Friday, July 18, 2014

The Two Francois: An Essay in Criticism

Here’s a quote from a TLS review of Philip Short’s Mitterand: A Study in Ambiguity, (TLS, “Skilled at Distance,” 5/30/14): “Alongside his official family, and the inevitable retinue of mistresses, Francois also shared his life with Anne Pingeot, who was twenty years younger than him and with whom he had a child, Mazarine. Her existence was revealed to the wider public only in late l994, when Paris-Match published photographs of the President with his daughter.” This little paragraph written by the reviewer Sudhir Hazareesingh is worthy of exegesis since it contains a number of assumptions: 1) that a head of state in France has an official family (the current Francois in power in France confutes that assumption, of course 2) “inevitable retinue of mistresses.” Is it written in French law that a head of state must have a “retinue” in order not to face impeachment? Certainly the other Francois seems to have met this qualification handily having thrown over the journalist Valerie Treirweiler for the actress, Julie Gayet, (footnote: his 30 year relationship with Segolene Royal had come to an end one month after Royal’s defeat in the 2007 election) 3) while it seems that the name Francois can be attached to positions of power in French government, we know the name is not a requirement. It was not, for example, Francois de Gaulle. There have been many summit talks in which American presidents have met with their European counterparts. But there has unfortunately never been a sexuality summit in which major leaders could compare notes. Imagine a circle jerk with Francois Mitterand, Francois Hollande, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton for starters. But reading about the exploits of the two Francoises, it's hard not to ask, were these two leaders of France sex addicts and what differentiates them from DSK, a renowned swordsmen, who also occupied a prominent quasi governmental position as managing director of the IMF?

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