EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the June 20, 2005, issue of National Review.
12, rue Jacob
Jeudi, le 26 mai:
Le patient arrives, late in the afternoon, directly from the Elysée Palace, for his regularly scheduled session with le docteur, his psychiatrist. Le patient has been preparing his remarks to la République, which he is scheduled to give in the evening. In his job as le Président de la République he displays command and dignity and an almost de Gaulle-esque (a former patient of this humble docteur, incidentally) power. But in his private moments–naked, alone, tout seul–he is clearly in turmoil. He is playing a dangerous game, perhaps even a deadly game, with his political life. Should the vote go his way on Sunday he will be a hero, a god-king, a lion d’or. Should it not, the crétinisation de Jacques Chirac will commence, sans arrêt.
The crisis plays on his face. He looks terrible–old, haggard, wan–but when le docteur points this out, le patient merely shrugs majestically and lights a cigarette.
He is upbeat and optimistic. He tells le docteur that the various opinion polls that suggest that Sunday’s referendum will result in a resounding “non” for the European constitution are “absurd” and “to be mocked.” When le docteur shrugs, le patient chuckles loudly and rearranges his scarf as he opens a bottle of wine and lights another cigarette. For a moment, the office is silent save for the rustle and clatter of le patient’s many activities.
After a few puffs and a sip or two of wine, le patient finally sits opposite le docteur. He smiles bravely. Le docteur shrugs. Le patient shrugs in return. The session begins.
It is clear to le docteur that le patient is suffering from some form of delusion. His jaunty scarf and his inane chatter are all symptoms of a self-in-crisis. A self of no-self. A self that, when confronted with the evidence that the world is a mad carnival, a dumb show of such empty and meaningless violence that to trust it, to hold stock in it, is to descend into self-parody, will suffer no less than a crise philosophique beyond the reach of cigarettes, or wine, or a lover’s embrace.
Le docteur prefers not to share this insight with le patient, as le patient is irritating him. So they sit in silence for the rest of the session, each alone with his cigarettes and his scarf and his thoughts of past lovers. . .
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