Sun, Sex and Socrates on the Beach in France

A light-hearted revision guide for adults on sex and erotica has been the surprise big hit on the French booksellers list of best holiday reads for 2008. 920

The Cahier de vacances érotiques is a 48 page book on a subject that the publisher, Musardine, considers to be the topic that most preoccupies those who go on holiday: sex. The book contains a range of questions and accompanying drawings to test the reader's knowledge of all matters erotic, whether relating to the anatomy, history, literature, or sciences. There are commentaries on famous texts, as well as questions and exercises in vocabulary, advice on making love on holiday, and even mathematical problems! You can also learn such fascinating facts as how men in the 18th century were able to hold a preservative on their manhood. Alternatively, to answer the question, ‘Who said: ‘In love, men chase and women fish.’ Jean-Marie Bigard, Verlaine or Victor Hugo? The book actually follows a well trodden path in France, based on a decades old tradition of Cahier de vacances revision manuals inflicted on French children each summer, testing their knowledge of the things they should have learned during the year, and a way in which they might be able to get a head start for the new term in September. Given the success of this tradition, publishers Chiflet et Cie last year decided it could equally well be applied to a nation of adults who delight in reflection and who are accustomed to being tested. So they published their Cahier de vacances pour adultes, a revision guide to ‘sunbathing whilst you revise everything you have forgotten’. It proved an outstanding success, selling over 150,000 copies. A second edition has been published this year, and has been equally popular. Other publishers have also decided to try and make hay while the sun shines, by coming out with their own versions of the idea, to the extent that many French bookshops now dedicate a whole section of shelving to the series. Most can be purchased for anything between €5 to €10. You can now find Cahiers on almost every subject under the sun, even one from the French national research body, the CNRS, who have published a weighty Cahier on philosophy. Socrates on the beach!

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