Macron appoints author Leïla Slimani to champion French language

Award-winning writer made Francophone affairs minister to ‘represent the open face of Francophonie to a multicultural world’

The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, has given a young, prize-winning writer the job of promoting the French language and culture.

Leïla Slimani was made the president’s personal representative and given a wide remit as Francophone affairs minister after a meeting at the Élysée Palace on Monday.

A presidential spokesperson said Slimani was chosen because she “represents the open face of Francophonie [being French-speaking] to a multicultural world”, and because she was “part of a new generation that the president wants to highlight”.

La Chanson douce de la langue française désormais portée avec talent et énergie par Leïla Slimani.

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 6, 2017

Macron likes to be seen as a man of letters and has admired Slimani’s books. He asked to meet her during his presidential campaign, and Slimani publicly supported him before the second-round run-off vote in May, in which Macron went head to head with the Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

French media later reported that Macron had offered Slimani the job of culture minister but she had turned it down. However, she accompanied Macron to meet Mohammed VI, the king of Morocco, in June.

The Morocco-born author was largely unheard of before last November, when she won the prestigious Prix Goncourt literary award for her second novel, Chanson Douce (Lullaby).

Emmanuel Macron and Leïla Slimani in a meeting at the Élysée Palace
Macron and Slimani at the Élysée Palace on Monday. Photograph: POOL/Reuters

Her latest work, Sexe et mensonges (Sex and lies), explores sexuality in Morocco. She calls for more sexual freedom and tolerance in the country and rails against the wearing of the burqa.

After Slimani met Macron at the Élysée on Monday afternoon, the president’s office released a statement saying her role would centre on “concrete projects” covering a broad range of issues. It said these were linked to Macron’s priorities, including “education, culture, female-male equality, youth jobs and mobility, the battle against climate change and the development of new technology”.

Macron – whose fledgling centrist party, La République en Marche, is largely made up of political newcomers – appointed Laura Flessel-Colovic, a retired Olympic fencer, as sports minister. Nicolas Hulot, a high-profile ecologist and one-time television presenter, is ecology minister.

In October, Macron tasked Stéphane Bern, a well-known television commentator on the royals and aristocracy, with looking after the country’s historic buildings.

In the past, the Francophone affairs post, a junior ministerial position, has been given to a career politician.

Shortly before Slimani’s appointment was announced, the Goncourt jury awarded this year’s prize, considered the most prestigious in French literature, to Eric Vuillard for his book L’ordre du Jour, which examines how the Nazis came to power.


Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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