As part of a life-long liaison with France I am drawn to accounts written by English residents comparing England and France. Lucy Wadham’s The Secret Life of France combines French depth with English humour.
Writing about her husband’s ex-girlfriend, an erotic bombshell, she discerns a need in social groups that would be an anathema in England (which explains a lot about English sexual malfunction):
When I heard this story I inwardly vowed to cut Aurélie out of my life. At the time Laurent had the elegance not to object, but after we split up he and Aurélie became close again. Today I feel a good deal more charitable towards her. In fact, as Hortense once explained to me, women like Aurélie fulfil a useful role in society. They are erotic catalysts. Not all women should be matronly or sisterly or otherwise sexually passive. If they are, the erotic charge disappears from the social group, or goes underground and becomes pathological, disembodies, infected by guilt. The idea is that in the presence of this type of predatory woman, wives and girlfriends feel at risk and this sense of risk reboots the libido. Significantly, Carl Jung identified the vital social role of this type of woman in his book Aspects of the Feminine. Even he, however, could not help giving her the pejorative label ‘The Overdeveloped Eros.’
Much of the difference between England and France Wadham attributes to the latter’s historic Catholicism. This reminds me to read Peter Ackroyd’s lecture entitled “The Englishness of English Literature,” in which he argues:
… that a ‘Catholic’ strand of English consciousness, one that is exuberant, irrational and indeed visionary, has been overlaid and repressed by the protestant rationalism that has prevailed since the Enlightenment.