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Fleur Pellerin

Korean-Born French Minister Criticized for Living a Novel-less Life

Korean-born French minister is going through a bit of public-shaming after an awkward confession during a television interview that she hasn’t read a novel in two years.

Just last year, the visit to Korea of Fleur Pellerin , an orphaned Korean infant who was adopted by a French couple, caused proud headlines to appear in the Korea press. After all, Ms Pellerin is the first-ever person of Korean birth to rise to ministerial status in France; in 2013, she was made minister delegate for SMEs in the government of Francois Hollande and Jean-Marc Ayrault.

How quickly things change. In the past week, Ms Pellerin, now Minister of Culture and Communications in a country that prides itself on culture above all else, has become the object of ridicule both in France and across the Channel. The reason? She admitted to the press that she has not read a novel in two years since joining the Hollande government, and—even worse—confessed that she is unfamiliar with the work of Patrick Modiano, the French recipient of this year’s Nobel prize for literature.

In a particularly benign take on the affair, The Guardian ran an article suggesting that everyone has moments when they cannot name something important or becomes confused when asked a cultural question. It further excused Mme Pellerin by pointing out that Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric was much worse.

We can all be charitable to Fleur, really, since even the best of us haven’t read something. In fact, no one has read everything.

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About Hal Swindall

A California native, Hal Swindall received his PhD in comparative literature from UC Riverside and has wandered East Asia as a vagabond prof ever since. He teaches English conversation, writing and presentation skills at Woosong University in Daejeon.

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