by GERARD NOEL
De Gaulle by Aidan Crawley (Collins 60s.) YOU cannot like the
Charles de Gaulle of Mr. Aidan Crawley's study, which so well deserves its place "on the line" at the current showing of literary portraits. You can only be amazed at the toughness in adversity and confidence • in strength that have been captured in almost every line.
Perhaps it is too fair, too objective, if such a thing is possible. There is no flattery. no disguising of blemishes, no artist's licence through reverence for a subject he has come to know so well. Few, indeed, if any Englishmen have gone to such pains to perfect their knowledge of the General.
Mr. Crawley has fairly steeped himself in his theme, well understanding de Gaulle's own written testimony in l,e lid de l'Eptie (The Edge of the Sword), as a sort of "Mein Kampf," an early dedication, in which others must be enlisted, in the great struggle which, for de Gaulle, awaited him and his generation.
There was no looking back from this moment onwards, though the "homage and devotion" with which de Gaulle dedicated his confession of faith to Main were to turn, unfortunately, to ingratitude and bitterness. Something similar was to blight his relationship with Churchill although, as now made clearer than ever, these two men. despite faults and disagreements,
were his greatest and his indispensable benefactors.
At what point did the man of ideas become the man of action? "It all really began in Africa," was Palewski's remark, describing the embryonic struggle to give true and international meaning to the Free French movement. The comment could also serve to account for de Gaulle's definitive assumption of power in 1958 when chaos and tragedy in Algeria were his steppingstones to the Elysee Palace.
So good is the account of this last phase that one would have wished for even more in so up-to-date and well timed a publication even if something of the middle period of enforced retirement had had to be sacrificed. The latter nevertheless gives welcome opportunity to get nearer the heart of the subject (which so rarely shows through the great screen). Now or never, you feel, you might he able to like as well as admire the man you have only been able to see from afar: the brilliant but frustrated young soldier; the exiled warrior who nearly became a figure of fun; the triumphant post-war leader who so suddenly and mysteriously resigned, and could now be found. in early 1946, brooding, and dreaming once again, in Colombey-les-deux-Egliscs.
But we are not sorry for him for very long. Our sympathy turns almost to terror as the Rassenibientenr du Peupk Francais is formed and de Gaulle fights to regain power. We are reminded more than once of Mosley, if not by the General himself, by some of his supporters. Then, with power, comes something, compared to the earlier strife, almost (if not quite!) akin to the mellowness of the elder statesman.
In that 1946 period Pornpidou appears as if an "old faithi'ul," though his earlier efforts for deGaulle had been forgotten by the master until Mine. de Gaulle brought the promising young teacher hack as treasurer of her "Anne de Gaulle Foundation" for chil
dren suffering from the illness that had killed their mongoloid daughter, (one of the few causes of outward tenderness to be exhibited by de Gaulle). Hindsight, moreover, may come to modify the assumption of Pompidou's being a mere "master's voice." in the early days of a Premiership (as of 1962) that had to conceal much of his latent subtlety and strength.
This, however, is a book about France's last, not her next, President, and his greatness, as here seen, is undimmed even by the almost anti-climactic drama of the last two weeks.