Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has sparked a racism row in France, using the word "monkeys" before weighing in on a controversy over racist language in an interview on French television.
"I don't know if we have the right to say monkeys."— TRT World (@trtworld) September 11, 2020
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's racist comments spark anger pic.twitter.com/PJk65NdJbf
The debate on "Quotidien" touched upon the belated decision to change the French translation of an Agatha Christie novel’s title to remove the N-word.
"[There's] this will of the elites, who hold their noses, who are like the monkeys who don't listen to anyone", said Sarkozy on the channel TMC on Thursday evening, using gestures to imitate deaf, dumb, and blind monkeys.
The ex-president continued:
"I don't know if ... we still have the right to say monkeys? Because we no longer have the right to say ... what do we say now, the 10 little soldiers? You see, the book? Maybe we have the right to say 'monkey' without insulting anyone?"
65-year-old Sarkozy then confirmed to the host that he was referring to Agatha Christie's novel "And Then There Were None".
While the English version of the book's title was changed decades ago from the original “Ten Little N******” to remove the word that was perceived as racist, the French version only had its title changed last month.
At the request of Christie's great grandson, James Prichard, who heads the firm that owns the literary and media rights to her works, the title in French will now be "Ils étaient dix" ("They Were Ten").
James Prichard CEO @agathachristie Ltd has requested the publishers of "Ten Little.." who still use the old UK title to change it. France's publisher has changed to "Ils Etaient Dix" (They Were Ten) & Russia's is only considering change. IMO its appropriate to move on. Thoughts? pic.twitter.com/opXnOBN6Jk— Collecting Agatha Christie (@CollectChristie) August 28, 2020
Furthermore, the text of the novel itself will also be revised, as the N-word word appeared 74 times in the French version. It will be replaced with the word "soldat" or "soldier" in the latest translation by Gerard de Cherge, said RTL.
Critics pounced on the former president’s comments, tearing into the ex-head of state, who still commands a presence on the French political scene.
Audrey Pulvar, deputy mayor of Paris, deplored the remarks as "pure and profound racism", accusing Sarkozy of "putting an equal sign" between the word "monkey" and the word in the original title of the Christie book.
Green MEP Yannick Jadot tweeted a video clip with the comment "racist shipwreck".
Olivier Faure, leader of the Socialist Party, suggested that the former president's comments were "unmasked racism".
Socialist Ségolène Royal, Sarkozy's defeated opponent in the 2007 presidential election, said the statements made by him fall "unfortunately in line with his lamentable speech in Dakar", where he claimed that "the African man" had "not sufficiently entered history".
Netizens were also appalled at the statements made by Sarkozy on the TV show.
Former French president #Sarkozy goes on a racist rant on TV: was angry not to be able to use the N-word in a #AgathaChristie book and asked if he should say “10 monkeys” instead! Sickening to see that mind operate!#NicolasSarkozy #BlackLivesMattter https://t.co/6deNgkIrto— Amin Chaoui MD (@amin_chaoui) September 11, 2020
I’m sorry but I can’t let go of Nicolas Sarkozy going « the elites 🙈🙉🙊 omg can I say monkey since I can’t say n**** ? So much for the tolerant left » and all the white journalists saying nothing 💀💀💀 As I always say: pic.twitter.com/Ue7ogWGom6— sophie is going up the country (bb dnt u wanna go) (@sophiemarie_ng) September 11, 2020
Others defended Sarkozy’s comments.
Rachida Dati, who served as justice minister under Sarkozy, said the controversy around his remarks came against the backdrop of a "dangerous tyranny of political correctness".
Nadine Morano, a former minister in the Sarkozy government and member of the European Parliament, tweeted that the statements by the former president had been taken out of context.
Quelle maladie médiatique française.. Couper une phrase, la sortir de son contexte pour en retourner le raisonnement c’est tellement idiot ! Les Français ont très bien compris ce que @NicolasSarkozy a dit sur les élites ! https://t.co/7b3lzhxfdB— Nadine Morano (@nadine__morano) September 11, 2020
Nicholas Sarkozy has not offered a direct comment on the row. However, on Thursday evening he tweeted an excerpt from the TV show where he voiced his admiration for black French poet Aimé Césaire.