“For the good of France, shut up, Mr. Finkielkraut!” a young Muslim woman, a teacher from the suburbs, said recently on live television, throwing back to Mr. Finkielkraut his own words, after a televised harangue aimed at him several years earlier in a similar confrontation…
His last substantial book, “The Unhappy Identity,” was a best seller in France — a compact lament over declining standards in schools, the pernicious effects of multiculturalism, the oppression of women under Islam and France’s self-alienation from its own heritage.
The book’s protest over neighborhoods where “the French feel they have become strangers on their own turf” under the weight of Muslim immigration led critics to put him in the camp of the far-right National Front — a charge he rejects.
“France is on its way to disintegration,” Mr. Finkielkraut said in the interview in his Left Bank apartment, every book-lined inch underscoring his distrust of the Internet. The prosperous, pleasant and largely white-populated streets outside are far from the troubled multiracial suburbs that are his preoccupation.
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“Until recently, France was successful in integrating its immigrants — that was even its pride,” he said. “Today, it is disintegrating in front of our eyes.” The French model of integration “doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “Where one could have hoped for a certain harmony, it is hatred that prevails.”
“Today, when some, like me, speak of the problem of Islam, we are denounced as the successors of Maurras and Barrès,” said Mr. Finkielkraut, naming two influential far-right thinkers of pre-World War II France. “There is a refusal to think about this era on its own terms.”