Le Figaro: "Jean d'Indy, l'homme de presse bissextile, director of La Bougie du sapeur".

29 February 2024 Press review
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PORTRAIT : Every February 29 since 1980, La Bougie du sapeur has been published. An atypical, fun-loving periodical whose director is a colorful personality from the world of horse racing.

"If we're criticized, it's not pleasant, but we have four years to make ourselves forgotten, that's the advantage of this insane rhythm of publication", laughs Jean d'Indy. Xavier Pennec and Jean-Baptiste Semerdjian / Le Figaro

Every four years, Jean d'Indy gets a big head. That's what he says! Andy Warhol promised fifteen minutes of fame in a lifetime; for the director of La Bougie du sapeur, the day of glory comes every February 29 when his red-and-yellow satirical newspaper appears. Wearing a clutch bag, moccasins and colorful socks, this charming, joking sixty-something ice-armoire runs interviews to present this atypical, fun-loving newspaper, whose publication date means it has to be published every four years, when the year is a leap year. " We're like the Figaro. We go out the night before like Le Monde. And the paper has the format of Libération," he boasts in front of his computer screen, in what serves as his editorial office.

Here, a few hundred meters from the Bois de Boulogne, the managing editor of La Bougie has put up the twenty or so pages of the newspaper, part of the profits from which will be donated to a home for autistic children in the Indre region of France. Overlapping the table are the last 11 editions of this publication, created in 1980 by three friends who wanted their own newspaper, but weren't in too much of a hurry. Since then, La Bougie has become a tradition, an independent UFO run by a dozen unpretentious volunteers. Editorial conferences are held in a bistro over a good bottle of wine. The motto? A quote from a ghostly Li Chen Glu: "February 29 will laugh, four years well will pass." And d'Indy adds: "The editorial line remains the same! We talk about life in the country, whether it's current affairs or the major trends in society, treated with humor and lightness."

Ask for the newspaper. This afternoon, just a few days before the fateful 366th sunrise, Jean d'Indy is delighted to be able to present the 2024 edition, the packages for which have just been delivered. The headline reads: "We're all going to get smart." He chuckles with his cigar-smoking laugh and admires the stacks from the top of his four-and-a-half-foot height. For this edition, as usual, he will print almost 200,000 copies, which will be sold on newsstands in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

" We've got four years to make ourselves forgotten ".

In all seriousness, the editorial director puts his glasses back on and previews the "revelations" you'll be reading: "With artificial intelligence, there's no need to worry about report cards. I don't see why we should care if the French suck at maths, since they now have AI to shine. Tomorrow, we'll all be polytechnicians. No more elitism through knowledge!" The man, well versed in the exercise, plays the interviewee's game perfectly, slipping in truisms about his eminent cabbage leaf with seriousness and relish. " Jean is a wonderful bon vivant, a hedonist, who loves friends and potty humor," warned a lifelong friend. Between a brilliant bon mot and an awful pun, from the grating Gaspard Proust to the chuckling Grosses Têtes, such is French humor. We like to make fun of things without being mean," he says, looking at a black-and-white edition from the 1990s. But we do sometimes poke fun at politicians, who are quite open to it, even if they never reply to our interview requests... Emmanuel Macron did reply to Pif Gadget! Our only limit is not to break people. The world is gloomy enough as it is."

A closer look at the newspaper reveals a second headline: "What men need to know before becoming women." Yikes! What if La Bougie du sapeur, with its boomer jokes, was ostracized for failing to live up to contemporary virtues? "If there are people who want to criticize because they think we're too feminist, or too anti-feminist, that's fine, they can contradict themselves, it'll create a buzz, readers will want to buy the paper. Our newsstands are so depressed... But it's true that political correctness is more and more present, and the language of wood has become generalized", she laments. Before adding mischievously: "If we're criticized, it's not pleasant, but we've got four years to make up for it - that's the advantage of this insane rate of publication!"

" Jean d'Indy is an icon of the Auteuil racecourse. Always elegant, old-fashioned, laughing and bon vivant. He represents this generation of men committed to their passion ".

In civilian life, when he's not wearing his leap year editor's hat, it's with a Paris Turf under his arm that Jean d'Indy can be found at the racetracks. For decades, he has been one of the leading figures in the French horse world. Judge, steward, breeder, active member of France Galop, he embodies another French tradition, with its charms and recurring criticisms. "The image of racing as a retrograde thing for old white males dressed as they were in the 1950s is one I totally reject! You have to go to the racecourse! People aren't like they used to be, it's popular, and the horses are glorified, far from the animal mistreatment," he claims passionately, before adding his usual touch of humor: " Maybe I'm an old fart with my style, but the races are totally in tune with the century!" A regular commented: "Jean d'Indy is a key figure at the Auteuil racecourse. Always elegant, old-fashioned, laughing and bon vivant. He represents this generation of men committed and invested in their passion."

In this sea of laughter, equestrian mundanities and good fellowship, the hedonistic Gallic d'Indy is still bitter about a TV show where, as a guest on his 29th February celebrity, he was widely mocked for his buddy newspaper. " I was demolished," he confides on several occasions. The other side of the coin. Fortunately, it only happens every four years.

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By Jean-Baptiste Semerdjian and Xavier Pennec

Published February 29, 2024

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