Albert Camus was one of France's greatest twentieth-century authors. He died in a car crash on 4 January 1960 and fifty years later President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to transfer his remains into the Pantheon in Paris, the ulimate hall of fame. There lie the remains of French national heroes dating back to the Revolution in 1789. Today the French President choses candidates for internment in the Pantheon and recent additions have included Alexendre Dumas and the resistance fighter Jean Moulin.
At first glance Camus would seem like a suitable addition to the worthies in the Pantheon. But President Sarkozy, the man behind the latest nomination is anything but a devotee of French literature, having once said that you have to be a "masochist or crazy" to enjoy reading his nation's literary classics.
Critics, commentators and friends of Camus accuse Sarkozy of cynical cultural positioning and point out that Camus could not stand the arrogance of Paris and wanted to be buried in the country next to his wife, as he currently is.
It looks like another example of politicians exploiting the arts and artists. Today the two are as closely entwined as ever. Politicians see the arts as a tool for fighting unemployment, boosting school attainment, attracting tourists, renewing cities, combatting unemployment and even fighting youth crime. Artists are increasingly happy to reciprocate, particulalrly when funding is part of the deal.
Members of the political class have long used sport to boost their profile and electoral attractiveness. That trend now seems set to add another tool to the range of instruments available to politicians who are happy to exploit the arts.