The French Wikipedia article on Barack Obama is largely in the present tense. I read there that:
- Il « naît le 4 août 1961 »
- Ses parents « se marient le 2 février 1961 »
- Il « va passer quatre ans en Indonésie », fréquentant éventuellement « une école publique où il est le seul étranger »
This appears to be true of the average biography I read on French Wikipedia.
In English, if you use the present tense to recount past events, it's either literature ("It's hot outside. The leaves rustle on the pavement with the sound of kindling twigs") or an informal anecdote ("So I'm walking along Bloor, right? And I see this guy dressed as a clown who bumps my shoulder...").
But I recall from my first-year university courses that in French, you can use the present much more freely to talk about past events, as we've just seen above.
Is there a reference where I can investigate this or a short list of the situations in which it's suitable? If anyone else is curious about the question, is there a historical precedent, a similarity with closely related languages, or any other reason why the present works better than the past here?