If you are looking for a presidential candidate, there are two places to go to hope to find him. The countryside, to show its deep attachment to France and its humility. And the corner bookstore, where he will probably have released a new book presenting his program for 2022. This Wednesday comes out A French woman *, Anne Hidalgo, just days after the announcement of her candidacy for the Elysee. Among the possible candidates, François Roussel, of the Communist Party, and Eric Zemmour have also released program books.
This literary impulse is obviously not without interest, because a book remains a formidable weapon in politics, a fortiori with the approach of the elections. However, the political book sells very little, and is read even less outside the militant circle, with a few exceptions. “The success of a book written by a politician depends largely on the notoriety of its author,” explains Axel Assouline, communications advisor and speaker at the Sorbonne. This is therefore extremely variable and ranges from 58 copies, like the book by Christine Boutin, to nearly 300,000 copies for the books of Nicolas Sarkozy. But overall, they sell little ”.
French literary culture
Here then is the paradox of the political book: it is not really meant to be read, and this is even where its secret lies. “No undecided voter will read all the books of all the candidates to make up his mind”, laughs Benjamin Morel, doctor of political science at the ENS. The book nevertheless remains a weapon, or rather a posture, a fortiori in France. Because our country has a tradition of literate and very cultured leaders, from the Memoirs of De Gaulle to the writings of Mitterrand or Giscard d’Estaing, going back to those of Jaurès, Hugo and other Clemenceau.
Beautiful people to imitate, but not so simple. “Writing a book does not make a politician a scholar or a scholar. I am thinking in particular of Gérard Larcher, Jean-François Copé, Nadine Morano… You do not become literate like that, it requires a real history and personal culture ”, slice Axel Assouline. For him, few politicians can also boast of this label: “François Bayrou, Alain Juppé or Jean-Luc Mélenchon are the heirs of this French politico-literary tradition”, he argues.
But no matter the style or degree of “literate”, the book can be the ultimate proof that you have things to say and ideas as a candidate. “If you have written a whole book, it is because you have thought about society and your political program”, supports Benjamin Morel. Ideas which, in fact, prevail during media solicitations: “It is the political book which serves as a pretext for the interviews. It is therefore the subjects of the book, chosen by the candidate, which make the questions. And the latter finds himself in a comfortable position, ”continues the doctor.
Which brings us to the third great interest of the political book: to glean additional television sets or articles at little cost. No coincidence that the majority of ministers are also pulling out books at the moment. Axel Assouline: “During a desert crossing or a slump, the political book serves as a” postcard “: to ensure that its supporters and the public do not forget it, while initiating a return”.
From there to think that Anne Hidalgo’s book could only contain blank pages that would not change anything? “It’s the fetishization of the book that counts”, concludes Benjamin Morel. Ditto for its number of sales, it will be of little importance. Anne Hidalgo has just released a book. And the main information to remember from these 250 pages is that Anne Hidalgo is campaigning for the presidential election.
* “A French woman”, by Anne Hidalgo, ed. from the Observatory, 18 euros.