If you read The Elegance of the Hedgehog
in translation and couldn't quite figure out why Mme Michel feels so superior to everyone else, then check out a copy of Grevisse some time. It's one of her favourite books - at least in the original French edition, she says she should have named her cat after it - and it's big enough to use as a lethal weapon. In nearly 2000 pages, it provides a comprehensive description of all the rules of French grammar. It wouldn't be exactly correct to claim to have read it, but I've certainly used it as a reference plenty of times when writing French language software together with my Belgian/Swiss colleague Pierrette. Usually, Pierrette knows exactly where to find the relevant passage. Her copy is falling apart, but she evidently can't bring herself to replace it.
Every linguist knows that you can't halt language change. Languages evolve, that's all there is to it. But the French have decided, Canute-like, that they're going to stop the tide. They have decreed what constitutes correct use of the language, and there's a book that lays down the rules. Unfortunately, as you can see in Hedgehog
, the result is that only about 2% of the population can speak and write correctly. It's a bizarre situation.
I don't really approve of what the Academie Française have done to French, but you have to admire the chutzpah. Or do I mean audace