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The Silences of General de Gaulle

Douglas Johnson, 20 November 1980

Mon Général 
by Olivier Guichard.
Grasset
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Lettres, Notes et Carnets: Vol.1 1905-1918, Vol.2 1919-1940; 
by Charles deGaulle.
Plon
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Le Colonel de Gaulle et les Blindés 
by Paul Huard.
Plon
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... a man whom even the meanest of commentators have recognised as being out of the ordinary, General de Gaulle. Since the tenth anniversary of his death in November 1970 is being marked by a spate of books and articles about him, perhaps it is all the more appropriate to reconsider his unusual career. It is true that certain observers have insisted on what ...

The General vanishes

Douglas Johnson, 18 September 1986

De Gaulle. Vol. I: Le Rebelle 
by Jean Lacouture.
Seuil, 869 pp., frs 99, April 1984, 2 02 006969 5
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De Gaulle. Vol. II: Le Politique 
by Jean Lacouture.
Seuil, 724 pp., frs 120, April 1984, 2 02 008933 5
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Charles deGaulleA Biography 
by Don Cook.
Secker, 432 pp., £15, February 1984, 0 436 10676 0
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Jean Moulin et le Conseil National de la Résistance 
Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 192 pp., frs 40, February 1983, 2 222 03428 0Show More
De Gaulle et la nation face aux problèmes de défense 1945-1946 
Institut d’Histoire du Temps Présent/Institut Charles-de-Gaulle, 317 pp., frs 110, May 1982, 2 259 01109 8Show More
De Gaulle 
by Sam White.
Harrap, 239 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 245 54213 2
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... An interesting moment has been reached in de Gaulle studies. That the traditional approach has by no means been exhausted is shown by the biography by Don Cook, a journalist on the Los Angeles Times. It is still possible, and some would say still desirable, to write about the General using the same evidence and the same anecdotes that have already been used by scores of other writers ...

The Greatest

R.W. Johnson, 4 August 1994

Charles deGaulle, Futurist of the Nation 
by Régis Debray, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 111 pp., £29.95, April 1994, 0 86091 622 7
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De Gaulle and 20th-Century France 
edited by Hugh Gough and John Horne.
Edward Arnold, 158 pp., £12.99, March 1994, 0 340 58826 8
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François Mitterrand: A Study in Political Leadership 
by Alistair Cole.
Routledge, 216 pp., £19.99, March 1994, 0 415 07159 3
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... the history of France in the last century is embodied in the strange trinity of Philippe Pétain, Charles deGaulle and François Mitterrand. Pétain, born in 1856, was old enough to remember the humiliation of France at the hands of Prussia in 1870, and like other French officers of his period, spent his entire ...

A Few Pitiful Traitors

David Drake: The French Resistance, 4 May 2016

Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance 
by Robert Gildea.
Faber, 593 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 571 28034 6
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Occupation Trilogy: ‘La Place de l’etoile’, ‘The Night Watch’, ‘Ring Roads’ 
by Patrick Modiano, translated by Caroline Hillier, Patricia Wolf and Frank Wynne.
Bloomsbury, 336 pp., £18.99, August 2015, 978 1 4088 6790 7
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... Two political forces​ dominated post-Liberation France: Charles deGaulle, leader of the Free French and head of the provisional French government until January 1946; and the French Communist Party (PCF), at that point the biggest and most popular party in the country. As Robert Gildea explains in his perceptive new book, each constructed a myth about France’s behaviour during the war that served its own political interests; each claimed it had led the Resistance ...

Towards Disappearance

James Francken: Oradour-sur-Glane, 1 July 1999

Matyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane 
by Sarah Farmer.
California, 323 pp., £19.95, March 1999, 0 520 21186 3
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... status as the ‘Victor of Verdun’ and France’s saviour, according to the young Captain Charles deGaulle – wounded and taken prisoner under Pétain’s command – ‘when a choice had to be made between ruin and reason’. In 1945, de Gaulle chose to muffle the ...

Sleepless Afternoons

Avi Shlaim, 25 February 1993

The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement with Israel 
by George Ball and Douglas Ball.
Norton, 382 pp., £17.95, January 1993, 0 393 02933 6
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... his son do, of America’s passionate attachment to Israel involves a slight exaggeration for, as Charles deGaulle once remarked, there are no love affairs between states. Even the love affair between American Jews and Israel is only skin deep: American Jews admire Israel for her body, while Israelis are attracted to ...

Melancholy Actions

Charles Glass: Scuttling the French Fleet, 17 December 2009

England’s Last War against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-42 
by Colin Smith.
Weidenfeld, 490 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 0 297 85218 6
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... to capitulate to the invader. Few of the soldiers and almost none of the sailors recognised Charles deGaulle, an armoured corps colonel temporarily elevated to brigadier general, as their leader. To them, de Gaulle seemed more of a traitor to his fellow officers for ...

Made in Algiers

Jeremy Harding: De Gaulle, 4 November 2010

Le mythe gaullien 
by Sudhir Hazareesingh.
Gallimard, 280 pp., €21, May 2010, 978 2 07 012851 8
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The General: Charles deGaulle and the France He Saved 
by Jonathan Fenby.
Simon and Schuster, 707 pp., £30, June 2010, 978 1 84737 392 2
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... At the military academy in Saint-Cyr, which he entered in 1908, Charles deGaulle was known as ‘the great asparagus’. But aside from the fact that he stood six feet four in his socks it was his character that drew attention: he was rebellious yet aloof, sceptical yet sure of himself ...

Wait and See

Richard J. Evans: The French Resistance, 3 November 2016

The French Resistance 
by Olivier Wieviorka, translated by Jane Marie Todd.
Harvard, 569 pp., £31.95, April 2016, 978 0 674 73122 6
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... On 18 June​ 1940 Charles deGaulle, speaking from London, where he had arrived the previous day, denounced the new government led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, which had called for an armistice after the comprehensive defeat of France’s armed forces at the hands of the Wehrmacht ...

Along the Voie Sacrée

Inigo Thomas, 8 November 2018

... the vast American cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. The head of the US Commission of Fine Art, Charles Moore, insisted that American cemeteries in France not be designed in the British fashion, in phalanxes of headstones. Instead, they would be a combination of lawns, trees and crosses – parks for the dead and the living. The design of Romagne was handed ...

Haughty Dirigistes

Sudhir Hazareesingh: France, 23 May 2019

France’s Long Reconstruction: In Search of the Modern Republic 
by Herrick Chapman.
Harvard, 405 pp., £37.95, January 2018, 978 0 674 97641 2
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... There is​ a France only thanks to the state,’ Charles deGaulle declared in 1960, ‘and only by the state can France be maintained.’ He spoke these words during the ‘week of the barricades’ in Algiers, when a pied-noir uprising gained significant support in local units of the French army ...

The Seducer

Ferdinand Mount: De Gaulle, 2 August 2018

A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles deGaulle 
by Julian Jackson.
Allen Lane, 887 pp., £35, June 2018, 978 1 84614 351 9
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... We went down​ to the beach quite early. The other families staying at St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie in the summer of 1951 were mostly French. Several of them had those early portable radios, chunky wooden boxes covered in rexine (I had just been given a dark-green one for my 12th birthday but had left it at home). We had not been on the beach long before the radios seemed to be squawking louder than usual, and there was a strange commotion around us ...

‘It didn’t need to be done’

Tariq Ali: The Muslim Response, 5 February 2015

... forced into a name change – it was banned by the French government for insulting the corpse of Charles deGaulle. In a remarkable essay published in the Nouvel Observateur Roussel made two essential points. The first concerned French foreign policy: I don’t much like it when a head of state speaks of the dead as ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Meaney: Ersatz Tyrants, 3 May 2017

... philosopher and proto-EU bureaucrat, who himself once played a Simonides of sorts to Charles deGaulle. Unlike Snyder, Kojève gives a good working definition of tyranny ‘in the morally neutral sense of the term’ as what happens when one part of the populace, ‘guided by an authority which the ...

Short Cuts

Didier Fassin: Permanent State of Emergency, 3 March 2016

... first was in April 1961, after the Algiers putsch, the generals’ failed coup against Charles deGaulle). ‘France is at war,’ Hollande announced on 16 November, having convened a special congress at the Palace of Versailles to argue that the state of emergency should in due course be written into the ...

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