Books in Brief

De Gaulle, by Julian Jackson (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, Harvard; 928 pp., $39.95).  Here is no doubt the best, most comprehensive, most politically balanced and appropriately distanced of the now four notable biographies of Charles de Gaulle.  Previously, those by Jean Lacouture (1985-88), Paul-Marie de La Gorce (1967, rev. 1999), and Éric Roussel took pride of place.  Now Julian Jackson, professor of history at Queen Mary University of London and the author of two books on the fall of France in 1940 and the Occupation, seems to have written the definitive work on the subject.  He himself notes that “the best biography of de Gaulle [Roussel’s] is also one that is insidiously hostile to its subject,” whom Roussel depicts as “an anachronistic right-wing nationalist.”  Jackson’s own book is deeply impressive, sympathetic to the great man but never overawed by him.  It is also exhaustively researched, as beautifully proportioned as a building by Wren, and exquisitely written.  De Gaulle himself remarked playfully that “Everybody is, has been or will be ‘Gaullist’”; a quip later reformulated by a shrewd observer as: “Outside the ultra-faithful, everyone has been, is or will be anti-Gaullist.  The worst of it is that each of us is both Gaullist and anti-Gaullist and that the division runs through each of our consciences.”


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