The Easter egg: Le Canard enchaîné – a weekly must read (also for French aliens)

In this Easter post, I'll cherish a light-house of French publications, Le Canard enchaîné.  My occasional French readers will probably know it, but maybe those outside of France have never heard of it. Which would be a pity, as the "palmipède" is a must-read (if you can read French or attempt to).

The logo
What are we talking about?
Le Canard enchaîné, also known (and feared) as "palmipède", literally the "palm-footed", is a weekly satiric and very well-informed newspaper published every Wednesday that goes back a long time (founded 1915). And despite being not rarely fresher then Fisherman's Friends, Ricola or alike, it is published in a very traditional way. You have to buy the paper in a shop, kiosk, etc. or subscribe to have it send to your home. The Canard has a homepage, which serves the basic functions homepages originally were designed for, and even a Twitter account (so you don't miss the new issue).

The last page ducks this week, the usual word-pun. Fake news in French are "fausse", "fesses" is French for bum.
 The subtitle says: "The liberty of the press has no use, if you don't use it."

A unique format
What makes the Canard the best weekly read also for non-French living in France or generally interested in France, is its size-content ratio. For just 1.20 € (France proper, 1.80 € in the oversea departments, less than two or three € in other European countries, the U.S., and francophone countries across the world) you get an 8-page newspaper (classic newspaper format, black/white with a little red), pitting the main political and social topics of the week, and the one or other journalistic scoop, in short to very short articles interspersed by satirical doodles and caricatures. One of the most influential scoops in the last year was probably putting the nail into the coffin containing Fillon's dreams of becoming the next Sarko. Among connoisseurs (French-capable) of investigative journalism, the Canard is – despite its size – a recognisable force that has not rarely dug out things, the big daily newspapers were unable (or unwilling) to find (or cover).

One of the charicatures on page 1 this week. From left to right (also politically): Valls (used to be PS, independent since 2017, but effectively neoliberal LaREM), Wauquiez (conservative LR), Le Pen (far-right FN). See also my last post providing an evolutionary network of French political parties.
Page 1 (a preview can be found on the Canard's homepage) is usually dedicated to politics and politics-related issues, these days not rarely something that has to do with "Jupiter" (Macron), the elected monarch of France, and the flock of sheep (including camouflaged wolves) supporting him. E.g. this week, you can
  • learn that Vinci, the highly profitable company owning half of France's toll highways (via its subsidary Cofiroute also a partner of Toll Collect, the German toll system, and likely a main beneficiary of the foreigners-only general toll advocated by the Bavaria-first party CSU for using the Autobahn), is looking forward to monopolise France's airports (the "social-liberal", i.e. neoliberal, president is going to privatise the Aéroports de Paris company, which owns the airports in Paris, the second-largest hub in Europe) — Les aéroports encore mieux que les autoroutes (airports are even better than highways);
  • get some quotes etc. from the figure-heads of the political right in France (including the former, allegedly social-democratic prime-minister Valls) try to out-do each other in instrumentalising the recent terroristic attack — La sécuritaire attere (the security touches down);
  • read a piece on Sarkozy's fiery TV appearance on TF1 (biggest French TV channel, belongs to a company controlled by the godfather of Sarkozy's son), where he battled back regarding the juridical annoyance he has by accepting (allegedly for the moment) Libyan money to fund his presidential campain (fun-fact: TF1 was privatised in the late eighties by Chirac, the guy Sarkozy's party, the "Union for a Popular Movement", now "The Republicans", was originally founded to support; and which lost some MPs to Jupiter Macron's LaREM) — Sarko show (the Sarko show);
  • be proud that France finally is in front: regarding the number of days on strike; found out (naturally) by the German IW (an employer-friendly think-tank, so likely affiliated with the neoliberal Mont Pèlerin network); and although Germany, the Musterschüler (in French: meilleurs élèves) must be applauded, the Canard points out that the really disciplined nations that could provide an even better example were not included in the study: China, North and South Korea — La France enfin première! (France finally first)
  • and some more infos on Streeteo, the private company cashing in on parking fees in Paris, formerly a subsidary of Vinci — Streeteo mise à l'amende (literally: Streeteo makes the bill, but I think it's actually a word pun with a double meaning), and the new job of the former head of the French army, who resigned to protest cut-downs — Villiers court à Boston (Villiers runs to Boston).

Two examples for the Canard's miniatures populating p. 2. Sometimes so cryptic (for a non-French), you find yourself pondering what is meant. Left, "Combinations can be found inside"; right, Jupiter Macron (LaREM) and his ally Bayrou (MoDem) discuss amount of to-be proportionally distributed seats next Assemblée.

Page 2 has many little pieces cherishing the inconsistency between what people say and do, or do while criticising others for doing it (the latter also a common sport during the scientific review process) and the "minimares": quotes from politicians and newspapers with slight puns, (rhetoric) questions or half-sentence comments that often hit bulls-eye.

Judged by Mutti (Merkel), France will manage the EU's 3% deficit threshold
Page 3 and 4 come with more articles on a range of topics shortly summarising up some important facts, things to keep in mind and to remember that may have forgotten, in this week e.g. how Sarko tries to sneak away from the judges, the double play of Macron when selling Alstom to General Electric, his battle with the press (entitled using a quote from Asterix & Obelix: "By Teutates, it's war between the press and Jupiter"), a bit about the SNCF strike, some international bits, etc.

Towards page 5 one usually enters the realm of little oddities and social or cultural topics. In this week, the Canard admits to have said something wrong in the past, and rectifies its error: Le Pen, the founder of the far-right National Front (these days politically eliminated by his daughter), and youngest MP elected into the Assemblée at the time for the ultra-right UFF, doesn't own two sculptures of Hitler's favourite sculptor, but three (and providing some funny and revealing details) and the Canard's topical series such as Zigzag (zig-zag), Coupes de Barre (grand fatigue), Conflit de Canard (meaning "Duck's conflict", a word-pun derived from the famous dish Confit de canard).

Putin reacting to the expulsions "They did less for the Crimean, makes you want to invade Georgia"
Page 6 and 7 are increasingly cultural (hence, not so interesting for me) and includes Le Cinema, the Canard's comments to new films in the cinemas, Lettres ou pas Lettres and La Voix aux Chapitres (book reviews), La Boite aux Images (TV critiques), and Le Théatre (theatre).

Page 8 the rounds everything up with some more satiric short-reads and the "fast said" (vit dit) columns, very short reads to the point. In this week you have on the last page
  • Les plates frasques de Trump (had no idea what this means, LEO tells me something like "Trumps caper dish") picking up the stormy weather in Washington.
  • Hidalgogo about the maire of Paris', Anne Hidalgo (PS), new project making the public transport (that she has no control over) free-of-charge.
  • Facebook lance "" (Facebook launches "") about Zuckerberg's crisis containment. 
  • Une Cour de cass sauce suprême? (A High Court with Suprême sauce?) about some changes the French prime-minister envisages regarding France's supreme court, the Cour de cassastion.
  • Les rats sont entrés dans le Lycée autogéré de Paris (Rats have entered the Lycée autogéré de Paris) about a right-wing student group, the Groupe union défense, that harassed (verbally attacked) pupils of the LAD, an expermimental high-school in Paris, in their school yard.
  • Le temps des héros (A time for heroes) about the new civic heroes that fulfil presidential (in France and the U.S.) expectations.

Why do I want to buy and read the Canard?

First of all, it's a unique part of the French journalistic culture that needs to be supported by the public (us). Not only that it's print-only, which costs money (but important for cat-owners, see Postscriptum), it's also not owned by a big company but its own author collective. Meaning they cash to run it and feed themselves (no need to generate tenths or hundreds of €-millions for the shareholders). Once a year, the Canard releases its finances and last year you could see that its ironically making good money despite its outdated publishing concept, i.e. print-only and being a (sort-of) communistic (economically speaking, not content-wise, also left politicians get their share) enterprise. And comes without a single ad. The Canard is hence financially completely independent, a necessity for free and a bit bold journalism. Something utterly different from the so-called mainstream media (aka "fake news" when you ask enlightened right-wingers), which can be elite-biased and have to play by market rules, and the equally big (and influential, see Trump's election, Brexit) self-declared "non-mainstream" news media funded by conservative billionaires, who increasingly drain the world in what they call "alternative facts" (fiction and propaganda) and (often blatantly faked) "true news". In short, it's a rare species among modern-day journalism, independent, investigative, and pretty fearless. One of the view old things that are actually better.

Second, there's probably no alternative for getting the French week condensed and quickly commented on eight pages, while allowing for a smirk, smile or laugh on usually sincere things. And it's so packed, you don't bother having not read everything you paid for the 1–2 € when it's Wednesday again. What else can you buy for 1.20 € a week (i.e. 17 cents per day; how much did you spend on coffee today)?

Third, it forces you to become more and more acquainted with the particularities of the French language. The Canard's ironic phrasing is full of word puns, more or less obvious double meanings, and uses a hell of a vocabulary. When you read it the first time, it's a challenge (I admittedly needed a pause to recover after every article I read in the beginning). But since the articles are small, and you have an entire week to read them, it's the perfect in-between practise for all those that are sort-of-managing in French, but far away from expressing themselves with great esprit (like me).

This week on p. 8, the new age for compulsory schooling (3): "You understand, the earlier you go to school, the earlier you can choose your future profession." – isn't that a dream for a "social-liberal" president?

Postscriptum: All caricatures shown in this post are photographed from this week's issue of the Canard, hence the palmipède's genuine property, and solely shown to give the future reader an impression what else you get. For their background, buy yourself one in your local kiosk, supermarket, etc.  No guarantees for correct translation from French to English.
The wrinkles seen relate to the fact that this particular specimen was bought right on Wednesday together with other necessities (food) and has since been used as long-bath-accompanying literature (still under 10 °C here) and laid-on a few times by full-grown cats (a forth reason to buy the Canard: when they place themselves on your tablet, you can't read around them).

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