Marc Fumaroli: Between War And Peace

There are men whose very appearance makes them sturdy and dazzling; at times sober, at times flambotant; who say everything and justify everything, like a crusader’s armor or a bishop’s paramour. Marc Fumaroli (1932-2020) was one such man. His attire was always impeccable: three-piece suit from Arnys, club tie, velour jacket. He went with the old buildings, the silks and the tapestries, belonging to the altar as well as the throne. If elegance, the last marker of civilization, was to put forward its man, both a great academic and an eminent man of letters, then it could be none other than he, among the great Frenchmen of our time.

One does not need to be a great soul to see that the world of the university is a cesspool, made up of people who have sacrificed everything to it. If they succeed, it’s because they had an idea once long ago, which they keep recycling for years on end, and rest on comfortable academic laurels. Their bourgeois conformity outweighs their worldliness, and if they dare to think, it is often sideways.

There are however some great names, some beautiful figures, who have understood everything, acquired everything, conquered everything. “Fuma” had the insolent lightness to float in the honors, to hold a bibliography as a work; and this way to be a library addict and to give thanks and account with measure; to arrive at fascinating ideas, the whole formulated by admirable syntheses, handled with panache. His Excellency Fumaroli was of those breed of lords, if I may say so, to which Albert Thibaudet, Julien Benda, Claude-Levi Strauss, Roger Caillois or Paul Valéry belonged; these people of letters with superior intelligence, extensive science, profound erudition, and substantial traits that we lack.

The work of Marc Fumaroli is abundant but concentrated around a beautiful unity: the Europe of letters, ideas and spirit. It would be too long to elaborate it in detail, but let us note the importance that his Eminence gave to the Republic of Letters and the circulation of ideas, from the humanists to the 18th century salon; to this Europe that spoke and wrote in French. In the field of rhetoric, of which he held the chair at the Collège de France, the master was interested in its modern leanings and in the reception of Greek and Roman rhetoric in the Grand Siècle, mastered and studied earlier by Professor Laurent Pernot; hence the remarkable pages devoted to the quarrel between the ancients and the moderns.

Above all, Fumaroli was a literary historian who devoted part of his research to the history of the French language, to the institution of the language and to the way in which France became aware of the greatness and the supreme and precious good of its language. Hence the genius of the French language, the lavish allegory, and the Académie française. The notion of taste animated in a particular way the work of this prince of letters, with all its variations, the nuances between the style and the sensitivity. One might see finally, in the twilight, an old man rehearsing the correspondence between the arts, passing from literature to painting, from poetry to sculpture, declaiming his love for Watteau and Fragonard; the last refuge, if it is such, of beauty and elegance.

Fumaroli was of the Right. That is understood. Liberal, he was close to Raymond Aron; conscious of the inequality among men; vindictive towards egalitarianism. The cultural state he never forgave, and yet incisive as a cut of knife on steak he hinted at a theory of the free arts and the freedoms in the most priceless of art, right in front of the sad passions of the sinister Jack Lang, from the cultural to the sewer.

Nationalist and sovereigntist, Fumaroli was hardly any of that. Deducing that custom is better than reform, he was conservative. Reactionary, he conceived the love of the glorious past and of the monarchies of the Ancien Régime, nostalgic of the big and beautiful Europe, of the books, of the thought, of the great names.

His sharp pen, shielded under some corduroy and tweed canvases, could be acidic, even malicious. When a socialist circular sought to impose the feminization of the names of professions in French, he could refrain from irony and brilliant wit: “notairesse (“notaryess”), mairesse (“mayoress”), doctoresse (“doctoress”), chefesse (“chefess”)… rhyme importunately with fesse (butt), borgnesse (“one-eyed woman”) and drôlesse (“hussy”), only very distantly evoking a duchess. Let’s choose between recteuse (“rectoress”), rectrices “rectrix”) and rectale (“rectal”)…”

In the posthumous book just published, Dans ma bibliothèque, la guerre et la paix (In my library, war and peace), Marc Fumaroli expresses once and for all his views and observations about Europe. Like ideas nurtured for decades, this old man in his green suit delivers a fascinating cornucopia, made incredible by the truths that it delivers, all the ideas that are linked. As the author indicates, this book does not follow any method. Rather, it is a ramble, which follows winding paths, forks in the road, deviations.

The book sometimes gives the impression of a messy work, where the author puts down everything he knows, adding reference after reference, one idea after another, giving the feeling sometimes of losing his purpose – war and peace. It must be said that we are far inferior to the master in following him. It is Europe that we hold in our hands; just like that feeling with la Litterature europeenne et le moyen age latin (European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages) of Curtius.

It is not possible to repeat all the ideas put forward in this book by Marc Fumaroli, so numerous are they. But here is its essence – war and peace have been two opposite poles that have built European civilization, a creative and destructive principle, a kind of duet in which one part does not go without the other; but also a duel that feeds, according to the reigns, wars and peace treaties, artistic creation, taste and consciences.

Thus, Fumaroli developed and detailed an entire triptych. The Iliad and the Aeneid are, first of all, founding texts of war and peace. The Greek work resembles a perpetuum mobile of conflicts between lordships, as one finds them in the Italy of the Renaissance, which fed the history of men like a kind of dynamic.

The Trojan war had a moral reason – the unfaithful wife and the deceived husband; but it does not have a political or economic purpose. Menelaus returns with his lady; Agamemnon is murdered; Achilles as well as Ajax are killed; Ulysses struggles to return; and Aeneas has an appointment with his destiny. War does not create vast ensembles; it sanctifies lives and destinies.

As for the Aeneid, it prepares Rome. Aeneas is, before being a pious civilized warrior, a diplomat who prepares the reign to come of Augustus. The Latin work announces the pax romana, based on the need to make war to impose peace, the perpetual peace, that we will find in two times – at the time of the respublica christiana, developed by Augustine in the City of God, and then with the Treaty of Westphalia, following the Thirty Years War.

Fumaroli masterfully devotes a large part of his work to France, mother of ideas, arts and letters, domina of Europe from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century: “Richelieu invented the concept of the European concert. He made the European Republic of Letters admit that the role of conductor was reserved for France.”

Peace and war marked the reign of Louis XIV; and Versailles, as the center of Europe, illustrated, by its opulence and splendor, this opposition. The Hall of Mirrors presented to the world the true power of France – it was France that made war on Spain; and above all it was France that imposed peace on Spain. The disastrous outcome of the War of the Spanish Succession, the libertine regency and the bankruptcy, paved the way for a kingdom less sure of itself, in retreat on the geopolitical level, acquiescing to peace.

War and peace were also embodied in two characters: Bossuet and Fénelon. One was a supporter of a Gallican Church, quick to serve the altar and the throne; the other, a critical observer of power, who made ready, according to the theory of quietism, a desirable pax catholica in Europe at war. This peace was the message delivered by les Aventures de Télémaque (The Adventures of Telemachus), a book of bedside reading and of apprenticeship, for the young dauphin, written by Fénelon.

Only the century of Louis XV was one of weakness – the aristocracy was more and more autistic and did not play its role anymore; the bourgeoisie got ready for the next coup d’état – that of 1789. Finance and technocracy joined forces. War was no longer of any use. It is then that one realizes with Fumaroli, that peace is not a value in itself nor war a moral fault or a misfortune; and that, conversely, a war contributes to glory and peace, and peace leads to weakness and failure.

As well, Fumaroli showed the rise of a royal art. This Louis-Quatorzian art, if not a baroque art, borrowed from papal and Catholic Rome, and is properly Gallican on the one hand, perpetuated by the rocaille, country style of a Watteau until 1740, then formed by Greek and Roman art, marked by the conflict between the Ancients and the Moderns: “[This art] concealed in France the fundamental historical quarrel about the establishment and the legitimacy of the French absolute monarchy, a quarrel whose echoes resounded in the favorable ears of several Jansenist circles of the kingdom. The court of Versailles took sides during the lifetime of Louis XIV for the Ancients, which it endowed in 1701 with an Academy of Inscriptions.”

The Comte de Caylus was a craftsman. This man is both unknown and impressive. An antiquarian, he had, in the sense that the literary gives it, the vibrant passion and the sensitive taste of antiquity; engraver, archaeologist and aesthete, he knew how to give the impulse of antiquity to the taste and the aesthetics of the kingdom.

At first, close to Watteau, whose biography he wrote, he spoke of the complicity of a generation which had altogether been distanced from war and brought closer to the arts of peace: “The tender memory that I keep of Watteau, of the friendship that I had for him, and of the gratitude that I had for him all my life, led me discover, as much as it was possible in him, the subtleties of his art.” Caylus broke with Ovid and was renewed by Homer and Virgil, just as he broke with Watteau, and the shepherds, and the gioia di vivere. With Wickelmann, he shared the feeling of having come too late; therefore, he mourned, nostalgically, for the ancient world. The return to Greek aesthetics implied, if not a rebirth, at least a return to war, to the martial tone and to heroic assurance in the arts.

The last part of this triptych covers the twentieth century and the emergence of nationalism with Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Grossman’s Life and Fate. The liberal and romantic inspiration contrasts with absolutism and royal dynasty. Something deep and visceral accompanies the formation of nation states. Napoleon waged wars of conquest, a “crusade for nothing,” as Léon Daudet would say, in the name of an expansion of an idea, that of French universalism, born of the liberalism of the French Revolution. The nation as an everyday plebiscite, according to Renan, is formed by the adhesion of a people.

All this is summarized by Fumaroli, in these words: “It is not a king who makes war on another king nor an army on another army, but a people against another people.” Here is Europe, determined amidst the emergence of nations and the fall of empires. Modern war compared to the classical, ancient war, shows a qualitative leap.

Fumaroli reminds us that modern war reaches the degree of destruction that is attributed to it by the number of soldiers that it digests and carries, the mass levies that the nations have, the patriotism injected into the consciousness of war that formalizes and freezes the belligerents, the use of materials such as coal and the use of technology. War and Peace is the modern version of an Iliad, where the death of Prince Andre, mowed down by a French bomb shrapnel on the battlefield of Borodino, is the equivalent of the death of Hector under the blows of Achilles in Book XXII. The implacable Fate of Homer is transported into the mystery of the God of Christian love. And Fumaroli takes up the association of peace-corruption and war-salvation for the 19th and 20th centuries.

Life and Fate, as Fumaroli points out, recapitulates the poetry of the two great ancient epics, the Iliad and the Aeneid, divided between the celebration of noble warrior heroes and the curse of battle and its ignoble massacres. Grossman’s novel is torn between goodness, hidden in the description of the mutual relentlessness of the fascist and Soviet evil against the impervious goodness that perseveres beneath the apocalyptic surface of the Final Solution and the Battle of Stalingrad. The madness and mystery of war. Tolstoy’s Homeric heroes are succeeded by two totalitarian democracies. inspired, says Fumaroli, by France of Robespierre’s Terror and by Bonapartist absolutism, “engaging more decisively in mass extermination at home and mass warfare abroad.”

With regard to the last part of the triptych, we can make three observations. First, this Mitterrandian vision of a nationalism that leads to war seems rather stale. The idea that Napoleon is the origin of a degeneration of European consciousness and the father of conflicts between nations, which was good enough to explain the Second World War and totalitarianism, is now somewhat outdated.

Nazism is not, then, the consequence of a nationalist sentiment, of a love of one’s country, of a desire to be at home. It is a German problem in Germany. Nazism, even if it is extreme right-wing, is an idealistic and biological productivism that is strictly German; and it is a mistake to believe that all nationalistic paths lead to it. It is not a nationalism that metastasized but, on the contrary, in the wake of the concert of nations, the expansion of a great European project, of which the Reich would be at the head; a project that rebuffed the old generation of Action Française. such as, Maurras or Bainville, nationalists, and which delighted the Lucien Rebatet, Brasillach or Leon Degrelle, fascists. This literary and intellectual point and this quarrel of generations are both missing

If Europe, finally, is better than nationalisms, and if greater Europe interests us, what is the political purpose of this one? Who leads Europe? Which institutions? Which country? Who has the power? The European Union? This vast joke cannot satisfy us. How can we believe that European technocracy, co-opted, would find the necessary resources to substitute itself for elected monarchs, presidents and ministers, subject to a vote?

Now, there will be no more Fumaroli. Our Cheetah has made his last turn. Going through the whole of his work on war and peace, one can resolutely take up the phrase of Marshal Lyautey, “But they are crazy! A war between Europeans is a civil war.”


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.


The featured image shows, “Portrait of Marc Fumaroli, seated,” by François Legrand; painted in 2014.

Roman Joy

We will never tire of Rome. There is an ever-present joy in descending from the Quirinale, where the lies the mummy, Draghi, and entering the Field of Mars. A first love glows every time. You spend your day crisscrossing this heavy city, crushed under the domes, sedimented under the layers of time and ruins. Rome resembles a scraped and re-scratched palimpsest. On a speech by Cicero is inscribed a sermon by Augustine; on an elegiac poem, a lustful sonnet by Pietro Bembo. The precept of Lavoisier in chemistry becomes a rule: Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.

The Sol Invictus, luminous and virile divinity, was adored by the military and by Aurelian. According to Paul Valéry, this glaring fault holds within it the power of creation, the drive of life, good health. In its wake, Saint Faith of Rome, a martyr of the second century, daughter of Sophia, sister of Elpis and Agape. Hadrian arrested them, was captivated by their beauty and piety, but decided to put them to death. Faith was stripped, tortured; from the torn off breasts flowed milk. Supported by her mother in her ordeal, her head was cut off.

In Via Veneto there is the Martini sign, fizzing in the night, red-orange, like a new sun; a huge invitation to party – new rites and mysteries of a modern temple: Consumption. Rome is the concrete idea of permanence.

Visiting Rome over the years consists of constantly sifting through treasures with your eyes. First, thinking about the elementary things and then ending up moving for a painting by a 16th century painter in a church that opens only one day a week. And so begins the Roman adventure. What one has visited, one must see again. The traveler must, like a Sisyphean task, revisit what he has seen, revisit what he believes he has seen and what he would like to see again. On the next trip, everything will have to start again. A perpetuum mobile. The mystery of Rome is the closed palaces, full of beautiful things; the lit rooms that you can see from the street at night and to which you have no access; the doors of monasteries and convents that close onto rose gardens and palm trees. The city nurtures the desire, the lack and the urge always to go and see, further.

The Romans play a worldly carnival all year round. In the center, near the Palazzo Madama, a broom of officials and non-officials, carefully tied, brushes through the streets; priests from all over the world, old and western, young and Asian, flood in. The cassock is forbidden. You can still find journalists and intellectuals from the 1970s, with their unattractive physique as in Ettore Scola’s The Terrace. These shirt-wearing commies, with windshields as glasses, still take methodical routes through the city, a gazette under their arm, a pipe in their mouth. Here, a beautiful mother, there, a former TV presenter finished off by the scalpel. Roman nobility rubs shoulders with the marginalized; Russian fortune tellers, bums, obese people on Vespas in vest, a cigarette butt between lips. Rome answers to the celestial and terrestrial Venus, to the great beauty, and to the Fellinian vrenzole. It is torn between total luminosity and the most obvious vulgarity.

However, three Roman figures seem to me incredible in their taste of the beautiful, the good and the true.

Lucius Licinius Lucullus, after having known successes and political failures, withdrew from public life, retired, and settled in his properties to live the high life. His name remains attached to the splendid gardens at the site of the Villa Medici. It is necessary to imagine a vast plain above the city, excellent orchards with numerous citrus fruits, peaches, apricots. Lucullus had the taste for fountains, porches in the shade, thermal baths lined with exquisite mosaics, deep in perspective, powerful of face. In Tusculum, above Frascati, he had planted the first cherry trees of Europe. Lucullus also excelled in the art of the table, cultivated the great refinements; what Plutarch noted with severity by recalling this anecdote. When his cook brought him only one dish, he retorted: “This evening, Lucullus dines with Lucullus.” The cook thereafter made sure to always plan a banquet when Lucullus dined alone, with many dishes, bottles, and the desserts.

In the first half of the seventeenth century, Scipione Borghese was the great cardinal of pleasures. Between the nymph and the gladiator, his eminence showed himself as a great builder, restoring churches, building the great villa to which he gave his name. There he collected paintings and priceless works: a Hermaphrodite from the second century, as revealing of his penchant for men as for women; paintings by Caravaggio, and those of the Cavalier d’Arpin and Raphael. He was also the patron of Bernini, whose art culminates in Daphnis and Chloe, a masterpiece of life and death frozen in fingers that transform; a body that molds itself into bark, hair that passes branches.

Mario Praz, in the twentieth century, chose modest elegance. An art critic, he lived in seclusion in a Roman palace where he collected twelve hundred objects – paintings, drawings, furniture, sculptures from the last century; Napoleonic works but also neoclassical English paintings; conversation pieces; some wax bas-reliefs. The House of Life is his masterpiece, in which he speaks of his life and his work, as if they were the rooms of a house.

Rome is conducive to drunkenness and good food. Happiness is everywhere, desire flows, with all its variety – the lively joy in the sun, the relaxation in the afternoon, the light madness in the evening. What joy it was for me to befriend Julien Rochedy. How we feasted at Al Moro, a landmark for ministers of the regime, on seppioline with artichokes, gamberi al pomodoro, and spaghetti alle vongole. Familiar delicacies take on a double flavor in Rome. Try Giolitti’s ice cream, with almond and hazelnut, topped with panna montata. Genius. The Judeo-Roman cuisine is also excellent. In the street that leads to the theater of Marcellus, admirable as a set of legos among the columns, the Oratorio Venditorum Piscium, the apartments embedded in the heavy stone, you will find the Jewish kitchens, with their oriental air. Moshe will serve you fried artichokes as an appetizer, salted, crunchy to the tooth, fried brains, stew or a piquant and fragrant cod couscous.

The streets of Rome are characters. Via Giulia behind the Campo dei Fiori looks like a dowager alternating knitting and rosary beads. It is straight, austere, gray on one side, held together by official and severe buildings. A bridge crosses the street, covered with ivy, like a dark mantilla of a woman in mourning.

Via dei Coronari is a kind of woman of the century, one foot in the old world, the other in modernity. The antique stores are full of preciosities, trinkets and relics in silver and gold, official portraits of popes, swords, furniture, massive candlesticks. Proof of this strange feminine paradox, the conversation and the permeability to progress; a store sells plastic ducks dressed as the Queen of England, Michael Jackson, Trump; next to it another one sells only lead figurines of the Napoleonic empire.

Via Margutta, on the other hand, is the most sensual; kind of feline, playful, whimsical, sparkling. Its walls are warm, yellow, ochre, saffron, taupe, sometimes washed out; ivy climbs up the walls, pearl-like roses. It is a young socialite, home to gallery owners, jewelers and artists. In its streets that go up and down, André Suarès, even at noon, this great madman, roamed the city in search of the terrible absolute of the beautiful, the good and the true. In the evening, a French bribe-taker coming out of a cantina would fight with a cursed painter with a rapier. In the morning, the writer of the Jet-set, Jep Gambardella returns home, after a party; no more drinks, no more contact lenses, smoking, and finding on the Aventine, a monk come out of the monastery to say a final goodbye to his sweetheart.

The statues in Rome also live. In the church of San Francesco a Ripa, which gave the title to a short story by Stendhal, Blessed Ludovica Albertoni is in ecstasy. She holds her chest, ready to leave it. Here, there is no fourth wall of the theater of which Henri Beyle speaks, no spectators as in the Cornaro Chapel where Saint Theresa is ecstatic at the other end of the city. The layout is more sober, the line more sure, more incisive in the last productions of the artist. The dress is agitated, swollen by the waves of love, while her face remains virginal. Her body betrays terrible convulsions while her gaze carries the delicate vision of paradise.

In Sant’Andrea del Quirinale is the most successful work of Pierre Le Gros the Younger, a French student of Bernini. One reaches the camera del polacco. What is it? It is a room where is the recumbent Stanislaus Kotzka, a young Polish Jesuit, who passed through Vienna, and died when he came of age in 1568. It is a baroque pearl. The young man sleeps, dressed in a black marble that contrasts with his white porcelain skin. The success of the statue lies in the way the rigid cassock is rendered as if it were encased in cuttlefish ink colored marble. His face is soft but his feet are icy.

What can you say about Michelangelo’s Christ in the Basilica in the Santa Maria sopra Minerva! It is a mass, a rock, extra pure. It is the Redeemer who manifests himself to us as a truth that takes up all the space in a life. Christ poses, swayed-hip, naked. The knees are so delicate that Sebastiano del Piombo said they were worth all of Rome.

But finally, Pasquino, does he have something to begrudge these sculptures, the darling of the people? It is a statue from the third century. In 1501, a hand placed a pamphlet on it predicting the death of Alexander VI Borgia. The term pasquinade was then derived, referring to an anonymous pamphlet often written in Roman dialect. With time, Pasquino became the first talking statue of the city, bearing popular reactions, the bloodshed and the acid laughter of the Romans. There are still salacious messages, claims and heart-felt messages: “Berlusconi, figlio di Minghia,” “Nun si necessità sesso, er governo fa er culo ogni giorno!” “er Premier è un vampiro, certo, ma li Italiani nun hanno piu sangue, dispiacce!”

It is more than natural, it is said, according to the custom of tourists, to sigh with admiration before the supreme beauty of the Sistine Chapel. For once, let us leave these marshmallows chewed up into liquid, sky-blue sky dishes and let us admire the Christian mosaics of the first centuries. Let’s start with the mosaics of the Basilica of Saints Como and Damian. After passing the courtyard and the fountain with dog heads covered with moss, you open the door and what jumps at you is a cobalt blue sky, marked by red clouds, under the feet of Christ, who descends from the sky in front of Peter, Paul, Como and Damian. The vision stops you dead in your tracks and grabs you.

Not far away is the Basilica of St. Clement. The mosaics are more careful and finer. We see on the apse deer drinking from a spring that feeds a kind of bush, representing a forest, from which grow branches, woods, trees that take up all the space and shelter monks, hermits, shepherds. The cross in the center is represented as the arbor vitae. In this religious jungle, you can see Saint Gregory and Saint Ambrose. Above the cross, in the sky, the only hand of God sends his son for the salvation of the world.

In the Rione dei Monti, there is the Basilica of Santa Prassede. You have to go to the left chapel, put a coin in the machine to turn on the light. Illumination! Largesse! The Chapel of Saint Zeno is illuminated. It looks like the miniature of a Greek Convent of Meteora. A kind of gold coin box. You have never been so close to the quivering mosaics, glittering like yellow, golden and blue fish scales. You have to see this simple and sober Christ supported by four angels. The faces are pretty, little sketched, almost naive, but the whole of it enfolds you with a warm joy. You even forget that Bernini delivered his first youthful work right next door.


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef. Translation from the French by N. Dass.


The featured image shows the mosaic of the vault of the Chapel of Saint Zeno, from the 9th century.

Between Chaos And Decline: Rebirth

Towards Political Optimism

It is common, when one is a young man entering a career, especially in literary or artistic studies, to be charmed by despair and to have a taste for ruins. The image of the poètes maudits is cultivated. We let ourselves be seduced by the disillusioned dandyism. We succumb to the temptation of the black flag inclined on the skull of pessimism. The beauty of ruins attracts. The vestiges are a curious dizziness. We go for the last of the Mohicans; We live as Dance Prince Salina in The Leopard. We cherish chaos, and we love despair. “Siamo tutti sull’olorlo della disperazione,” says the writer Jep Gambardella in la Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) by Paolo Sorrentino. The darkness becomes a luxury and cynicism a refinement on a terrace in Rome.

The attraction to such giddiness is the residue of a tired and insipid romanticism. The ruins of Heidelberg Castle astonish with their melancholy; The gloom of stones nips at the most sensitive rope of the heart. The pianist Waltraut Laurence plays Chopin nocturnes. It is a postcard décor for the student of Sumerian, who is also a fencer, dressed in Canali, making love in the moonlight. The beauty of decadence has sumptuousness, it is true. Despair is made for poetry and not for politics. Léo Ferré and his ridiculous, surrealist verses please the babes at the Sorbonne; Baudelaire, alive in the heart of a high school student, mixes death with grace, darkness with sad and cold beauty supreme. A desperate guy who does not commit suicide is, on the other hand, an impostor. Cesare Pavese, he went to the very end, and those who did not join him, while they sing hymns with Subutex and odes with Prozac, can only be small versions of depression. But then again, none of this ever makes it into politics.

Too often, the nationalists, taken in the broad sense, from conservatives to monarchists, from sovereigntists to traditional Catholics, have integrated defeat and decadence into their software. Through sheer compliancy, they value failure. They affect to lose in order to say that they were right; prefer to give up in order to say they are victims and being persecuted, feeding controversy rather than taking responsibility. The logic of annuity and cynicism of some is buttressed by the pessimistic romanticism of others. Those who denounce the decadence of postmodernity, often have nothing to propose and are engaged in the terrible parody of a fight. We play the reactionaries. Cioran had already understood everything: “The doctrine of the Fall makes a powerful appeal to reactionaries of whatever stripe; the most hardened and the most lucid among them know, moreover, what recourse it offers for the glamour of revolutionary optimism. Is it not the invariability of human nature to devote oneself without remedy for collapse and corruption?”

The romantic sighs, modern man sneers. The first loves what falls, the other that which brings about the fall. The one loves Vezelay, the other sees a spectacle in the fire of the Notre-Dame. The sneer, in postmodernity, is the devil that laughs, that no one condemns. We worship those who complain, sulk, and grumble. But we are harmless – our side likes a less festive, less brilliant decadence – that’s all. We go, like vanities, in the pursuit of deconstruction. We are the scrubs on duty. We play refractory Gauls, right-wing Mélenchonians. But how many really want a victory? The question deserves to be asked from the Menhir to certain cadres of major political parties. “You, jihadis, we will win because we are the most dead,” said Philippe Muray. The West is now producing magnificent losers wearing Bermuda shorts.

It is a vague idea of decadence peculiar to Spengler that a philosopher like Michel Onfray has spread outside his borders. He deserves credit for having supported the yellow vests and denounced Maastrichtian Europe. But this habit of never making the horrific qualitative leap; this almost complacent way of justifying decadence and decline as a fatal fact is unbearable. Is the horizon on fire? After me the flood! Are the suburbs on fire? Let’s stay stylish! Notre-Dame lies in ruin? Let’s drink good wine! This too easy posture is of the petty bourgeoisie. When we are looking at the storm on the mainland, it is fine to prophecy with detachment. But when you are in the eye of the storm, living in, what Christophe Guilluy calls, “peripheral France,” when you are masked and employed, and when you suffer the consequences of a happy globalization, supported by bad, liberal and Europeanist policies, social dumping and the appalling conditions of an alienating wage-earner as well as the consequences of uncontrolled demography, massive immigration and the problem of assimilation – the great disestablishment and the great replacement – in short, accepting to be scattered like a puzzle in the pleasure of bon vivant epicureanism – is total nonsense.

At the historical and anthropological level, let us not be fooled either. Civilizations are born, grow and disappear. In his sermon on the fall of Rome, Saint Augustine explains very well, in the aftermath of the sack of the Eternal City in 410, that the world is made up of this kind of movement – appearance and disappearance. The Phoenicians have disappeared. Sparta the great is a field of pebbles. The Venice of the Doges no longer exists. Even though it is a given of history, admitting the end, crossing your arms, taking a nap in the time of battle, letting go, is a sign of defeat. Because she imagined herself decadent in a kind of enlightened catastrophism, Rome guarded against decadence; the moment she felt herself falter, she straightened up – and that at many points in her history.

The decadence of the elites was a factor in the French Revolution. As Chateaubriand aptly put it, the nobility, by the yardstick of 1789, had reached the “age of vanities.” The aristocracy of the second half of the eighteenth century ended up largely autistic, admittedly refined, but it only played its role in a subdued manner. The Castaners and the Schiappas were already there, just in more powder, in frock coats and taffeta dresses. The urban bourgeoisie, organized, born out of entrepreneurship, investing power with the urgent idea of borrowing and reforming, had triumphed. The revolution was the replacement of a dominant class by another dominant class, formed, united, structured. Necker’s heir was Giscard. One was finance minister, the other a financier who became king of France. We are still there.

The Fall fascinates. Falling certainly pleases, but getting up less so. We must fight. To stave off decline, we need to come up with a Renaissance vision of our nation: putting life, spirit and muscle back where it’s needed. Atheists will speak of rebirth, the brothers in the faith of resurrection, one in the other, whether we believe in Heaven or we do not believe in it, the idea remains the same: to get out of this long winter.

Christians speak of the virtue of hope; Antonio Gramsci is “pessimistic in intelligence, optimist in will.” And Charles Maurras added, “All despair in politics is absolute nonsense. In war, the partisans of defeat are shot. To be pessimistic is to give up. The first idea of organizational empiricism, as Maurras thought, is a positive dynamic “to take advantage of the joys of the past with a view to the future that every well-born mind wishes for its country.” Whether you are a Catholic or an atheist, from Action Française or close to Alain de Benoist, you have to survive the nihilism that plagues both the left and the right. The question for Christians is simple: Christ resurrected; He put death to death. If, in fact, in Augustine, the decline of a civilization is part of a divine plan, Christianity should not be denied the light that emerges from darkness, the truth of lies. The Church, the one that did not reform, has kept a sense of tradition.

No doubt, on the other side, we saw Nietzsche as a nihilist. Julien Rochedy has explained the opposite, in his current book, Nietzsche l’actuel (Nietzsche Today). Who announces the death of God? A fool, looking for a man in a square, with his lantern, at noon. With the death of God comes the fall of values and disaster; man must come to the death of God and build a new system of values. Nietzsche saw it all: money replacing God; Cohn Bendit and his clique, constituting their own morality, hideous to ordinary people; the freeloaders in Lacoste; generalized barbarism and the vegan cotton swabs, their green hair puffed up with resentment. Civilization produced men who were held back only by themselves; the barbarism was of men who let off steam. Nowadays, civilization has become poisonous, vaccinated, masked, confined, in this time of Covid.

One would say of the nationalist that he is nostalgic; that he sees, soured and bitter, France in the rear-view mirror of centuries. He is backward-looking. Make no mistake: it is in the perpetuation of a heritage that he establishes his hope. To defend is to think that the thing being defended is fixed, soon to be mortal. Defense pushes towards sanctuarization; it enacts, by the very word itself, the proper end of what it thinks it is defending. A patriot, whether he is a believer or not, is not on the ramparts; he takes possession of his kingdom. Our role is not to hold onto Minas Tirith, while waiting to take catapult fire; but, on the contrary, to mount horses like the Rohirim against Sauron’s armies.

To exemplify requires vitality and horizon. When we exemplify, we perpetuate, we incarnate, we fully dress the traditions. These traditions are no more because they are already inhabited, dressed. There is no point in stirring the remains of the ashes; it is necessary to perpetuate the sacred fire. An exemplary Catholic, participates in masses, in services, does his Lent. It is up to the French to exemplify their history, to serve their language, to sing their own songs and to live. Mohammedans are in Ramadan; God bless them! Let’s do our penances. Those who criticize a possible invasion, deplore a country which is no longer Christian and which is no longer theirs, are the first to pig out on Good Friday, to make absolutely no effort, not even to want to get out of the baptism in which they were once plunged. They behave like being violently anti-clerical for no reason, and subscribe to all progressivism. They are the first to say that the Church is rich, too rich, but never criticize a financier who has just taken office at the Elysee Palace. In the first case, it is unacceptable to have finely embroidered silk chasubles from Gammarelli; on the other, the personal enrichment of a powdered petty investor does not bother anyone. However, let us remember this sentence from André Suarès: “Whether he likes it or not, the Frenchman has the Gospel in his blood. It is only through involvement that tradition, and therefore the Church, can remain. Open the churches, sing the Te Deum, read Raban’s Veni Creator Spiritus, put manly abbots in office. They will come back!

Optimism in politics also stems from faith in youth. It is often judged torn between crass consumerism, the accelerated cretinization of social networks, its exalted leftism, or its way of conceiving nations as hotels. Yet Attali’s speech has aged terribly because reality has proved him wrong. Leftism, which has become an exacting orthodoxy, irritates even those who like to barbecue to block off college because vegans have put their twigs in there.

At the back, outside the parties, there are many of us. The youth are more and more won over to our ideas. Whether on the side of YouTubers, intellectuals and journalists, nationalists work a lot, produce a lot, innovate, militate, debate in the public square. Let’s pay tribute to the forces at the back. A whole young generation is doing the popularization work necessary to understand sovereignist and nationalist ideas, and seeks to give the love of France to young people: Simon Bavastro in Nice; Valek in Montpellier; Papacito in Toulouse; Greg Toussaint, Baptiste Marchais also in the center of France. We also have our media. We cannot go through all the Web TVs, magazines, newspapers which, (and La Nef is one of them), promote our ideas. Let us just mention TV Libertés, Sud Radio, Elements, France soir, Présents, Eurolibertés, Boulevard Voltaire, Radio Courtoisie, RT France and many others. A multitude of intellectuals occupy the area of sovereignist or conservative ideas. Let us just mention economists like Jacques Sapir, Olivier Delamarche, Pierre Jovanovic; historians like Professor Bernard Lugan or Thierry Lentz and Emmanuel de Waresquiel; jurists and legal professionals, such as, Pierre Yves Rougeyron, Damien Viguier, Regis de Castelnau or Gregor Puppinck; but also philosophers and sociologists, such, as Olivier Rey, Alain Bessonnet, Pierre Magnard and Matthieu Bock-Côté. Together, they are the prized who have never stopped laboring away; some of them use social media to disseminate their ideas. We must also mention Charles Gave of the l’Institut des libertés, Cercle Richelieu, Cercle Prudhon, Cercle Aristote, Action Française, the Apollon Institute of Jean Messiha, for example. At the back, we have the intelligence, the youth, the information and the means to oppose deconstruction, and to build on solid foundations a thought, an identity, a national work. When such real people protest about a burnt church, the dissolution of Génération identitaire, they do not disguise themselves; they do not fool around; they do not put on a spectacle, unlike what the leftists do. We see solid men and elegant women. But all that is missing among the political establishment.

So, what is to be done? Что делать? Hot question! First of all, be who we are – shamelessly. Then do as the Captain of the Hussars Lugan: go where the cannon-ball strikes. Then, exemplify our traditions, reinvest in our history, pass on and seek to inherit. Let us regain our respect and our self-esteem. They have gouged out the eyes and tore off the hands of real people. Now they mask real people, confine them, jab them. In both cases, they never cease to insult, with appalling class contempt; these “eaters of fries,” these people who “smoke cigarettes and run on diesel.” They adulate the people, as long as they don’t see their dirty faces, as Jules Renard used to say.

We will have to return to the collective. We are far too divided to be able to rule. All that will come after we stop fighting among ourselves, putting up obstacles for each other, and tearing each other apart. The great evil of nationalists is to consider that the other is not simply that but that he is a traitor. The anti-racists peck at each other; they will devour each other; the revolution eats its children. We will see the Seine carrying the corpses of enemies. Let the Corbaques feast. And then let us feast on their downfall!

If we don’t want to be a piece of the puzzle of a big parody, we have to build something now – on every level. We will not engage in any real politics if we do not first win back our sovereignty by defiance, and take back our independence from Brussels, Germany, and technocracy. We must also break with technocracy, and with the worn-out urgency of having to make liberal reforms, as if the key to politics were only through reform, reducing spending, paying a parasitic debt. Historical stuttering, at least its threat, is the last bulwark, the last mental bunker, which remains for those in power. United, allied, determined, we will be able to achieve the rebirth of our country. At the very end, will come this dilemma: revolution or election? Political vanguard or faith in democracy? But then, again, before we get to this point, let’s get up, sing together, rebuild, and then go for it. Then, the laurel will bloom again!


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef. Translation from the French by N. Dass.


The featured image shows, “Château Gaillard, Les Andelys, France,” by Herbert Edwin Pelham Hughes-Stanton; painted in 1907.

The Great Reset! The Gospel According To Klaus Schwab

There is a book everyone should read, an exceptional book, which promises to be among the classics of contemporary literature. It is Covid 19: The Great Reset. Its author is the humanist and scholar Klaus Schwab, the founder and president of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a club of people of the world. This group of merry fellows meets for a while to breathe the fresh air, experience the vertigo of the peaks and yodel about on barrels. In the evening, in front of a campfire, they reread aloud a few pages from Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. They make money, of course, but they are aesthetes above all. Schwab’s masterpiece has still not gained much traction, even among nationalists camp, which is a pure scandal, so exquisite is its style and its precious content.

Schwab writes little, but when he writes posterity trembles. His style makes Christine Angot pass for Marcel Proust and Marc Lévy for Julien Gracq. “In today’s complex and adaptive world, the principle of non-linearity means that suddenly a fragile state can turn into a failed state and that, conversely, a failed state can see its situation improve with equal celerity thanks to the intermediation of international organizations or even an infusion of foreign capital.” What insights! What turn of phrase! We are struck by a very colorful style. To accomplish this task, Schwab enlisted the help of Thierry Malleret, an economist who writes as he thinks. Before publication, the book received feedback from a few bosses in the circle of reason. This is to say how much those who know how to make money have both taste and culture.

Herr Schwab’s book should be read as a road map, an economic and social program designed to meet the great challenges of the West after the epidemic. Schwab, not pondering the origins of Covid 19, however sees the virus as a real opportunity. Covid is a great and formidable opportunity to change society. Opportunity, they say, makes the thief. In short, this pandemic crisis reveals the limits of a global, technocratic and neo-liberal system. Schwab recognizes that this world, his world, is wrong, but it is up to people to pay the consequences, with or without their consent. The self-proclaimed and co-opted elites agree to change the system for the people to follow, so to speak.

The book was written in 2020, during the first lockdown. Undoubtedly motivated by boredom, Schwab discovered the vast range of possibilities offered by this peaceful, creative, enjoyable moment of retirement. In his ivory tower, he announces the color: “The worldwide crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has no parallel in modern history.” This very subtle sentence makes it clear that the crisis and the management of this pandemic are the causes of the turmoil and damage the world is experiencing, not the virus itself. It is only at the end of his epic poem that Klaus von Ravensburg recognizes that Covid 19 will hardly kill anyone and that it will not make history. He could have announced this from the start; then he would not have needed to lay down a political program to change the entire face of the world. What shame! In his Introduction, Schwab continues, “Many of us are pondering when things will return to normal. The short response is: never.” What a relief!

Now, thanks to the Boss, we are sure of one thing: history is being written ante-covidium and post-covidium. Schwab, at the beginning of his book, explains that the Black Death caused profound changes in medieval society (the disappearance of chivalry and feudalism) and copies the effects of all that on to Covid to justify the Great Reset. What then does the Sumo Poeta advocate? A confinement of one to two years, more or less strict, followed by generalized vaccination. Then will come the great changes necessary for humanity. When you have twisted, creeped out, oppressed a population to such an extent, it is not difficult to make them submit to any change. His Majesty, the Lord of the Flies is such a genius that Machiavelli himself could not have done better to manipulate his people. Because the Covid, he explains, is changing our society, it is imperative to change the program and reinvent ourselves, based on four major ideas: a new capitalism in the light of technology, the ecological emergency, universal healthcare, and inclusion of minorities. These notions complement each other and are linked to each other.

Containment and measures require working remotely and therefore being hyperconnected. Many people will have to adapt, others will lose their jobs. We must therefore rethink a more just, egalitarian and ethical capitalism. Because the virus is, according to him, linked to global warming, it is urgent to save the planet. He who says climate change, also says climate -regulation. Deregulation is therefore a malfunction: only technical measures are able to resolve it. This is without counting on the youth who believe in progress and who are able to save what we have as the most precious thing: the earth. Because the virus affects our lives, our relationships, and kills thousands of people around the world every day, it is necessary, to protect ourselves and others, to wear a mask, to adopt concrete measures, to respect new rules of distance, to be vaccinated. Death, on the model of the climate, is a disruption of life, a deviance, a problem. We must therefore find the means to resolve death. And all this on behalf of others. We find the thought of Master Attali and his concept of altruism already formulated for forty years in his opera omnia. Many people, ante-covidum, from among minorities were excluded. We must therefore rethink a more just, green world, based on inclusion, tolerance and progress.

Graf von Schwab speaks of benevolence in the last chapter of his book. It’s really cute! Nationalists, identitarians, ardent defenders of sovereignty, of tradition, are villains who are in retreat. Obscurantism, intolerance. It’s all terrible. It’s all about openness and sharing. It is only fair that His Holiness Klaus VI does not ask us to be charitable and make a donation for the little lepers. Wisely, he advocates “reinventing our mind map,” striving for ethical capitalism and “being creative.” The Right Reverend Abbot even becomes a Rousseauist, when he tells us that “nature is a formidable antidote,” and adds that “it will gradually become essential to pay more attention to our natural assets.”

It is all beautiful, very beautiful even, but it does not exist. At Strasbourg Cathedral, we find the statue of the Tempter. The young man, charming, seductive, offers a cut to whoever desires it, but on his back swarm toads, scorpions and snakes. Likewise, behind every beautiful and good idea that Jean Jacques Schwab and Klaus Rousseau articulate, hides the devil himself.

Remember that an idea is not generous, it is true or false. To quantify happiness, kindness, altruism in a society, is confusingly ridiculous, gross stupidity. In other words, well-nigh dotage. Likewise, “nauseating,” rancid “are not concepts, just as kindness is not a given that can enter political, economic or social thought. Schwab pretends to advise the world. He wants to appear to controls events, knows everything and foresees everything in advance. He is a man who has too much influence and too much power for his own good and ours. He thinks his ideas are necessarily the best because he and his friends have a lot of money. Parody is added to megalomania, ridicule to dotage, mediocrity, role-playing. This great pontiff from the University of Geneva has the historical and philosophical knowledge of a passable student in a management school. He looks like a Z-List Goldfinger who doesn’t understand he’s dead-end, out of touch, a nerd long past his sell-by date.

This book, a tonic cocktail of muscular Attali, ultimately offers nothing new of what has been known since Alain Minc’s Happy Globalization of 1997. Nothing learned, nothing understood. There is not an extra gram of imagination; it’s poor and repetitive like a pulp novel. The world elite has neither thought nor genius. It’s the little utopia of a banker who only knows the world by going back and forth between a Sofitel and two airports. These globalists claim to be at the forefront of modernity, advocate openness, but have a narrow and stunted view of the world. Schwab talks about money, people, the others, the land and the world; these are abstractions which do not refer to anything real. Has he been out on the streets over the last ten years? I doubt it.

The minstrel from across the Rhine brilliantly asserts ready-made truths, ideas thrown into the air; gives figures without a source; demonstrates nothing, but announces; makes shortcuts, bordering on sabotage; launches studies as if they were going out of style. When ideas are a little hard to find, Schwab turns into a commentator, exhibitor, and calls on experts who are always on his side, friends of his. Such is European governance. When the ideas are sympathetic, he becomes a decision-maker and prescriber, with the peremptory tone of a wise man among the wise who has inhaled a little too much Alain Minc, extra fine.

This book is the Oktoberfest of BS. Let’s have a laugh, then: ” a vacuum of global governance and the rise of various forms of nationalism make it more difficult to deal with the outbreak;” ” As the critique of economic growth moves to centre stage, consumerism’s financial and cultural dominance in public and private life will be overhauled;” “COVID-19 was a determining element: George Floyd’s death was the spark that lit the fire of social unrest.” Hats off to the artist!

The big reset is a Davos-style mafia stunt: we take Godfather; take out the spaghetti; put sauerkraut instead – and we have Schwab. It’s a tour de force, a huge hostage-taking. President of the global crime syndicate, he says nothing about the terrible consequences of this great reset. He recognizes that ” The global economy is so intricately intertwined that it is impossible to bring globalization to an end.”

Destroying millions of jobs as a result of the Covid, Schwab concedes, putting people into unemployment, replacing part of the workforce with robots, would be an evil, certainly, but a necessary evil: ” In all likelihood, the recession induced by the pandemic will trigger a sharp increase in labour-substitution, meaning that physical labour will be replaced by robots and ‘intelligent’ machines, which will in turn provoke lasting and structural changes in the labour market.”

For example, there is this very enigmatic sentence: “The small restaurants that survive the crisis will have to reinvent themselves entirely.” What? Will they have to succumb to Uberization, subcontracting, giving way to large restaurant chains that can make both pizzas and sushi? Just water off of Schwab’s back. Technological, hyperconnected capitalism therefore promises the collapse of part of the wage and entrepreneurial middle-class, and an increased and definitive polarization between the richest, blessed with globalized metropolises, and the poor in “not very interesting” jobs.

Schwab is not unhappy to see all the structures blow up for the benefit of the individual, atomized, who is then more apt to subscribe to globalism, to the law of victimized minorities, to youthism. Better stray sheep than a strong flock that lives on. Ecology with Schwab becomes globalism, since it gives the individual, wherever he comes from, consumer and employee, the responsibility of saving the planet, the climate, the seas. Only this ecology is just the flip side of the same coin which faces capitalism, financial domination. Doctor Klaus and Mister Schwab do not say everything: behind the idea that death would be a mistake, hides the desire to impose a generalized post-covidium surveillance company: ” the containment of the coronavirus pandemic will necessitate a global surveillance network capable of identifying new outbreaks as soon as they arise.”

After all, new viruses will emerge because of global warming. In the name of the good, that is, health, Frankenschwab wants a society of testing, tracing, a kind of global health dictatorship established by governments and maneuvered by the exploits of technology. It is reminiscent of the fact that a dictatorship is never imposed in the name of evil, of dominating in order to dominate, but always in the name of a higher and collective good. Tyrants are, above all, the little fathers of peoples. Small tasty detail – Schwaby goes so far as to recommend connected toilets to control our health, just in case the mess of the day before does not bode well. What a brilliant idea!

Schwab is committed body and soul to the “vanguard of social change.” Of course, societal progressivism, in the absence of a real social struggle, always makes it possible to rescue capitalism and accept its rule. Schwab is, as Audiard would say, a synthesis. Jean Claude Michéa speaks of a liberal-libertarian alliance. It’s Cohn-Bendit, just a bit less despicable; Thunberg in a necktie. In other words, we allow surrogacy and assisted reproduction in the name of individual freedoms. But we are also fully masked and are subject to curfew. Everything is allowed, but nothing is possible, as Michel Clouscard said.

Schwab will also have to explain to us how he intends to “to rethink governments’ role.” All this, of course, will happen through one world government: ” if both the nation state and globalization flourish, then democracy becomes untenable.” And to continue further: ” A hasty retreat from globalization would entail trade and currency wars, damaging every country’s economy, provoking social havoc and triggering ethno- or clan nationalism.

The establishment of a much more inclusive and equitable form of globalization that makes it sustainable, both socially and environmentally, is the only viable way to manage retreat. This requires policy solutions addressed in the concluding chapter and some form of effective global governance.” Living in a green and completely sanitary world will not lead to the best of all possible worlds. In the name of ecology, one could think of excessive taxation, repeated confinements, the one-child policy, the establishment of a tax on the air we breathe. Nothing like paradise.

Emperor Palpatine’s words are so contradictory, once one gets lost in his intentions. He struggles to bring out a good idea, floundering in his book as on the Bodensee during a vacation. The end of the book, which we finished with disgust, so much did the language of this Kojak of Davos sicken us, nevertheless did warn us. These changes will be painful, and not everyone will make it. Without being threatening, Schwab draws back, slithers about, dodges. Does this mean that we will have to get rid of part of the harmful and recalcitrant population and return to global Malthusianism in the name of ecology and health?

In 2009, at the Copenhagen summit, physicist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber said: “This is a triumph for science because at least we have managed to stabilize something; namely, the estimate of the carrying capacity of the planet, that is to say, one billion people. What a triumph! On the other hand, do we want to come to this? I think we can do a lot better!” In France, Laurent Alexandre and Jean Marc Jancovici, in a work of evangelism of the young elites of the country, decreed that there would be for tomorrow the men-gods, mastering technology; and the others, the slaves, the unproductive, minimum wage-earners who pollute because of their overly high standard of living. We will have to think about what we want.

Is this book a program? Some will readily see the trajectory of the reset taking shape. Schwab also enjoys, let’s be honest, the conspiratorial aura that revolves around his multinational organization. Because he has influence and an address book, he is credited with the means to do harm. Does he really have the means? There is something terribly burlesque, even parodic, in the way he plays rector mundi. This book is in many ways a dotard’s dream, the masturbatory delirium of a bourgeois globalist in front of his little comrades. Doubt is possible. Let’s hope that Schwab does not become a prophet.


Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy of Monsieur Christophe Geffroy of La Nef. Translation from the French by N. Dass.


The featured image shows, “A four-footed monster,” a print by Samuel De Wilde, printed in 1807.