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Leap year: French readers enjoy world’s only four-year newspaper Friday, 01 March 2024

Leap year: French readers enjoy world’s only four-year newspaper

The world’s only quadrennial, or four-yearly newspaper, has hit the kiosks again in France with the release of a new issue of the satirical La Bougie du Sapeur.

The singularity of the 20-page tabloid is that it comes out only on 29 February - so once every leap-year.

The first edition was in 1980, and this is issue 12.

Conceived by a group of friends who "wanted to have a laugh", La Bougie du Sapeur (The Sapper’s Candle) has a print run of 200,000.

It is priced at €4.90 (£4.20), and more than meets its costs.

"After the first issue sold out in two days, the newsagents were clamouring for more copies - so we said fine, but only in four years’ time!", says editor Jean d’Indy, whose main job is running the French equivalent of the Jockey Club.

"The paper’s still put out by a few pals. We meet in a bar and toss around ideas over drinks. We have a lot of fun, and if the reader does too, that’s the icing on the cake," Mr d’Indy says.

Styling itself as anti-politically correct, La Bougie is organised like a regular newspaper, with sections on politics, sport, international affairs, arts, puzzles and celebrity gossip.

Jean d’Indy holding a copy of the newspaper
Image caption,
Jean d’Indy edits La Bougie du Sapeur... but only every four years

But the articles are designed as humorous commentaries. This edition’s headline - We will all be intelligent - is above a story about how exams and intellectual attainment are being made redundant by AI.

The second lead story - titled "What men need to know before becoming women" - explains what it describes as "challenges" facing men wanting to transition.

"It is French humour, and it does not translate into other languages," says d’Indy. "We try to be silly but not nasty. To poke fun without being cruel."

On the international pages, there is a short piece reminding the French who was the most "forgettable" of modern British prime ministers - Liz Truss.

And in sport, the editors recommend the creation of a Winston Churchill award for the first person to be eliminated in the Olympic Games. This on the basis that Churchill’s motto - according to the paper - was "No Sport."

There is also a serialised story - The Drowning in the Pool - whose next instalment will be in 2028.

La Bougie du Sapeur is named after one of France’s earliest cartoon figures, Le Sapeur Camembert. He was a soldier simpleton who appeared in comic drawings about life in the army in the 1890s.

The paper does not appear online and can be bought only at newsagents and newspaper kiosks.

"I hope we are a bit of fresh air every four years," says d’Indy. "These days people need to be able to laugh."

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