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7.12.04

Hack Bestseller Annoys the French

This article (French fatigue over Da Vinci Code, December 4) by Caroline Wyatt for BBC News is just too wonderful. It's a carefully considered response to the question, "So what exactly is it about The Da Vinci Code that's upset you so much in France?"

Perhaps it was because Dan Brown was American, perhaps it was because his bestseller mixed fact and fiction so successfully that the Da Vinci tourists flocking to France took every word as Gospel truth - their naive gullibility irritating the rational, logical French. In fact, Michel Rouge is a tour guide at the church that is used as the site of one of the key secrets of The Da Vinci Code, and one of its most brutal killings by Silas, the albino Opus Dei monk and murderer. Except that Opus Dei, the Catholic organisation, does not have monks. Nor is it a sect. And St Sulpice does not hide the secret that Dan Brown describes.

Michel smiles as he explains that he does not actually mind, as long as the grail-hunting tourists are not abusive when he tells them that the book is not true. Like 17 million other people across the globe, he has read The Da Vinci Code and enjoyed it. But what worries him is the introduction, which claims that all descriptions of artwork, architecture and secret rituals are accurate. [...]

[Opus Dei press secretary] Arnaud Gency agrees that perhaps many readers are seeking a spiritual side to life, especially those who do not have - as he puts it - much historical knowledge or culture on which to base their beliefs. Americans, he means.

But how does he explain the book's popularity in France?

"When you read the book," he says, "you have the feeling that you are learning a lot, and the French love that. But when you realise that what Dan Brown writes is actually wrong, it is a bitter disappointment. At least in France..."
See also my post on Pissing off the Parisians, from August 21.

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