Letter from Paris: April 6, 2022 News Digest

The first round of France’s presidential election will take place this weekend and the gap is closing between President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has waged a single-issue campaign focused on the “pouvoir d’achat,” or purchasing power and the cost of living. She has spent a decade trying to soften the image of her father’s anti-immigration party, even changing its name. As reported by The Guardian, “Political opponents still decry Le Pen’s National Rally party as racist, xenophobic, antisemitic and anti-Muslim, but polls show that, while society once rejected her as the “devil” of the republic, public perception of her has softened. On her third presidential bid, Le Pen, 53, has risen to become the second favorite political personality in France behind Macron’s former prime minister Edouard Philippe in Elabe’s latest monthly survey.”

This election has been the most far-right of any in modern French history, according to The Guardian. Extreme-right candidate Eric Zemmour, a TV personality, has staged rallies where inflammatory language is the norm. (Zemmour’s radical extremism has actually served to benefit Le Pen, by softening her image.) Zemmour was actually booted out of Zinedine Zidane’s football club in Marseille last weekend— the club founded by France’s football hero (the son of Algerian immigrants) didn’t want its image associated with Zemmour.

President Macron held his first (and only) re-election rally at La Défense Arena, just outside Paris, over the weekend. As reported by France 24, “Europe’s largest covered venue, the arena was built for rugby and concerts. But Macron fans – who were promised a show worthy of an American Super Bowl halftime – were more than happy to mix sport metaphors as they anxiously awaited their champ.” His address lasted 130 minutes. “He had to convince left-leaning voters he remains a sound choice, while reminding his own supporters and voters writ large that Le Pen’s far right remains a real and present danger.”

The 45th edition of the Paris marathon took place on Sunday in unseasonably cold weather. When the race started around 8 am, the temperature was just above zero degree Celsius. Ethiopian Deso Gelmisa won the men’s race with a time of 2:05:07. Coming in second was Seifu Tura, the champion of the 2021 Chicago Marathon. Third place went to Morhad Amdouni, who set a new French record in 2:05.22, beating the previous French record holder Benoit Zwierzchiewski (2003) by more than a minute. Judith Jeptum, the 26-year-old runner from Kenya, broke a new course record for women with a time of 2:19:48. Check out the video highlights below.

Calling all opera fans. “Fin de Partie,” the opera of Beckett’s absurdist, tragicomic play “Endgame,” will make its French premiere at the Palais Garnier in Paris on April 28. To quote The New York Times, “It is a sort of homecoming for this adaptation of the four-person, one-act play that he wrote in France, where he lived much of his adult life, after leaving his native Ireland. “Fin de Partie” reveals how Beckett’s play may be ideally suited to operatic interpretation and can now be appreciated anew since his original French words will now be sung, bringing the opera full circle four years after its 2018 premiere to a rapturous reception at La Scala in Milan.”

And just for fun, we’ll leave you with a video by NBC News profiling the American pastry chef behind the wildly popular Boneshaker Donuts. Amanda Bankert opened her artisanal shop at 86 Rue d’Aboukir in the second arrondissement back when the city didn’t have donuts. (Run don’t walk to the shop. Boneshaker’s treats, including brownies and coffee, are absolutely delicious.) How did she end up in Paris and launch her business? Watch the video below to find out.