Almost every serious French politician brings out books to promote their political ideas.
Although rarely best sellers – most are lucky to sell more than 20,000 copies – they can have an impact on the public debate and lend an air of intellectual respectability. They also give an excuse for a round of newspaper interviews and the chance to do the circuit of the many serious talk shows on French TV.
In 2010, the best-selling political books were written by two left wing politicians.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a politician so left-wing that he left the Socialist party in 2008 to form a new party, sold an impressive 73,000 copies of a book outlining his views.
Michel Rocard, a Socialist politician who was prime minister for three years under François Mitterrand, sold 48,000 copies of his memoirs.
Third place went to the less lofty “Carla, a secret life”, about First Lady Carla Bruni, by Besma Lahouri.
The battle of the political books often takes place when France returns to work in September after the long summer break, known as la rentrée (the return) in France.
There’s even a term for the flood of books that are released onto the market in September; la rentrée littéraire.
Publishing books of political ideas “is a very French tradition,” Muriel Beyer, editorial director at publishing house Plon, told newspaper Libération.
This year, of the six candidates battling to win the Socialist party nomination to be the candidate for next year’s presidential election, five have announced they will be bringing out a book.
The party’s 2007 presidential candidate, Ségolène Royal, has had the biggest PR push so far this summer with a book that was initially due out on August 20th.
Saddled with the rather ponderous title of “letter to all the resigned and indignant who want solutions” (“letttr à tous les resignés et indignés qui veulent des solutions”), the book will now come out on September 1st.
She has said the book will be a “coherent project for France, containing solutions and a strategy.” According to her editor, quoted in newspaper France Soir, “this book is the result of years of experience.”
The delay means that Royal’s former husband and current race frontrunner, François Hollande, will get his book out first.
With the snappier title of “The French Dream” (“Le rêve français”), he will have his book on the shelves on August 25th, just before the annual Socialist party summer conference.
Hollande’s PR blurb claims the book will “set out his ambitions for the French, his deep convictions, belief in justice and conception of what it means to be a citizen.”
Left-wing candidate Jean-Michel Baylet will launch a more radical manifesto in his book “Boldness on the left: 20 proposals for France” (“L’audace à gauche, 20 propositions pour la France”).
Manuel Valls and Arnaud Montebourg have also announced books for September.
The odd woman out in the book race is former party leader Martine Aubry, who is running in second place behind Hollande so far in the polls.
She does not have plans to release a book in September, having decided to go early by releasing a book in March, “Changing civilisation” (“Pour changer de civilisation”).
She will be hoping that her decision does not mean she gets less air time in the crucial run-up to the first round of voting in the party elections in October.