Tuesday. 1/9/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Robert Bound

Ride and joy

The Tour de France, which finally clicked into its cleats and sped off on Saturday, is the jewel in the French sporting crown – grander than tennis at Roland-Garros, superior in spectacle to any old football match played by Paris Saint-Germain. The Tour isn’t just the toughest physical test for athletes in the world but also a three-week-long tracking shot in a vast commercial for France itself. The riders sweep through landscapes at the perfect speed for television: the Provence painted by Van Gogh and Cézanne, endless brand-name vineyards, dramatic mountain passes and then Hausmann’s grand Parisian boulevards – the pillars of the world’s first modern city.

This year, coronavirus is ensuring pressure like never before to represent the best of “Brand France” – and this year that means the unsexy job of controlling the traditionally febrile fans. In the run-up to the “Grand Départ”, the Tour was being hyped as the first major sporting event of the year at which spectators would be present and relative normality restored. The world’s hunger for civility and normality and the understandable French desire to see those things beamed live, daily, from Nice and Champagne might well lead to some wobbles and accidents besides those endured by the riders on the treacherous mountain descents.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme and the French education minister spoke publicly before the start about the importance of the race going ahead. The latter, Jean-Michel Blanquer, says, “It is a sign that we can continue to live, and of the resilience of our society.” Today’s stage ends on a sudden climb in an Alpine ski resort – a test of the best riders and a test for the Tour to keep those close crowds cool, too. So, careful how you go brave peloton – but keep going you should.

Politics / Japan

Big shoes to fill

Shinzo Abe’s surprise departure last week after a record-breaking tenure as prime minister of Japan marks the end of an era. The question now is who will succeed him to lead both the country and the LDP, his political party. The LDP council meets today to decide how the election will take place and a party vote is expected by 15 September. Those in then frame include Yoshihide Suga, Abe’s loyal chief cabinet secretary and continuity candidate; Shigeru Ishiba, a longtime Abe rival and former defence minister with strong grassroots support; and Taro Kono, the Georgetown-educated, English-speaking defence minister. Whoever it is will have much to deal with: not only a poorly economy and the ongoing pandemic but a list of LDP policy objectives that Abe (pictured) regrets not having achieved. These include a treaty with Russia, constitutional reform and closure on the decades-old abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents. All in all, a daunting prospect for any new prime minister.

Media / Germany

Turning the page

Indiecon, an annual independent publishing festival in Hamburg, takes place this weekend in the city’s creative and cultural quarter. The fair will showcase more than 80 independent and solo publishers and the fact that it’s happening at all is an important signal for the industry, according to Indiecon’s co-founder Urs Spindler. “For us it’s about setting an example because we need to think about how we keep our creative and cultural exchange going,” says Spindler.

The reaction so far “has been very positive. Many exhibitors depend on this exchange to find new readers to get the word out about their publications.” Among the highlights will be Off To magazine, founded by Liz Gomis. The new title focuses on a different African capital every issue, starting with Ghana’s Accra. Listen to the full interviews with Spindler, Gomis and others on the latest episode of Monocle 24’s The Stack.

Retail / UK

Good news for bookworms

Book sales often spike as the months get colder. Super Thursday in early October is normally the date on which most books are released in the UK – but this year the numbers have gone into overdrive. This Thursday, a month earlier than normal, almost 600 hardbacks are due to be published – a quarter more than last year’s Super Thursday total of 426 – with 790 more expected on 1 October. Like in the film industry, a major factor in this boom is that many publishers delayed their spring releases. But the numbers also reflect a general trend that has seen sales increase by 5 per cent every year for the past decade. It shows that despite all the recent challenges there are a number of positives for the industry – unless you’re one of the unlucky authors competing for sales with more than 1,000 others over the next month.

Education / Global

Class act

As many students return to the classroom this month, much of the discussion has been about the appropriate level of caution. But the more meaningful conversations might lie in how to re-engage students who have spent months learning remotely. “While [the students] enjoyed some aspects of online learning for a period of time, I think the value of human interaction just became so apparent,” says Bernhard Gademann, headmaster and director of the Institut auf dem Rosenberg (pictured), a leading international boarding school based in St Gallen, Switzerland. As students return for the new school year this week, Gademann says the life skills that they’ll learn from problem-solving and working alongside peers is invaluable. “You have to take [the pandemic] seriously. But school must go on,” he says. “It is such an important experience for students because the downside is that we’ll have a whole generation that has missed out on this privilege.”

M24 / On Culture

‘Tenet’

As cinemas reopen, Simran Hans and Tim Robey join Robert Bound to discuss Christopher Nolan’s time-bending new action-adventure, Tenet.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: September issue, 2020

Monocle’s September issue is chock-full of ideas on how to chart a new course for yourself and your business. We scoured the globe to find pockets of opportunity in a suppressed economy. Dive in to find out about the new entrepreneurial hotspots, why well-designed global HQs are here to stay and how media brands can stay nimble for their audience. We also lined up a few tasty stopovers along the way and a dashing selection of sports attire to keep you in shape. So get moving and order your copy here.

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