Social Unrest in La Douce France

Unrest continues to grow in Paris’s banlieues, where North African communities have been ghettoized for the last couple of decades. The current problems were sparked by the death of two teenagers, who were electrocuted at a power station as they allegedly were fleeing police. In Clichy-sous-Bois, rioters burned cars and clashed with security forces.

Anger quickly spread to other suburbs, and the whole thing has turned into another national crisis over what the French call “integration.” (By which they mean the lack of it, really.) Here is a brief article about it on the BBC. You can see it turning into a political race between the conservative Interior Minister Sarkozy (who called the rioters “de la racaille” (i.e. “scum”)) and the somewhat more liberal Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. Both ministers, however, have acknowledged unemployment and racial discrimination, and promised to address the issues.

As it happens, I’m reading a novel set in a Paris banlieue at the moment. It’s a translation of Faiza Guene’s much-buzzed debut novel, Kiffe Kiffe Demain. Without revealing too much, I can already say that it’s living up to its hype. But more on this later.