The history of French nuclear power, but more specifically of the French atomic bomb in the French Fourth and Fifth Republics is very much a mix of clear and blurred mosaic pieces. For example, as the French government sought to accelerate the development of nuclear power in the wake of the Suez Canal crisis in 1956, it faced an inherent tension associated with the need for military secrecy. Within four years, however, the newly formed Fifth Republic would use the first French nuclear explosion as grounds to trumpet technological achievement. The coverage of the development and testing, as well as associated events were the subject of a series of reports in the French weekly Paris-Match. The magazine’s own appearance shortly after World War II and its evolution into an important source of mass information and entertainment makes it an obvious choice to discuss popular perceptions of French nuclear power. By applying a narrative analysis, I show how the French weekly accompanied its readers into accepting the development of the French bomb. In so doing, it contributed to what Pierre Nora has identified as “divertissement dramatique,” the coding of an event that went out of the ordinary, yet made use of a series of conventional signals understandable to all.
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