Only a few months ago I was having a conversation with someone in which I remember saying that the baby boomers - my generation - have had their day in the sun, they have been n political power and are now out of it, the world's leaders are a new generation. I was thinking of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton now out of power, and of Obama, Cameron and Clegg, all born in the 1960s, but I wasn't right. Francois Hollande, the new President of France (technically not yet, as the investiture has not yet happened) is my age. There have been a number of programmes about him, his family and his political career so far, as you might expect, given that he is France's second Socialist president ever and the first one was Francois Mitterrand, whose shoes cannot be filled by anyone alive. And of course pictures of a young Hollande, the clothes, the hair, all that, remind me of my youth. Though Hollande was too serious and too political even in his teens to have been in any way counter-cultural (as we used to call it then) or cutting-edge (as we didn't). But none the less, we are talkin' 'bout my generation. Here, and not only here, the boomers are giving something back. Because that's what we wanted. We didn't want to tear down the society we lived in, despite what the older generation said, we wanted to improve it. That's why we didn't do much in the way of creating paintings and symphonies, we were more of an activist generation. The Beatles were the soundtrack of our youth, but they were older than us, war babies. The visual artists shaking things up in the 21st century are younger than us. Writers, yes, there are some. William Boyd (whose latest, Waiting for Sunrise, is unopened on my table in hardback, a pleasure to come) and Hilary Mantel (whose latest, Bring Up The Bodies, currently has me in thrall to my Kindle) were both born in 1952. Ian McEwan and Martin Amis were both born in 1949. So those are all boomers. But you don't find out much about how our generation grew up from any of their books. Interesting that you don't. What they all do is tell stories, mostly from other times and other places.
The surname Hollande comes from how those Protestants fleeing religious persecution in the Low Countries, then under Spanish rule, were dubbed by the locals in northern France, where some of them found refuge. So Hollande may well have Protestant heritage. This would be most unusual for a French President. It would be most unusual for a French person outside this part of France, which anyway has been German in living memory. Although I suspect Hollande is an entirely secular individual, and the question does not arise. His predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, has Hungarian Jewish antecedents, and that was never really an issue, despite the terrible history of Jews in France in the twentieth century.
It's too soon to say what Francois Hollande will do. I fear for the international future - I cannot see him providing the kind of leadership Sarkozy did in the Arab Spring, but I hope I am wrong. He is going to reduce France's dependence on nuclear power, he says. Wrong. And the unionised workers at the Fessenheim power station not far from here will not like it one bit when he closes them down. His government will be formed next week, and will probably include at least two Greens (those Greens are not a bit high-minded, you should see them treading on each other's heads in the hope of a ministerial post) which will tie his hands a bit. Parliamentary elections take place next month, and in some places the Parti Socialiste is trying to kick out PS incumbents or selected candidates to make way for Greens. With predictable and messy results. This is happening here in Strasbourg too.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, the left candidate for the presidency, is to stand against Marine Le Pen of the Front National in Pas de Calais in the north. Should be fun. What's going to happen there?