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France profonde

The Nouvel Observateur, like Prospect, has published a list of thinkers to celebrate its birthday. Does it tell us anything about the state of French thought?

By Tim King   November 2005

In his commentary accompanying last month’s list of 100 global intellectuals to mark Prospect’s tenth birthday, David Herman demoted Paris as the centre of world philosophy. But he failed to go beyond that and add the deeper truth: that even if Paris is no longer the capital, France profonde remains the cradle of French thought. Not because great thinkers experienced enlightenment here, but because scarcely literate paysans, my neighbours’ families, escaping abject rural poverty, left here for Paris and there discovered a talent for running cafés. The great left bank cafés—Lipp, Flore and La Coupole, around whose tables the intellectual…

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