Posted by: travelerbyday | February 4, 2009

L’actualité en France: la Grève

France à la Entropa

One of the most useful words I have learned since living in Grenoble is “la grève,” or “the strike.”  Opportunities to use this word present themselves on a daily basis in France.

For example, this semester’s opening day at the Université Stendhal’s Center for French Studies (CUEF) was interrupted by “les manifestants,” student protesters who convened on university property to express their disapproval of recent changes by Nicolas Sarkozy’s government to the national education system.  The CUEF’s president cut short the day’s welcome-back program and asked students to evacuate the building in order to lock the doors and prevent protesters from entering.  Two weeks later, members of educative, workers’, and other associations participated in a nation-wide grève, causing cancellations of courses and slowing transportation, among other public services to be interrupted.

La grève is an important part of French culture; so much so, that Czech artist David Černý used it as the symbol of France in his controversial sculpture entitled Entropa.   The sculpture, recently unveiled in Brussels, portrays several members of the European Union as gross stereotypes.  Photos of Entropa can be seen here courtesy of the BBC News website.

While in all its seriousness la grève indicates France’s profound political and cultural values, it is important to note that the French themselves are not above a good laugh at the expense of tradition:  While my host father was flipping through all five of our TV channels recently, his wife asked him if her favorite soap opera had come on yet; he grinned and responded, “Non – ils font la grève.”

The author of this post, a UK student, has been living in Grenoble, France, since September 2008.


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