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Culture

Russian author slams France while receiving its highest literary honour

© Patrick Kovarik, AFP | Russian author Andreï Makine poses at the library before his induction into the Académie Française in Paris on December 15.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-12-15

Russian novelist Andrei Makine vilified the "criminal" West as he received France's highest literary honour on Thursday, calling the last three French presidents "arrogant ignoramuses" as he was inducted into the Académie Française.

The author went on to criticise what he called the "criminal" West's "strategy of chaos" in the Middle East.

Makine, who was born and raised in Siberia but who now writes in French, accused the "great powers" of "playing with fire by delivering weapons into the hands of fundamentalists and pushing them into a strategy of chaos in the Middle East".

"Who today would have the impudence to question the martyrdom of so many peoples, Muslim or otherwise, on the altar of the new globalised world order?" he asked as he was inducted into the Académie Française, the country's highest authority on the French language, which honours the language's best writers.

>> Webdoc: Take a look inside the Académie Française

His comments came hours after President François Hollande accused Russia of reneging on its vow to safeguard civilians after the fall of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.

Makine also lambasted the United States and its allies for the "half-million children who were massacred" after the invasion of Iraq and "the monstrous destruction of Libya, the disaster of Syria and the barbarous pillaging of Yemen".

'Unthinking lackeys'

He also blamed the West for the bloodshed in east Ukraine, calling it "a fratricidal war orchestrated [in Kiev] by the strategic criminals of NATO and their unthinking European lackeys".

Makine, 59, won France's most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for his 1995 novel "Dreams of My Russian Summers" just seven years after being granted political asylum.

But he laid into every president of his adopted country since François Mitterrand for the "shameful arrogance with which they admit their lack of culture".

"These arrogant ignoramuses have forgotten the force of General de Gaulle's pen, which like that of Winston Churchill should have earned him a Nobel prize for literature," he said. "They forget, these ignorants in power, that once French presidents not only read novels but knew how to write them."

Makine, whose ceremonial robes were made for him by Italian designer Giorgio Armani, was elected to join the "immortals" in March after the death of Algerian-born writer Assia Djebar. There are always 40 living immortals in the Académie Française, and new ones are inducted only after the death of a predecessor.

However, once selected, the immortals keep the academy honour forever.

'My country is this big'

Makine, who has also written four novels under the pseudonym Gabriel Osmonde, would not answer questions as to whether he supports Russian President Vladimir Putin; instead he declared himself to be "pro-Russia".

His speech came as a documentary was due to air on French public television Thursday, alleging that former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was humiliated by the Russian leader during their first meeting in 2007.

It alleges that Putin threatened to "smash" Sarkozy after he brought up his concerns about human rights abuses in Chechnya and the killing of journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered on the Russian leader's birthday.

"Your country is this big," Putin reportedly told Sarkozy. "My country is this big," he said, spreading his arms. "If you continue in this tone, I will smash you."

Putin allegedly continued: "You have just become president of France. I could make you the king of Europe."

In his speech inducting Makine to the Académie Française, French writer Dominique Fernandez castigated the Western media bias that he said was designed to "humiliate" Russia.

"Anyone who knows Russia a little knows how it is being slandered in our media," said the novelist, who won the Prix Goncourt in 1982.

"It is total disinformation. We talk about nothing but the mafia, corruption and the nouveau riche."

He continued: "Certainly there are faults. But are we exempt from them ourselves?"

Hollande has been highly critical of Russia over Ukraine and Syria, but François Fillon, the right-wing candidate who is favoured to win May's presidential election, has a warm rapport with Putin and appears eager to repair relations.

Marine Le Pen – the leader of the far-right National Front party, who polls predict Fillon is likely to face in the election's second round – has also expressed admiration for Putin.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-12-15

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