balladur (in 1995), the former Prime Minister under François Mitterrand, and another about Jacques Chirac (in 2002), whose title translates as The Man Who Did Not Like Himself. His novels, Le Dandy rouge, L’Autre and Petit frère, concern (respectively) the life of the socialist and opera-lover Ferdinand Lassalle, the Fifth Republic, and the 2003 Paris murder of a Jewish DJ by his Muslim friend.  

Most of Zemmour’s bibliography consists of yearning, melancholic popular history, such as 2010’s Mélancolie française, which simultaneously bigs up France – opening with “France is not in Europe; she is Europe. France brings together all the physical, geological, botanical and climactic characteristics of Europe” – while bemoaning what France has become. “France is open to all races … it has a universal vocation,” he writes, but adds “on the condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise France would no longer be France.” 

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