Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Je refuse!

What do Louis Aragon, Albert Camus, Claude Monet, Hector Berlioz, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and George Brassens all have in common?

Answer:  they all refused to be awarded the prestigious Medal of the Legion of Honor.

And, as of today, they are joined by famed cartoonist Jacques Tardi. "I learned, to my stupefaction, via the media on the evening of January 1, without having been informed in advance, that I was going to be decorated with the Legion d'honneur, " said Tardi.  Being "ferociously attached" to his freedom, he emphatically refuses the honor.


What do Julia Child, Miles Davis, Walt Disney, Alan Greenspan, Jerry Lewis. Toni Morrison, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sully Sullenberger, and Buce Willis have in common?

You guessed it!  They are all Americans who said "j'accepte" and got to wear the little rosette in their lapels for life.  And all these others, too.

photo via wikipedia


Aloysius Horn said...

These refusals are an interesting phenomenon. Why so many and are they for similar reasons? How did Tardi see his "freedom" compromised by accepting?

Polly-Vous Francais said...

I agree, Aloysius. It is baffling to me, and worth exploring a few layers of a cultural understanding which, to an American, is so complex. I would love to understand it better!

Art Goldhammer said...

Dear Polly and Aloysius, There is a suspicion in France that these baubles and trinkets are handed out in the expectation that the government, or instrumental parties, will be favored with the gratitude of the recipient. Hence the allegations of infringement on liberty. I myself have been accused of tailoring opinions on my blog in gratitude for some French reward. Still, there is a French saying that sums up the proper attitude toward medals: "Ça ne se demande pas, ça ne se refuse pas, ça ne se porte pas." Incidentally, right-wingers are more likely to wear their medals than left-wingers.

Suzanne White said...

Mais c'est normal! In France, if you are offered anything at all, a ping pong ball or a cactus plant, you are obliged to hold up your palm and say "Merci non non non non non." very rapidly and with conviction. The way of the French mind is to refuse before accepting. Go to a shop. Ask for a sweater like the one in the window. After ignoring you for awhile, they get off their cell phone and tell you they don't have that kind of sweater. Your job? Insist. That's right. You insist and insist and chat her up till that clerk gives you the sweater you asked for. La Légion d'Honneur does not insist. It proposes and the refusniks dispose. So they don't always get who they want.

François Roland said...

I was afraid that such a guy as Tardi accept this ludicrous decoration. But he didn't and the admiration and esteem I already had for him.
Accepting such a decoration make you rank first among all the "courtisans" of the powerfull ones in France, and worse near some of the worse bastards that this country is loaded with.
Jacques Servier who is responsible for something like 1000 deads or more, because he hid bad results on one of his laboratories medications, the Mediator, and is now "mis en examen" for it, has surely been decorated of the Legion d'Honneur by his good friend Nicolas Sarkozy! That's how it happens in France and we call it: "Le fait du Prince"!

François Roland said...

* correction

"But he didn't and I KEPT the admiration and esteem I already had for him."

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Is it fair to say that the majority of Americans hold ALL awards and medals in high esteem? To me, this story is a great slice of understanding the subtleties of the French/American cultural divide. Not that one way of thinking is right or wrong, but just fundamentally different. Thanks, everyone!

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