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Les gages de la peur

Jonathan Fenby, 3 August 1995

... Jean-Marie Le Pen was late, as he often is. But it was not his fault, he explained to the capacity audience who had paid 40 francs each to hear him in a huge, cheerless exhibition hall outside Toulouse. His plane had been delayed and the pilot – ‘a good Frenchman’ – had told him it was because air traffic control for France was run from a centre at Maastricht ...

Dastardly Poltroons

Jonathan Fenby: Madame Chiang Kai-shek, 21 October 2010

The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China 
by Hannah Pakula.
Weidenfeld, 787 pp., £25, January 2010, 978 0 297 85975 8
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... Madame Chiang was an unexpected presence at the Cairo Conference in November 1943, the only World War Two summit at which China was represented. Sitting at the conference table in a black satin dress with a chrysanthemum pattern and split skirt, black tulle bows in her hair and shoes decorated with big brass nails, she made a considerable impact. Nobody knew quite what her role was, but she made the most of the occasion ...

Would he have been better?

John Gittings: Chiang Kai-shek, 18 March 2004

Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the China He Lost 
by Jonathan Fenby.
Free Press, 562 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 7432 3144 9
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... China and – in the phrase of anguished Americans who backed the wrong horse – he lost China. Jonathan Fenby starts his important new biography, the first of substance for a quarter of a century, in Xi’an in 1936 when Chiang, after his 50th birthday, was preparing to bash the Communists. Having ignored the local armed forces’ evident reluctance ...

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 de Gaulle 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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... in his own myth-making as a means of empowerment and self-justification. In his new biography, Jonathan Fenby delivers the infant Charles into an era of anxiety, brought on by the growing strength of Germany and the sense that France had lost its way. The year was 1890; the smart of the Franco-Prussian War was still palpable; the Dreyfus Affair, which ...


Anand Menon: The trouble with France, 12 November 1998

On the Brink: The Trouble with France 
by Jonathan Fenby.
Little, Brown, 464 pp., £18.99, August 1998, 0 316 64665 2
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... social and economic problems – which is why winning the World Cup was held to be so important. Jonathan Fenby’s fine book, On the Brink: The Trouble with France, explores the multi-faceted nature of this crisis, from the decline of the baguette to widespread political corruption. Many British observers (though not ...


Perry Anderson, 9 February 2012

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China 
by Ezra Vogel.
Harvard, 876 pp., £29.95, September 2011, 978 0 674 05544 5
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On China 
by Henry Kissinger.
Allen Lane, 586 pp., £30, May 2011, 978 1 84614 346 5
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The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China 
by Jay Taylor.
Harvard, 736 pp., £14.95, April 2011, 978 0 674 06049 4
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... thuggishness of his regime, in which torture and assassination were routine, can be gained from Jonathan Fenby’s less inhibited account, Chiang Kai-shek: The Generalissimo and the China He Lost.2 A larger drawback of Taylor’s approach is his single-minded focus on Chiang alone, detached from his peers. No other figure in the tangled constellation ...

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