Voltaire once said “It is not enough to conquer; one must learn to seduce.” Most anglos have a negative view of the word and would agree with the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition that seduction implies “the enticement of a person to sexual intercourse or the act of leading aside… “But Elaine Sciolino with her new book tells us that for the French there is a lot more to the story. In France —especially Paris— seduction is a way of life with its own set of rules and codes that take most people who are not born here a lifetime to figure out.
France is a seductive country, seductive in its elegance, its beauty, its sensual pleasures, and its joie de vivre. But Elaine Sciolino, the longtime Paris bureau chief of The New York Times, has discovered that seduction is much more than a game to the French: it is the key to understanding France.
Seduction plays a crucial role in how the French relate to one another—not just in romantic relationships but also in how they conduct business, enjoy food and drink, define style, engage in intellectual debate, elect politicians, and project power around the world. While sexual repartee and conquest remain at the heart of seduction, for the French seduction has become a philosophy of life, even an ideology, that can confuse outsiders.
In La Seduction, Sciolino gives us an inside view of how seduction works in all areas, analyzing its limits as well as its power. She demystifies the French way of life in an entertaining and personal narrative that carries us from the neighborhood shops of Paris to the halls of government, from the gardens of Versailles to the agricultural heartland.
Elaine Sciolino is the author of “Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran.” She is a Paris correspondent and former Paris bureau chief for The New York Times. She lives in Paris with her husband.