About the choice of Jean Sarkozy to name his son Solal, Jean Marie Le Pen
saw fit to point out that “this is not a straightforward assimilation of his
family in French society”.
We could just shrug and carry on in front of one of the ultimate expressions
of a more and more ridiculous racism in the midst of an unwelcome debate
over national identity. But undoubtedly it is necessary to take this remark
more seriously. First, because this man was found ten years ago in the
second round of a presidential elections. Secondly, because the choice of
first names says a lot about the evolution of a nation.
A priori, the remark itself, on this particular first name, is particularly
absurd. Solal is indeed the first name of the hero of one of the greatest
sagas of Francophone literature, recurring character, found in four splendid
books of the tetralogy of Albert Cohen’s first novel, “Solal”, published in
1930; “Mangeclous” then in 1938, and “Belle du Seigneur” published 30 years
later, and finally “les Valeureux” in 1969. Solal: in love, cynical and
opportunist, comes from Kefalonia with his inexpressible cousins, involved
in all important affairs of the League of Nations, of which he is one of the
top most lucid senior officials; denying himself to assimilate, then
asserting himself by denying others, and finally going to the end of his
negation of the world. Who never dreamed to be Solal one day?
Furthermore, if Solal is a significant first name of Hebrew origin “one who
opens the path, the guide”, it is also particularly ironic, as the name of
Mr. Le Pen Jean-Marie in effect refers to two names of Hebrew origin: John
is the Latinized form of “Yosh annan” (God forgives) and that of Mary
“Myriam”, first name of the sister of Moses and the wife of Joseph.
More generally, first names send back everywhere to infinitely diverse and
revealing origins of the dynamics of a nation. In France, we find some
origins of Celtic, Germanic, Italian, Saxon, Hebraic, Arabic, and very few
are of Gallic origin. In fact, first names move with the waves of
settlement, which are also for fashion. So we recently had countless
Philippe, then also many Charles. Before inaugurating the time of Loanna and
Nolwenn. And that of Abdel and Minh.
First names are not standardized. They are like living beings. They are
born, travel, settle, meet, become accustomed, intersect, evolve, then leave
or make stump and diversify. When a nation declines, shrinks and curls up,
it assimilates, and the number of first names it uses is becoming smaller, a
sign of its standardization. On the contrary, when a nation is alive,
dynamic, opened, in growth, it integrates; and it uses then more and more
different first names, on which it feeds to increase its variety.
Assimilation impoverishes. Integration enriches. We can thank Jean Marie Le
Pen for the reminder.