Cinquante Nuances de Grey: When the English Porno crossed the Channel

After selling over 40 million copies in Anglophone countries, the erotic novel phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey (translated as Cinquante nuances de Grey in France) has been let loose in France.  My first thoughts when seeing E.L James’s first instalment of her trilogy advertised on the metro: Mon dieu, surely the French won’t be drawn in too?  Coined as ‘mummy porn’, the novel has drawn in both Brits and Americans alike in their millions, and it seems that the French are no different – 15,000 copies were sold the day after its release.  So it sadly seemed that the Fifty Shades saga is far from over – who knows which country it will conquer next?  What’s more, talk of the upcoming film and rumours about who will play the infamous Christian Grey is everywhere.

I’m afraid that, as most people, I succumbed to curiosity this summer and read the first instalment, but vowed to not read a single page after that.  It’s poorly written, repetitive and quite frankly offensive to all modern women.  The submissive relationship plot not only undermines female equality, but makes it seem absolutely acceptable.  If Christian Grey was not some crazily good-looking billionaire, I think we’d all have concluded that he’d be harassing Anastasia.  Yet somehow his chiselled features and wads of dollars transform him from a lunatic stalker into an ideal man apparently.  Plus James’s depiction of outdated and absurd psychosexual rituals is just plain ridiculous.  And who honestly has a ‘playroom’ like Grey anyway?!

So what are the French thinking so far?  First criticisms are of its poor translation: «Sa main passé de ma taille à mes hanches puis s’empare de mon intimité…» Hou la.  My impression is that the French seem to be finding Fifty Shades’ racy sex scenes more amusing than arousing.  In fact, a French author, Aloysius Chabossot, has written a parody called Cinquante Nuances de Glauque (‘glauque’ meaning grim or shady)This is brilliant I think and such a French thing to do – I may have to give it a read.

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