Aided by a team of translators and cultural sensitivity consultants, we bring you “52 Days of Charlie Hebdo” covers, one for every week last year. We will add a new every day, or as often as we can scrape up enough money to pay the translation team. Our goal is to spread the publication’s charm and offense to everyone, equally, even as we learn to regret our decision to do so. Note: we’ve moved our office to a bunker in rebel-held eastern Ukraine. And everyone here’s got Ebola, so stay away.
Oct. 1, 2014
The cover reads, “If Muhammad came back…”
Prisoner: “I’m the Prophet, you moron!”
Jihadi: “Shut up, infidel!”
Oct. 8, 2014
The cover reads, “Surrogacy is 2 parents … and one slave.”
What else may we add? If you don’t know what “surrogacy” is, then look it up. We attempted to, but our dictionary was broken.
Oct. 15, 2014
The cover reads, “Le Pen, Zemmour: no to family reunification.”
If a non-European has lived in France for at least 18 months, his or her non-European family members may be given French residency visas as well, as long as a few criteria are met. Prominent and controversial journalist Éric Zemmour (depicted in the middle) is calling for genetic testing to be a part of this “family reunification” program in order to verify that applicants are, in fact, related. Similar demands for limitations on family reunification have been made by Jean-Marie Le Pen (on the left) and his daughter Marine Le Pen (on the right), both leaders in the conservative nationalist party Front National.
Oct. 22, 2014
The cover reads, “The sex slaves of Boko Haram are pissed off: ‘Don’t touch our benefits!’”
Members of the commentariat don’t agree what this cover “means.” It may be an example of the mystifying “third degree” of French humor (the first being literal, the second being ironic, the third being — well if we knew, we’d wouldn’t tell you, would we?).
The benefits referred to in the caption are “allocations familiales,” which is financial assistance given to anyone with dependent children. The more kids you have, the more money you get.
And Boko Haram is, obviously, the English rock band whose 1967 hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is still considered essential to understanding the Summer of Love.
Oct. 29, 2014
2014 saw an increase in the numbers of migrants attempting to make boat crossings to Europe through the Mediterranean. From January to October, at least 150,000 migrants arrived on Italian shores alone, while an estimated 3000 died trying to make the voyage. The question of what to do with migrants once they arrive, as well as how to discourage them from attempting such perilous journeys, is a very divisive one.
Éric Zemmour is a French writer and commentator whose conservative positions — including a staunch opposition to the current French immigration policy — have caused caused him to be celebrated by some and loathed by others. His 2014 book “The French Suicide,” which argues that a combination of cowardice and capitulation have diminished French sovereignty and global influence, was a bestseller.
In the cartoon, the two people under the boat are Marine Le Pen (from the conservative nationalist Front National) and former president Nicolas Sarkozy (from the center-right UMP party).
The cover reads, “‘The French Suicide’ : They are initiating the Zemmour plan.”
Nov. 5, 2014
In October, French news outlets were reporting dozens of stories of roving gangs of armed clowns attacking passersby, putting French police on alert and prompting some vigilantes to take to the streets to beat up anyone caught wearing a bright red wig and jumbo shoes.
The cover reads, “Aggressive clowns: ‘He made me eat shit!’”
Nov. 12, 2014
The cover reads, “Nabillon: the TV starlet stabs her boyfriend.”
“Nabillon” is a portmanteau of “Nabilla” and “Fillon.” Nabilla is the buxom reality TV star who infamously stabbed her boyfriend, and François Fillon is the former prime minister and a close ally of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. Last fall, Fillion was rumored to have tried to speed up legal proceedings in a corruption case against his old (and at 5 feet, 5 inches, we can say “petit”) pal to prevent him from making a political comeback.
The cover reads, “These great French chefs who have succeeded abroad.”
Like many countries in Europe, France has seen quite a few of its citizens get recruited by ISIS, and last fall some estimates put the number at nearly 1000 who had either already joined the Islamic State, or were planning on it. A week before this issue went to press, Flavien Moreau, the first Frenchman to be tried for the crime, was sentenced to seven years in prison by a French court.
This cover has recently been removed from the Charlie Hebdo Facebook page, and understandably so. Or not? What do you think?
Nov. 26, 2014
The cover reads, “Fed up with Restos du Coeur”
Stirring the pot in the illustration is Coluche, a French comedian who in 1985 founded Restos du Coeur, an organization that provides food and lodging to homeless people. In November, when this issue came out, Restos du Coeur was celebrating its 30th winter of giving assistance.
In the pot are the leaders of the three largest political parties: President François Hollande (Socialist Party), former president Nicolas Sarkozy (center-right UMP), and Marine Le Pen (conservative-nationalist National Front).
Around when this issue came out, there was much discussion in the media about the likelihood of these three “has-beens” running for president in 2017.
It is our expert’s opinion that the meaning is this: another year, same ol’ shit.
Depicted in the middle is Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 86-year-old founder of the National Front, the conservative nationalist party. On the left is his daughter, Marine, who is currently the party’s leader. On his right is his granddaughter, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a National Front member of parliament who was elected in 2012 at the tender age of 22.
The cover reads, “We tried everything — except syphilis.” And that’s all we know.
Dec. 10, 2014
The cover reads, “Yes to nativity scenes in public spaces!”
In December, a judge ordered officials in La Roche-sur-Yon, a town in western France, to remove a nativity scene from the town hall on the grounds the display violated laws prohibiting religious symbols in public spaces. This decision sparked criticism and protest, with some polls showing that up to 85 percent of French people believe that nativity scenes should be permitted as a cultural tradition — an argument that has held sway with judges in other parts of France.
If you fail to find the (so very très français) “second degree of humor” in this cover, so do we. Did the editors of Charlie Hebdo just want to to take a cheap swipe at those aging militant Catholics who threaten the country with prayer-a-thons?
Our resident French expert has reminded us that a “public space” (“lieu public”) can describe a public building as well as public areas like parks — where, perhaps, toilets are scarce.
Dec. 17, 2104
Florian Philippot is a leader in France’s National Front, a conservative nationalist party. In December 2014, the tabloid Closer published photos of Philippot and a male companion seemingly holding hands, effectively outing him.
The cover reads, “Shocked parents of Philippot: ‘We didn’t know he was from the extreme right.’”
Dec. 24, 2014
Nabilla Benattia is a French celebutante who became famous in 2011 after starring in the reality TV show “Love Is Blind.” A cross of Kim Kardashian and Snooki, Nabilla is as famous for her booty as her coarse manners and her Biff-like catchphrase, “Allô, quoi.” (“Hello?”)
In November 2014, she was arrested after stabbing her then-boyfriend Thomas Vergara multiple times in the chest with a knife. Vergara, a reality TV star in his own right, claims the attack was the culmination of repeated instances of domestic abuse against him. Nabilla was released from jail a week before Christmas, and she will be tried for the stabbing later this year.
In French, the word for turkey, “une dinde,” can also mean someone who is stupid.
Dec. 31, 2014
“A dog at the Élysée: The popularity of Hollande climbs with labradors”
The Élysée Palace is the official residence of French presidents, their mistresses, and sometimes their wives. President Hollande, whose popularity is only slightly above that of the Charlie Hebdo shooters themselves, received a labrador puppy for Christmas. The verb “to climb” — grimper — can also mean “to hump.”
Jan. 7, 2015
“The Predictions of the Wise Man Houellebecq”
‘In 2015, I lose my teeth’
‘In 2022, I do Ramadan’
Michel Houellebecq is the author of “Submission,” a recent novel that depicts the 2022 election of a Muslim president who instills Sharia law in France.