The Life of Charles de Gaulle

Seamus Deane at the Dublin Review of Books:

The French people are constantly hauled on to a Corneille-like stage with and by de Gaulle, two characters in search of a destiny, with soliloquies, debates, monologues, conducted in newspapers, radio and television although, such is the nature of a biography, “the people” are really the audience that listens and is moulded, enchanted or aroused to sublimity by the suasion of that resonant, nasal, rhythmic voice. As was noticed on several occasions, de Gaulle was a traditional Catholic Christian; he rarely spoke of or even mentioned God but rarely failed to speak instead of France, the great stained-glass rose window in which the divine light had glowed through the centuries in radiance or in sombre melancholy, picking out at irregular intervals the ranged silhouettes of a Clovis, a Charlemagne, an Henri IV, a Joan of Arc, Louis XI, a Colbert, Richelieu, Louis XIV (or his great general Louvois), a Napoleon and, at last, a de Gaulle. Régis Debray in 1990 is quoted: “In my dreams I am on terms of easy familiarity with Louis XI, with Lenin, with Edison and Lincoln. But I quail before de Gaulle. He is the Great Other, the inaccessible absolute … Napoleon was the great political myth of the nineteenth century; de Gaulle of the twentieth. The sublime, it seems, appears in France only once a century.” Debray had once regarded Mitterrand as a saviour ‑ rather hard to believe now in any retrospective light ‑ but this literary-political canonisation would have pleased de Gaulle, for he certainly believed it to be true, true as only a myth can be.

more here.