An Irishwoman’s Diary on ‘Le Un’, a print newspaper with a difference

True to type

Éric Fottorino: founder of a new publication, Le Un, which marks its first birthday on April 9th. Photograph: Mickaël Bougouin

Éric Fottorino: founder of a new publication, Le Un, which marks its first birthday on April 9th. Photograph: Mickaël Bougouin

 

‘An immense translucent leaf undulating in the treetops...” Trust Paris to make poetry out of a building site where a seamless gallery of storyboards envelopes a large fraction of a quartier.

Not that there’s much left now of Les Halles, the sprawling subterranean warehouse of the 1970s that infiltrated Émile Zola’s “belly” of the capital when the centuries-old food market was moved south.

We are up on a viewing platform, provided by the construction company to observe progress on David Mangin’s ambitious replacement. The translucent leafiness is “La Canopéé”, an enormous undulating roof of glass which is a focal point of this “grand projet”. By 2016, with budgets and deadlines stretched, there will be a series of elevated gardens extending above the busy metro junction, which the city promises as a match for the Palais Royal. In the meantime, the residents endure a decade of uncertainty and dust and disruption, because language keeps the idea alive. Language is everything – even on the hoardings describing Mangin’s vision of a “Ramblas”-style walkway – and it helps no end that beautiful music emanates from every word.

Three decades ago, Oxford writer Theodore Zeldin paid tribute to this lyricism, and the way that expression and gesture and intonation can transform ideas onto another plane. Thinking is never one-dimensional, Zeldin explained in his bestseller, The French; “like a subtly flavoured dish”, it “leavens science with poetry and philosophy”, and so French intellectuals are not just scholars, but artists also – even chefs.

Éric Fottorino is clearly cut from that creative cloth too, as founder of a new publication which marks its first birthday on April 9th. The award-winning journalist and former editor-in-chief with Le Monde began his career as a freelance reporter for the daily Libération – a newspaper born of no rich benefactor,where the cleaner, printer and editor were all originally paid the same salary. Capturing a bit of that spirit, Fottorino and three colleagues founded a weekly publication, Le Un , just a year ago.

One sheet of paper

And so, popular movements “shaking up” Europe were central to the issue we picked up in a “tabac” near Les Halles several weeks ago. Film-maker Ken Loach and German politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit – dubbed “Dany le Rouge” during his 1968 student leader days in Paris – were among those interviewed, while Jochen Gerner’s cartoon chronicling European street movements included a reference to 120,000 anti-water charge protestors in this parish late last year.

Fottorino explains that when he was leaving Le Monde, the constant chorus from colleagues was that “print is dead”.

He was not convinced, in spite of the evident competition from digital technology. “I considered that it was not the print newspaper that was in crisis, but the editorial content,“he says. “And so I thought then about what I like to read, and what it is that I like to keep afterwards,” he explains. “You look at the free newspapers you get in the Metro, and how you flick through them and then you throw them away . . . I wanted to return to a place where there was and is value to paper and print . . . where one has a journal that is an object of value, and an object of value that is a journal,” he says.

One large poster

Le Un

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