france incarnated


Seventy years ago this month, a little-known French tank commander, newly escaped from Hitler’s advancing armies, sat before a BBC microphone in London. Less than three minutes and 400 words later, Charles de Gaulle stood up as the self-appointed embodiment of all that is noble, enduring and exasperating about France. The anniversary of that radio appeal to his countrymen to continue the fight is being commemorated in France with public ceremonies, TV documentaries, museum exhibits and an iPhone application. In London, the anniversary was marked last week with a visit by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Perhaps the most fitting British commemoration, however, is this monumental new biography from historian Jonathan Fenby, who worked as a journalist in Paris during de Gaulle’s presidency. “Accounts of de Gaulle tend to be no shorter than their subject,” Fenby writes of the 6ft 4in leader.

more from Donald Morrison at the FT here.