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Comic Book / Quai d'Orsay

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Quai d'Orsay is a Franco-Belgian comic book by Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac. Based on Lanzac's personal recollections of his career at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (usually referred to as the Quai d'Orsay since that's where its main offices are located), it tells the story of Arthur Vlaminck, a young and impressionable university graduate who gets hired by the minister as a "language expert" — a fancy term for speechwriter.

Vlaminck discovers from the inside the workings of the foreign ministry: the bureaucratic wheelings and dealings, the petty personal rivalries, the high-stakes crisis management, and looming over the whole thing, the driven, charismatic figure of the minister himself, Alexandre Taillard de Vorms, a transparent alter ego of Dominique de Villepin. Vorms's overriding concern is preventing the American invasion of a certain Middle Eastern country.


A film adaptation of the comic has been released in November 2013.

Quai d'Orsay provides examples of:

  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: Most of the minister's staff, and especially Maupas, his cabinet manager.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: How his staff perceives the minister. Like the Irresponsible Captain Tylor or Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM), it can be very hard to tell when he's being a genius and when he's being an overly pompous buffoon full of hot air. Lampshaded in-story: one of his older collaborators tries to vaguely explain it, but it looks like wishful thinking since his being Married to the Job has ruuined his private life. Vladimir, the narrator, who looks headed for the same direction, explains it in a way that feels like weird mix of Obfuscating Stupidity, Obfuscating Insanity, Feigning Intelligence and Chewbacca Defense: basically the Minister, in a confrontation, escapes the technicalities of any problem by ranting with furious passion about higher concepts. "We must uphold Responsibility, Unity, Progress. The specter of the Third World War is looming on us, and only Trust, only Synergy can drive that threat away!"... to Spanish officials complaining that French fishermen were stealing their fish: they end up so dumbfounded ("Responsibility? Buh?") they just sort of give up.
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  • Embarrassing Ringtone: Arthur's ringtone is a Metallica song. Not the best way to be taken seriously when it rings in the middle of a diplomatic summit.
  • Government Procedural: A rare comic book version.
  • Head Desk: Cahut, one of the minister's underlings, does one to express his frustration with his staff.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Maupas can defuse an international crisis without breaking a sweat.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The same tired puns about NATO are always made by someone whenever the topic comes up. Because he knows it annoys his cabinet manager, the minister likes to make them himself.
  • Interservice Rivalry: When an international incident threatens to blow out of control, the foreign affairs ministry turns out to be in competition with the defense ministry to resolve it.
  • In Harm's Way: De Vorms. "Diplomacy done behind closed desks is dead diplomacy!". In the first tome, there was a Ruwanda-style genocide brewing in Bulungi, and there were difficulties evacuating the French living there. The next day, he was there. When an angry mob of antir-french protesters surround his cars when he tries to leave the airport to go to the French neighborhood, what does he do? He gets out of the car, somehow talks the mob into letting him through without further incident.
  • Large and in Charge: De Vorms appears to be the height and width of an industrial refrigerator. He shares this trait with his american counterpart, Colin Powell.
  • Large Ham: De Vorms. If BRIAN BLESSED were an actual politician... he might put up a good fight, at best.
  • Married to the Job: Arthur grows so dedicated to his job that it begins to affect his relationship. As for the long-serving Maupas, it's implied he stays at the office 24/7.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: De Vorms, all the time. He causes whirlwinds by closing a book.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Alexandre Taillard de Vorms is Dominique de Villepin in all but name.
  • Office Lady: Odile, Maupas's secretary. She even nurses a crush on him and has very Silk Hiding Steel ways of helping and protecting him from his whirlwindnote  of a boss.
  • Qurac: The fictional Middle Eastern country of Lousdem (Lousdemistan in the film adaptation) is a dictatorship about to be invaded by the USA. "Lousdem" sounds like "loucedé", which is verlan for "en douce", "on the sly" (typically dishonestly so). Which sums up the attitudes of both the US and Lousdemenit governments.
  • Ripped from the Headlines. Well, the 2001-2003 headlines. Actually Invoked Trope: it is stated by one of the characters because there's so much stuff to do, the highest spheres of power (Ministries, Parliaments) can only be bothered to keep in mind the ones that are actually in the headlines and media-relevant at the moment. The Media as a very real Fourth Power is kind of an underlying theme.
  • Running Gag: The minister launching in his very idiosyncratic speeches at the slightest provocation. Taken Up to Eleven when he gets to have dinner with a Nobel-laureate poet and barely lets her get a word in throughout the dinner, lecturing her about what it means to be a poet! What's important about poetry! The fire! Courage! An uncompromising will to word the feelings! You get the idea...
  • Shout-Out: Vlaminck mentally pictures the minister as a Darth Vader figure or as Space Sheriff Gavan.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Vlaminck to the minister.
  • We Can Rule Together: Arthur fancies himself as Luke Skywalker being talked by Vorms's Darth Vader into ruling the galaxy together.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: De Vorms to his father. When we get to meet him, we finally see who De Vorms got many of his mannerisms from... The work relationship between Vladimir and De Vorms ends up looking a lot like this.


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