The French translation of British erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey was only released on Wednesday, but has already become the fastest selling book in French publishing history.
The astonishing sales figures – of around 75,000 every day – come after the book was panned by French critics as “crass pseudo-porn” that reads like a Mills & Boon novel.
One high-brow reviewer even wrote: “It’s as close to literature as Whiskas cat food is to gastronomy.”
But despite the torrent of critical abuse, E.L James bestseller has now overtaken the Harry Potter novels as France’s favorite book.
French high street giant FNAC said copies of the novel had been “flying of the shelves”.
A spokesman for FNAC – which accounts for around a fifth of all book sales in France – said: “It is amazingly popular. We have never stocked a book that has sold so fast.
“We sold 15,000 copies on the day it was released. In some shops there were just none left.”
But the scathing views of critics from major newspapers and magazines have not matched the huge popularity of France’s latest publishing phenomenon.
Daily newspaper Le Figaro wrote: “It has no intellectual construction. It is Fifty Shades of Boredom.”
The paper compared the book – first released in the UK in May 2011 – to French classic erotic writing by the Marquis de Sade and Anais Nin’s The Story Of O.
It added: “Alongside them, this is soda-masochism <<lite>>, full of insignificant, consensual and clichéd content.”
Les Inrocks music magazine said: “It is exposes the cultural gulf between the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy and the old authentic sado-masochism of the French.”
News magazine L’Express wrote: “The female character’s multiple orgasms are laughably unbelievable. This crass, pseudo porn might prove to be a massive boost to the sex toy industry, but it’s got nothing to do with good writing.
“This may be what pleases the British public, who can identify with the character Ana’s conflict between her <<conscience>> and her <<inner goddess>>, but it remains to be seen if the French will regard the book with anything more than curiosity.
“Some couples may say it has helped their sex lives by reading it, but it’s as close to literature as Whiskas cat food is to gastronomy.”
And the 20 Minutes news website added: “It’s a load of Mills & Boon-style rubbish.”
Meanwhile, the French publisher JC Lattes has already ordered 500,000 copies – one of the biggest print runs of any French publishing house in recent years.
It has also become the fastest-selling book of all time, shifting more than five million copies in the UK and 40 million around the world.