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The obsession with beautiful French women, most wonderfully expounded by the media frenzy surrounding Carla Bruni (born in Italy, I know), has now been codified in a guidebook written by Bernard Kouchner’s speech-writer, Pierre-Louis Colin. The book, Guide des jolie femmes de Paris (Guide to the pretty women of Paris) is meant in a light-hearted way: it is supposedly intended more as a literary essay than the voyeurs’ handbook it has been described as elsewhere, though this is idea is stretched to breaking point with lines like “You do not find in Menilmontant the sublime legs you see at the Madeleine. But you do find perfectly shameless cleavages, radiant breasts often uncluttered by a bra.” But then, what do I know about French Literature? It did after all produce the Marquis de Sade who was eminently more fruity.

There have been the predictable howls of outrage from dungaree-clad academics about the objectification of women but that misses the point slightly. Colin himself admits that the book has been written to provoke reaction. With that in mind, and unlike an undoubtedly large number of people who will rush to condemn the book without having read it, I will simply say this: if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Vive la diffĂ©rence!

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