A soft, round face with a dull and banal expression; a mouth out of which come resounding but hollow words. Haven’t I already come across him on some subway platform or in his home town of Arras? No, I must be wrong.
Strictly speaking, this man has no history of his own. He was one of the people, a war orphan, a ward of the nation. . . . His own history is lost in that of his people’s sufferings and in his own rise: inspector of secondary schools, English language teacher. Among the socialists he was another militant, with the resistance another resister, with the soldiers, a soldier. He did whatever he had to do. He is the opposite of a symbol; he is Everyman. He represents both an obscure sort of courage and social security, retirement for the aged and the struggle against tyranny. He is the Unknown Soldier of French socialism.
A top soldier too, for—happily—we live in an epoch in which corporals are raised to dictators, adjutants become marshals and trade unionists, governors. A democratic epoch: apotheosis of the banal, triumph of the anonymous—so he is!
Ten times he was given up for lost, but ten times he came back. They covered him with spittle in Algiers, but he emerged, shining ...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.